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Characters / Earth's Children - Ayla

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Appears in: The Clan of the Cave Bear | The Valley of Horses | The Mammoth Hunters | The Plains of Passage | The Shelters of Stone | The Land of Painted Caves

The main protagonist of the series. She is notable for being taken in and raised by Neanderthals (the Clan) after her family died and spends much of the story trying to find a place to belong.

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     A - D 
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: People are generally shocked (even by Cro-Magnon standards where teenage pregnancy is common) when they find out how young she was when she had her first child. She was only eleven, she having been raped by Broud. She isn't considered unusual by Clan standards, as they reach physical maturity much sooner, but when Jondalar figures out how young she was, she has to assure him the age is, in fact, correct. Reality Ensues, as being pregnant at such a young age causes Ayla a lot of health problems and she suffers an excruciating and dangerous birth. To put this further into perspective, by the time she's twenty, she has two kids under ten, one of whom is nearly half her age.
  • The Ace: Ayla is notably adept at a variety of things, including hunting, healing, cooking, riding horses and taming animals, to name a few. Many of the things she's good at come from years of dedicated practice and training by people better than her, and by living with the Clan, where she was required to develop various skills (such as her physical strength and excellent memory) simply to keep up and avoid being The Load; given she lives completely alone for three years, she also has to get good at various things purely to survive. She's also not without her issues, particularly surrounding her self-confidence and sense of identity, making her more of a Broken Ace. And regardless of her myriad skills, Ayla can't carry a tune to save her life.
  • Action Survivor: In the first few books, she survives many dangerous situations through either luck, learned survival skills or a combination of both. She becomes an outright Action Girl when facing off against Attaroa and the Three Sisters Camp, Charoli's gang and Balderan's gang, successfully fighting them off or intimidating them into surrendering uses a sling and spears.
  • Age Lift: In the film adaptation, she appears to be in her twenties, or possibly her late teens, during the second half of the movie (Daryl Hannah was about 25 during filming). In the book, she was only fourteen by the end of the novel and didn't reach her twenties until the last book. This was probably done for practical/ethical reasons, given that the book depicts Ayla being raped by Broud and giving birth to Durc when she's only eleven years old.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Taken Up to Eleven; she adopts an orphaned foal out of loneliness and becomes one of the first people to tame and ride horses.
  • All-Loving Heroine: With a few exceptions, Ayla is polite and friendly to just about everyone she meets, including animals.
  • The Aloner: For a good part of The Valley Of Horses. She's actually surviving completely alone in the wilderness, using all the skills she learned in the Clan, for around three years.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Played straight; she has an athletic build - Jondalar even thinks she's one of the strongest women he's ever seen – and is very beautiful, though by Clan standards (and in her own opinion), she's seen as more of a Brawn Hilda.
  • Animal Motif: The cave lion, which is her totem animal. She is strong in both mind and body, brave and powerful, yet also protective and nurturing. She is nearly killed by a cave lion as a child, who claws her leg and leaves her with scars resembling the Clan's symbol for lion, which Creb believes was the Cave Lion spirit claiming her. Lions are also directly or indirectly involved in other important events in her life.note 
  • The Apprentice: She learns several useful skills from older, more experiences mentors.
    • She was apprenticed to her adoptive mother Iza, who taught her medicine.
    • She was an informal apprentice to both Droog and Zoug. She learned how make tools and weapons from Droog (he didn't see any harm in letting her watch him and play around making tools, as long as didn't touch any made for the Clan's use, which is considered bad luck), and she secretly watched Zoug to learn how to use a sling.
    • She receives some shaman training from Mamut in The Mammoth Hunters and becomes the official acolyte of Zelandoni Who Is First at the end of The Shelters of Stone.
  • Battle Couple: With Jondalar in the fourth book; they work together to fend off Charoli’s gang.
  • The Beast Master: To an extent. Many people believe she can control animals through some kind of magic, though in reality, she can simply command animals she has raised from infancy and whose behaviour she has closely studied. For example, she can give commands to Baby, her cave lion, because he views her as his mother and thus dominant over him. If she tried it with any other cave lion, she'd probably lose some limbs. No matter how she tries to explain this to people though, they still generally believe she has mystical powers over animals.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played straight; she's both incredibly beautiful and kindhearted, though personally she thinks she's ugly.
  • Been There, Shaped History: A non Speculative Fiction example. She is responsible for many significant technological advances or innovations in the setting, including domesticating horses and wolves, travois, starting fires with flint, suturing wounds, sewing with needles, and figuring out how conception works. The author write on what she has researched; Ayla is the vehicle to describe it.
  • Berserk Button: She is usually a reasonable and open-minded person, but insulting her half-Clan son and her adopted family, or calling the Clan 'animals', sends into a seething rage.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • In a gender-flipped example, she has the choice between Ranec (the Betty) and Jondalar (the Veronica).
    • She herself is the Betty to Marona's Veronica for Jondalar.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Twice in the fourth book; first she comes riding in on her horse to stop Attaroa from killing Jondalar, and then again with Jondalar when they come to a Clan couple's rescue.
  • Blade on a Stick: When she isn't using her sling (mostly when she needs to hunt larger prey), she uses a spear. She teaches herself to use one in The Valley of Horses, having learnt how to make one by watching Droog's work. She's initially apprehensive about it, as Clan women are forbidden from using weapons (she was permitted by Brun to hunt with a sling, but only a sling), but she realizes she needs a spear to get food and survive by herself. She initially uses a typical Clan spear, which are quite short, heavy and used primarily as a stabbing weapon, until Jondalar shows her how to make and use the spears used by Cro-Magnon, which are lighter and can be thrown.
  • Blind Obedience: Due to being raised by the Clan, where women are expected to be subservient to men, this causes confusion when Ayla first interacts with the Others. Even after being told that women are free to do as they please, Ayla often has to resist the urge to automatically comply with a man's or a leader's wishes.
  • Born Lucky: Although she later survives and achieves things through her own skills, Ayla got some incredibly lucky breaks as a child; she's extremely fortunate to have lived past the first chapter of The Clan of the Cave Bear. The Clan actually believe her to be a source of good luck, as shortly after she's adopted by them, she finds a cave that is ideal for them to set up a new home. And though it's likely just a coincidence, after Broud unjustly curses Ayla with death an earthquake destroys the cave, with some of the Clan believing his actions angered the spirits and caused them to retaliate.
  • Braids of Action: She often wears her hair in lots of small braids to keep it off her face when she hunts.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Her pregnancy in The Clan of the Cave Bear comes as a complete shock to the clan, as most people believed her totem was too strong to be overcome by any of the men's (the Clan believe women are impregnated when their totems are defeated by a man's, though Ayla's totem is a freaking Cave Lion). Ayla herself doesn't realise she's pregnant until Iza notices the symptoms and points it out to her. Even with a modern understanding of conception, Ayla's pregnancy is highly unusual: she's only eleven.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Because the Clan who raised her communicate via body language, the concept of lying is virtually unknown to her. She can usually tell if other people are lying to her and cannot fathom lying herself - the best she can do is "refrain from mentioning".
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Culturally and genderswapped. When asking for clothing, Ayla is given as a prank winter underwear for a boy and the belt for signifying they started puberty. Because it is boy-sized (snug) and Ayla's ignorance of the faux pas it becomes a Sexy Whatever Outfit.
  • Child by Rape: She gives birth to her son Durc when she’s only eleven, after being raped by Broud. She has no angst over it; in fact, finding out she's pregnant snaps her out of her depression after being abused by Broud, as she had always wanted to be a mother. Initially, she doesn’t realize the pregnancy is the result of rape, but even after figuring it out she is still happy she had Durc.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Of the Raised by Natives variety: she is Cro-Magnon but was raised by Neanderthals after being orphaned. It causes her a lot of problems throughout the story, though she mostly liked living with the Clan and refuses to be ashamed of her upbringing.
  • Christmas Cake: She thinks of herself as one in The Shelters of Stone; she's 19 years old when she finally gets married. This is more justified as Clan girls reach menarche at 9 or 10, and it's not unusual for women of the Others to have children by 16.
  • Claustrophobia: Getting snowed in during blizzards without an understanding of air holes—snuffs out any fire and increases CO2 levels—brings this out in her. The first occurrence is during the death curse (complete communal shunning and ostracization). "The evil spirits, they tricked me. They made me think I was alive in my cave, but I am dead."
  • Constantly Curious: A central trait of her's. It leads to her making some pretty amazing discoveries and innovations...but it also gets her in trouble at times, especially when she's living with the Clan (who struggle to grasp new concepts and deviances from the norm).
  • Conveniently an Orphan: She becomes an orphan in the opening pages of the first novel, kickstarting the events of the whole series.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Averted; she suffers a miscarriage late in The Land of Painted Caves and is actually pretty distraught about it; when the shamans suggest the Earth Mother took her baby in exchange for granting her a vision that makes her a full shaman, she wishes that the Mother would take away her psychic gifts and give her back her baby.
  • Cultural Rebel: Amongst the Clan, her teaching herself to hunt with a sling is not only frowned upon, but is completely baffling to them, as Clan women no longer possess the genetic memories for hunting and so wouldn't even consider learning to hunt.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Gender-flipped, in regards to her son, Durc. At the end of The Clan of the Cave Bear, she is forced to leave the clan by Broud, who curses her with death, meaning she is literally seen as dead by the clan. Ayla cannot take Durc with her because travelling to locations unknown in the wilderness is difficult enough without a young child to look after and he would likely be considered dead as well, cutting him off from the Clan permanently. Ayla knows he'll be alright because Uba and Brun will care for him, though they’re both still devastated. A few years later, in The Mammoth Hunters, Ayla seriously considers trying to find Durc and bringing him to live with her at the Lion Camp. However, in the end she decides against this, partly out of practicality (she has no idea where his clan is living now or how to find them) and partly because she realises it would be unfair to Durc - he has spent his whole life with the Clan and has a place amongst them, whilst he would be discriminated against amongst Cro-Magnon and have a much more difficult life.
  • Determinator: She's been one since she was five years old, managing to walk several miles before collapsing despite being dehydrated, exhausted and running a fever from an infected wound dealt by a cave lion. She later manages to survive for three years, completely alone save for a horse and a lion, in the wilderness. And these are only two examples of her surviving or achieving something through sheer force of will.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: She does this with Brukeval when they first meet. She'd been trying to assure him his Clan heritage didn't bother her and that she actually thought him attractive because of it, and ends up mortally offending him by mistake.
  • Distressed Damsel: Largely averted, as she's pretty good at getting herself out of scrapes, but one standout example is in the sixth book, where an Ax-Crazy guy named Balderan takes her hostage and tries to strangle her as part of his plan to escape capture. It doesn't end so well for him, though, because Jondalar is standing nearby...
  • Double Consciousness: Particularly at the start of the series, Ayla struggles between her identities as a Clan woman (what she was raised as) and a Cro-Magnon woman (what she was born as). She may have been raised by a clan, but as Iza points out, she isn't truly one of them and can never be due to the biological differences. Despite this, she still holds onto Clan traits, customs and beliefs, even when living amongst her own kind and even when they conflict with her personal values and desires.
  • Dreadful Musician: Ayla cannot sing at all. She can learn and use rhythms, whistle and imitate birds or animal noises. But with her own voice the best she can do is hum in a tuneless monotone, which Iza used to do to her to comfort her when she was little.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: She seemingly develops this gift after she inadvertently goes with the Mog-urs on a spiritual journey/drug trip at the Clan Gathering.
    • In the first book, she has visions that imply the extinction of the Neanderthals and the continuing evolution of human society, even up to the modern age (she sees “Boxlike structures...long ribbons of stone...strange animals crawling at great speeds...huge birds that flew without flapping their wings.”).
    • In the third book, she dreams she has two sons, one that looks like Durc and another that looks like Jondalar, who are hostile to each other. Ayla knows somehow that one will kill the other, although Mamut states it is merely symbolic – most likely it foreshadows that Neanderthals will eventually die out whilst Cro-Magnon will live on.
    • All through the fourth book, she dreams of Creb urging her to hurry to her destination – the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii - and of an overhanging rock. It turns out that she and Jondalar really do need to get a move on if they want to cross the glacier before winter fully ends, as crossing in warmer weather would be near-suicidal. She also discovers at the end that the Ninth Cave’s entrance has an overhanging rock exactly like the one she dreamt of before.
  • Driven to Suicide: Defied. At the beginning of The Valley of Horses, she briefly considers it out of despair after being banished from her clan, leaving her completely alone in the wilderness. However, she realizes that succumbing to the death curse will mean that Broud will win and she determines to make good on her previous Badass Boast that no matter what else he did to her, he could never make her die.
  • Dude Magnet: Almost every man who meets her considers her one of the most beautiful women they’ve ever seen and several of them try flirting with her or getting her into bed with them. This is especially prominent in The Mammoth Hunters, where she has three men (Jondalar, Ranec and Vincavec) vying for her hand. However, this is only amongst her own kind. Amongst the Clan, she’s considered so ugly her own mother believed she’d probably never find a mate.

     E - L 
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Good grief, yes, especially considering all she's been through. By the end of the series, Ayla is settled into Zelandonii culture, has fulfilled her destiny as a holy woman/shaman, is Happily Married to Jondalar and has the family and sense of belonging she has always longed for.
  • Elective Mute: She is perfectly capable of speech, but she limits herself from doing so when she lives with the Clan, as they have a far more limited capacity for speech and have only a few spoken words. After discovering her son has the capacity for speech too, she plays a private game with him where they make nonsense sounds. When Jondalar first meets Ayla, he believes she may have taken a vow of silence as part of shaman training, until he realises she does want to talk but just needs to be reminded how.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: She has golden blonde hair and is extremely attractive.
  • False Soulmate: To Ranec. He falls head over heels for her in just a few months and is convinced they are meant to be, going as far as asking her to become his mate. Ayla ends up moving in with him, considers staying with the Lion Camp instead of following through with her original plan to move in with the Zelandonii and even agrees to marry him...but her heart isn't truly in it. She eventually breaks things off with Ranec and goes back to Jondalar, the man she truly loves. Ranec is pretty distraught but he eventually gets over it somewhat and ends up mating his ex Tricie, whom he was intending to marry before he met Ayla.
  • Family Versus Career: She struggles with this in The Land of Painted Caves, especially in the second half of the novel where the demands of her role as an acolyte clash cause her to prioritise it over her family. She herself laments that she feels she's been neglecting her family whilst being caught up in her zelandoni training, which she genuinely enjoys. In the end, she seems to have worked out a healthy balance between the two; the fact her family are very loving and supportive helps.
  • Fish out of Water: Amongst every culture she comes in contact with. Somehow, most of them come to love her anyway.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Mostly with Baby. She treats him like a pet cat or even a child, even when he grows to a massive size, and expresses joy and pride with how big and strong and good at hunting he is. Everyone else is terrified of him and he’s still very dangerous, but to Ayla he'll always be her baby. Downplayed with Wolf, as due to how young he was when Ayla adopted him, he’s more used to people and pretty friendly. Unless, of course, he feels you’re threatening Ayla as Attaroa finds out the hard way.
  • Friend to All Living Things: She has a way with animals, especially horses, wolves and even a cave lion.
  • Foreign Fanservice: Due to coming from so far away, Ayla is perceived as somewhat 'exotic' no matter where she goes, which serves to highlight her attractiveness. She's apparently from Crimea in Eastern Europe, she having been found on the Crimean Peninsula as a young child.
  • For Want of a Nail: In the second book, Ayla decides on a whim to take Whinney out for a ride...and so finds and saves Jondalar, the love of her life and the guy she ends up following across Europe, drastically altering the course of her life and affecting many other events in the series.
  • Fuzz Therapy: Part of the reason Ayla adopts Whinney and later Baby is because she herself is desperately lonely (she having been cast out of her clan and unable to find other people); having an animal around to care for and keep her company alleviates her grief and isolation.
  • Good Parents:
    • She's a devoted mother to Durc despite her young age, and always speaks of him with pride and adoration. She never saw him as deformed or weak, just different, and was willing to defy Brun to keep him safe. She ensures he will be loved and cared for before being forced to leave him. She also chooses Durc's happiness over her own wish to be with him, deciding he will be better off staying with the Clan than being forced to be with her.
    • She is a loving mother to Jonayla too and takes good care of her as a baby and toddler. She also won't hesitate to chide Jonayla when she's mean to Bokovan and makes her apologize, though she's not excessively harsh. She does increasingly start to leave Jonayla in Jondalar or Marthona's care as she gets older due to her zelandoni training, though feels guilty about 'neglecting' her.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Played straight. She has golden blonde hair (sometimes described as the colour of "ripe hay" or compared to the dun yellow of Whinney's coat) and is a fundamentally compassionate and well-meaning person.
  • Happily Adopted: She had a largely happy upbringing by her adoptive mother Iza and her adoptive uncle/unofficial father, Creb; it was their love and care for her that made her life in the clan bearable. Later, she is Happily Adopted by the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi.
  • Happily Married: To Jondalar as of the fifth book. They hit a rough patch in The Land of Painted Caves, due to Ayla being preoccupied with her shaman training and both of them (technically) cheating on each other, but they are reconciled by the end.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: More specifically, a wolf she adopts as a cub.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • She has two in The Clan of the Cave Bear. The first is when Broud begins raping her and the second is when Iza dies; in the second case, she's so distraught that her breast milk dries up and she has to rely on other women to help feed her baby. She gets better both times.
    • She goes through another major one late in The Land of Painted Caves after suffering a miscarriage and finding out Jondalar is cheating on her, snapping out of it after she almost dies during a dangerous rite of passage.
  • Horse of a Different Color: She occasionally rides Baby, her pet cave lion, although she cannot control his movements as she does with Whinney the horse.
  • Hospital Hottie: Stone Age equivalent. She's a highly skilled medicine woman and very beautiful.
  • I Am Not Pretty: She was regarded as being "big and ugly" by the Clan's standards and continues to see herself as physically unattractive, despite the fact most men of her species see her as incredibly beautiful.
  • Idiot Ball: You would've thought by the sixth book she'd have learned to stay away from those psychotropic roots. Though to be fair to her, she wasn't in a very stable emotional state at the time.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Often states this, especially in the last few books. Played with in the final novel, where she seems happy enough with her shaman training, but she still enjoys playing happy families with Jondalar and their daughter.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: She has wide, blue-grey eyes and is kind and pure-hearted.
  • Innocently Insensitive: She sometimes comes off this way when interacting with people, even bordering on (unintentional) Brutal Honesty. She never intends to be rude or hurtful, but she tends to say exactly what she thinks and feels, and due to being raised by the Clan and travelling around a lot, she is often ignorant of social norms and customs, which can unintentionally cause offense.
  • Insecure Love Interest: To Jondalar, at first, wondering why he'd ever want to be with a "big and ugly" woman like her.
  • Interspecies Adoption: She adopts and raises Whinney (a horse), Baby (a cave lion) and Wolf (three guesses as to what he is) from infancy; she adopts Whinney and Wolf after killing their mothers and being unwilling to let them die, and adopts Baby after his mother abandons him. She refers to Baby and Wolf as her "sons" on a few occasions, though she refers to Whinney as her friend rather than her child.
  • Jungle Princess: Qualifies as one, especially if you believe the Clan are animals (Jondalar has to teach her to speak verbally).
  • Last Girl Wins: For Jondalar. She’s the last love interest he meets and the only one (besides Zolena years ago) that he truly falls in love with. Even when he sleeps with Marona in the sixth book, it’s made abundantly clear that Ayla is the one he loves and he vows never to sleep with anyone but her (which is unusual in the setting).
  • Little Miss Badass: By the time she was ten, she was a very capable huntress, even taking on predators such as lynxs and hyenas, and also survives living alone for a whole month.
  • Love Martyr: She comes across as a bit of one towards Jondalar in The Mammoth Hunters; even when he’s being a sullen jerk and emotionally neglecting her for reasons she doesn’t understand, she still loves him and is distraught that he doesn’t seem to love her any longer.
  • Love Triangle: With Jondalar and Ranec in the third book.

     M - P 
  • Mama Bear:
    • When her newborn son is considered deformed - meaning he must be left to die - Ayla runs away with him to a small cave she had lived in when she was cursed with death a year or so earlier, intending to return after seven days, as if a baby lives that long, it must be accepted by the clan's leader. This is despite the fact she is still torn, heavily bleeding and quite weak from her traumatic birth, which almost killed her. She later stands up to Broud in front of everyone and calls him out when he tries to separate her from her son, and vehemently defends him and his half-Clan heritage from her own people.
    • She's also very protective of her animals, some of whom she regards as her children.
  • Meaningful Name: Ayla can be used as a variant of the Scottish name Aila, which means "from the strong/resilient place", which is very appropriate for the character given her ability to endure and adapt in the face of great hardship.
  • The Medic: She is trained as a medicine woman (healer) by Iza. Although she lacks Iza's racial memories for healing, she has a natural skill for it, especially in diagnosis, which Iza encourages and refines through training. Ayla's healing skills often become integral to the story and play a big part in Zelandoni asking her to become her acolyte, so that she can practice medicine as part of the zelandonia.
  • Merlin and Nimue: The Nimue to Mamut's Merlin in the third book. Unlike some examples of this trope, there's no romance, with Ayla viewing Mamut as a father figure, especially as he reminds her of Creb.
  • Minor Living Alone: In The Clan of the Cave Bear, she lives alone for a whole month after being temporarily cursed with death for using a weapon. In The Valley of Horses, she lives completely alone (discounting her pets) from the age of fourteen to seventeen in steppeland, until she meets Jondalar.
  • Ms. Fanservice: From the second book onwards, especially when described from Jondalar's perspective.
  • Nature Heroine: In The Valley of Horses, to an extent. Just about everyone in the setting lives In Harmony with Nature and worships the Great Earth Mother or totem spirits, but Ayla in particular lives isolated from other humans and lives with animal companions.
  • Near-Death Experience: In every novel (save for the fifth one). In the first book alone, she has four or five near death experiences (surviving an earthquake which wiped out her family, surviving a cave lion attack, nearly dying of infection and dehydration, being cursed with death and outrunning an avalanche, and nearly dying in childbirth before being cursed with death again).
  • Never-Forgotten Skill:
    • She remembers how to swim due to being taught it by her biological family, despite forgetting them after they die in an earthquake and being taken in by the Clan, who can't swim.
    • She subconsciously remembers how to speak verbally; a few weeks after Jondalar starts teaching her his language, she spontaneously remembers and quickly becomes fluent).
  • Nice Girl: She's very kind and compassionate to almost everyone she meets and feels bad for even inadvertently offending people.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: She saves Brac, Broud's son, from a hyena attack. She then gets cursed with death for a month for breaking the Clan's rules about women using weapons, with Broud actually pushing for a permanent curse.
  • Nubile Savage: Auel goes to great lengths to justify this — Ayla learns to brush her hair with a teasel pod, swims and bathes regularly, eats a varied diet, and even wears a leather band around her explicitly large and turgid (or "full") breasts.
  • Omniglot: Ayla is capable of learning a new language in about a week. Maybe less, due to her upbringing within the Clan, where she had to learn everything quickly to avoid upsetting anyone.
  • One True Love: Jondalar is all but stated to be her's.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: To an extent. When she tried to tell Creb her birth name in The Clan of the Cave Bear, he has trouble pronouncing it and 'Ayla' is as close as he can get. She eventually just adopts Ayla as her given name, unable to remember her original name.
  • On the Rebound: She begins a relationship with Ranec and nearly marries him almost immediately after she and Jondalar break up in The Mammoth Hunters. It understandably doesn't work out and she gets back with Jondalar.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Though she's more or less Happily Adopted, Ayla struggles to adapt to Clan life, and is regarded as quite strange and ugly. She gets into dire trouble for breaking Clan rules and protocols, and then there's villain Broud, the leader's Jerkass son who hates her guts and does everything he can to make her life ten times harder, up to and including beating her into unconsciousness and raping her. She later gets kicked out of the Clan and has to survive completely alone, with no human contact, for close to three years. All before the age of seventeen, we might add.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Her Matrimonial outfit. We are treated to a very detailed description of it - among other things, the leather's been specially treated to stay supple, it's been dyed a gold-like colour and has hundreds of amber beads sewn over it in an intricate pattern. Everyone who sees it is practically awed. Ayla herself thinks it's very beautiful and it has personal value to her as it was made by people she considered family, but her new in-laws know just from looking that the outfit is fit for someone of very high status because of how long it would've taken to make and the quality of the materials and craftsmanship.

     R - S 
  • Race for Your Love: Near the end of the third book, she finds out Jondalar is preparing to leave the Mamutoi and journey back to the Zelandonii alone, meaning they will probably never see each other again. Even though she's meant to be marrying Ranec, she leaps onto her horse and races after him to stop him. They end up reconciling and leave together.
  • Rank Up:
    • Due to Iza's increasingly poor health in the second half of the first book, Ayla begins taking on more of her duties as a medicine woman. After Iza's death, the position becomes official.
    • At the end of the sixth book she is promoted from acolyte to full zelandoni status after being 'Called' by the Mother. Despite this, she still goes by Ayla, not yet feeling comfortable with giving up her name and going solely by her title.
  • Rape as Drama: In The Clan of the Cave Bear, she is repeatedly raped by Broud, starting from when she’s only ten. She eventually comes to terms with it and has positive, consensual sexual relationships; it also results in the birth of her son, Durc.
  • Rebellious Spirit: She has a habit of challenging or bending social norms and rules, especially within the Clan (which sometimes gets her into trouble).
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • Ayla ignores Iza's advice to leave the Clan and seek out her own people, being reluctant to leave the only home and family she'd ever known. Of course, by the end of the first book she has no choice but to the leave, due to an earthquake destroying the clan's cave (again) and Broud ordering her to be cursed with death.

    • When both Mamut and Zelandoni Who Is First realise her potential as One Who Serves the Mother, they both try to persuade her to become their acolyte, feeling it is her destiny. Ayla is pretty reluctant at first, because her abilities frighten her and she just wants to live a normal, peaceful life. However, she eventually accepts that she may be destined for more and becomes Zelandoni's acolyte at the end of the fifth book (having also previously does some informal training under Mamut).
  • Repressed Memories: Implied. She remembers almost nothing of her life before being found by the Clan and it's suggested that, in addition to being only five when she lost her birth family, she repressed the memories of her early childhood due to the trauma of her family dying in an earthquake.
  • Rescue Romance: With Jondalar, who she saves from a cave lion and nurses back to health.
  • Returning the Wedding Ring: When she decides to call off their impending marriage, Ayla returns the mutii (a carved figurine of the Great Earth Mother) that her Promised Ranec had made for their Matrimonial (the Mamutoi traditionally make a mutii to protect the new hearth they create once they're married). He keeps it as a reminder of her for years afterwards.
  • Runaway Bride: At the end of The Mammoth Hunters, on the day of her planned Matrimonial ceremony to Ranec, she changes her mind and decides to go back to Jondalar and journey to his people.
  • Sage Love Interest: To Jondalar. She's a skilled healer, later trains as a shaman, and has a number of skills and abilities that seem almost supernatural in origin to others, including her inventions, taming animals, incredible memory, dreaming the future etc. (some have more mundane explanations, though others are less easy to explain); Jondalar even thought that she was a manifestation of the Great Earth Mother the first time he saw her. She often gives Jondalar advice or provides him with a different way of looking at things, which is one of the things he admires about her. Interestingly enough, Jondalar in turn helps her with areas she's less knowledgeable in, mostly around Cro-Magnon cultures and social norms (as she was raised by Neanderthals).
  • Scars Are Forever: After being clawed on the leg by a cave lion as a child, she bears the scars for the rest of her life. She also has a small scar beneath her chin where Creb drew her blood during a ritual, which she retains years later.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: Ayla has a strong aversion to hyenas, ever since a hyena grabbed a baby during a mammoth hunt. She sees hyenas as scum and will never allow a hyena around. She is otherwise a Friend to All Living Things (even those she kills for food). Jondalar, though, does point out that they're just animals like any other.
  • Screaming Birth: When she gives birth to Durc, she screams herself hoarse, to the point the other clan members are disturbed and upset by her cries. It’s justified because Durc’s a hybrid with an overlarge head and she's only eleven years old, so she’s in agony.
  • Second Love: For Jondalar. Although he had many lovers after losing his First Love, Zolena, and cared for some of them, he couldn't ever fall in love with another woman until he met Ayla.
  • Sherlock Scan: Downplayed. Due to being raised by people who use sign language as a primary means of communication and teach women to always be attentive to a man's needs, she's quite observant and good at reading body language.
  • Socially Awkward Heroine / No Social Skills: Downplayed. Ayla is a total badass when it comes to hunting and healing, but when interacting with other people, she sometimes comes across as a bit odd or awkward, due to her mannerisms picked up from the Clan, in particular her tendency to be very honest, which can make her seem rather blunt. However, once people get to know her, they usually warm up to her due to her friendly and compassionate nature.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: A very downplayed, mundane version. She cannot speak to animals per se, but due to having spent a lot of time observing their behaviour and practising their vocalisations, she can more or less communicate with certain animals (mostly the ones she hand-reared from babies) by mimicking their movements and sounds. An example would be letting Wolf jump up and take her jaw in his teeth, then doing the same, as she knows this is how wolves greet packmates.
  • Statuesque Stunner: She's nearly 6ft tall and very attractive.
  • Suffer the Slings: Her primary Weapon of Choice. She first learned how to use a sling after finding a discarded one and watching Zoug teaching the boys how to use them. She secretly practised every day until she was at expert level, just as good, if not better, than the male hunters in the Clan. Even among her own kind, her skill with a sling is nigh unrivalled. She even developed a technique that allows her to fire two stones nearly simultaneously (which may not actually be possible in real life). Her skill with a sling inspires Jondalar to create 'spear throwers' (atlatl).
  • Supreme Chef: She is mentioned as being quite a good cook, she having learned it from Iza, and can make a variety of meals in any weather.

     T - Y 
  • Technical Virgin: In The Valley of Horses, Jondalar seems to view her as such, due to the fact that her only sexual encounters up to that point involved rape; she had never experienced consensual sex and had no knowledge of sexual pleasure. He's only too happy to show her a magical 'first time'.
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • Ayla is actually only eleven when she gives birth to her son. It nearly kills her as a result.
    • Downplayed when she gives birth to her second child; she's nineteen and it's considered far more usual for Cro-Magnon women to give birth in their late teens.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Her whole reaction/inner thoughts consist of this when she has to tell Ranec that she's calling off their wedding - she knows he loves her and thinks he's a nice bloke, but she just doesn't feel the same way.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After she teaches herself to hunt with a sling in The Clan of the Cave Bear. She takes more levels in badass in The Valley of Horses, learning how to hunt with spears, horse-riding and taming a cave lion, in addition to surviving three years in the wilderness without any people to help her.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The cloak she used to carry her son with becomes this for her. She only takes it with her to remind herself of him after she's forced to leave him and she sometimes holds it close to her for comfort. She eventually leaves it behind in the third book, when she accepts she will probably never see him again.
  • Trauma Button:
    • Ayla freaks out whenever there's an earthquake, even a small tremor, as it triggers her long-repressed memories of the day her biological family were killed in an earthquake. On one occasion, she even reverts to an almost child-like state and instinctively cries out for her mother in a language she can't remember, before it passes.
    • To a lesser extent, when she goes into labour in The Shelters of Stone, she starts panicking because it brings up her memories of her son's birth, which was extremely painful and nearly killed her. Zelandoni is able to calm her down and reassures her that the birth will be easier this time, because her nineteen year old body is far more equipped to handle giving birth.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: She has a habit of slightly rolling her 'R's, clearly demonstrated in-text in The Shelters of Stone when she is heard from a Zelandonii character's perspective.
  • The Unreveal: Where she originally came from and who her birth tribe was.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Downplayed. When Jondalar tells her he loves her, she has to ask "What is love?" However, it's the word itself, rather than the concept behind it, that she's unfamiliar with: the Clan do feel love, but they don't have a word for it and instead express affection through their actions.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Her accent is described as being quite strange, to the point where some people believe it to be a minor speech impediment. It's due to being raised by the Clan, who have difficulties pronouncing some words and mostly communicate via sign language.
  • You No Take Candle: Talks in this manner when Jondalar is starting to teach her Zelandonii. She soon becomes fluent, though, and speaks with complex grammar. She speaks the S'Armunai language this way, though it's actually impressive she knows it at all (she learnt the basics in a manner of days, simply by listening to and memorizing conversations, and cross-referencing it with Mamutoi, to which it has a similar structure).


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