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Literature / Earth's Children
aka: Clan Of The Cave Bear

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A series of novels by Jean M. Auel that don't really fit into any one category. The basic idea is a portrayal of life during the Ice Age, but this includes elements of Romance Novel, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, travelogue and Shown Their Work mixed with a lot of Artistic License.

The novels revolve around "Ayla," a Cro-Magnon woman who lived about 30,000 years ago, somewhere near the Black Sea (modern-day Ukraine). Orphaned at five due to an earthquake, she is taken in by a group of Neanderthals. Auel goes into great detail on the physiology of these Neanderthals, who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear after their primary deity. The main difference between Clan and "Others" (Cro-Magnons) is that Clan have access to Genetic Memory, which makes them quick studies for anything their species already knows but very slow to accept innovation or change. Ayla is adopted by the clan's medicine woman, and her brother, a crippled shaman, learning a great deal of herb lore and practical medicine, but also learns to hunt in direct defiance of the Clan's traditions. Her clan's leader (the brother of the medicine woman and shaman both) accepts her as best he can, able to recognize her talents and skills even if they make him uncomfortable, but when his snotty son takes up the mantle of leadership, the son has Ayla exiled from the Clan. This would be easier on 14-year-old Ayla if she hadn't borne a son, Durc, a Homo neanderthalensis x sapiens hybrid that must be left behind.


From this point on, Ayla strikes out on her own, seeking her own kind. The story then begins to alternate between her point of view and that of her designated love interest, Jondalar, a Cro-Magnon from what is today France, as he journeys down the length of the "Great Mother River" with his brother Thonolan. Thonolan is killed during the adventure, and Jondalar wounded, but Ayla saves him, and the two fall in love. After spending a year with a Ukrainian tribe and entering a Love Triangle, they then begin to journey back up the Danube, arriving back at Jondalar's homeland just in time for the fifth book to start.

The novels in the series:

  • The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), which follows Ayla's life with the Clan from her adoption (age 5) to ostracism (age 14).
  • The Valley of Horses (1982), in which Ayla lives a solitary existence in the titular location while Jondalar travels to meet her. This takes a good three or four years, with the remaining books falling into the pattern of relating one year per novel.
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  • The Mammoth Hunters (1985): Jondalar has just convinced Ayla to start heading for his home when they run into the novel's titular Mamutoi, who are, after Jondalar, the first Others Ayla has ever met. Ayla learns a lot about living with her own species; Jondalar learns how much he loves her when a Love Triangle is introduced.
  • The Plains of Passage (1990): Jondalar and Ayla travel west along the Great Mother River, encountering various characters and peoples Jondalar had met on the way down, and some other surprises as well.
  • The Shelters of Stone (2002): Jondalar and Ayla finally arrive home, where Ayla begins to integrate herself among his people (the "Zelandonii").
  • The Land of Painted Caves (2011): Ayla continues her training to become a Zelandoni (priestess/medicine woman) for her tribe.

Auel is considered something of an expert on Ice-Age culture, due to the sheer amount of research (and hands-on experience) she has with the practices at hand, such as leather-tanning, flint-knapping and cave paintings. She has attempted to weave into the story as much archaeology from the period as possible, often depicting the creation of known prehistoric artifacts. Recurring themes include the differences between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon intelligence, sapience and physiology, and the racial tensions resulting thereof, as well as Ayla's upbringing in the Clan and the prejudice she is subjected to for that reason.

It has a character page.

The first book, The Clan of the Cave Bear, was adapted into a film in 1986 of the same name starring Daryl Hannah as Ayla. Lifetime also ordered a TV pilot based on the books in 2015. Since then however it appears to be stuck in Development Hell or canceled.

Earth's Children shows examples of the following tropes:

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     Tropes #-C 
  • 1 Million B.C.: The series is a fairly well-researched attempt to construct realistic Ice Age cultures and involves clashes between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. Science has marched on concerning some of the material Jean Auel used, and Ayla and Jondalar's technological inventions can only be believed as allegories for the inventions of multiple generations of Real Life people, but for the most part these books are quite believable and realistic. Their biggest problem is the Anachronism Stew of Homo sapiens material culture, mixing multiple Paleolithic eras together, and arguably the near total lack of Values Dissonance in the prehistoric Homo sapiens cultures (with the one major exception of greater sexual freedom/no knowledge that paternity exists-at first). Neanderthals however, provide more Values Dissonance.
  • Aborted Arc: Ayla's son Durc is set up to play an important role as one of the half-Clan/half-Other children, but is never seen after Ayla leaves the Clan
  • Accent Interest: Almost every character in The Land of Painted Caves comments on Ayla's accent.
  • Alliterative Title: The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Plains of Passage and The Shelters of Stone.
  • The Aloner: Ayla 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.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The shaman of the Sharamudoi tribe and Attaroa's child, Omel.
  • Arranged Marriage: In the Clan, matings are arranged the leader of a clan. Sometimes, these turn out well, such as in the case of Brun and Ebra, and Uba and Vorn. Other times, though, they don’t turn out so great, such as in the case of Iza’s mate, who was a domestic abuser.
  • Author Filibuster: In Plains of Passage, there's a Scenery Porn segment just like any other which suddenly segues into several pages of telling the reader the despoiling of nature that's going to be committed by the people of the future is, in fact, wrong on a spiritual level.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Zigzagged in the first book. Part of Creb's backstory involves him having been badly mauled by a cave bear as a young boy and two men are injured by the cave bear at the Clan Gathering, one of them fatally. However, cave bears are sacred to the Clan and being attacked by one is considered an honour; if you survive, you get to claim the Cave Bear as your totem, as well as continuing to claim the totem you were assigned as a baby.
  • Beautiful Singing Voice: The One Who Is First To Serve The Great Earth Mother (she has no other name) is considered the First in part because of her beautiful singing voice, which helps her to communicate with the spirit world.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Ayla, and Jondalar as well, who is described as being not only handsome but intensely charismatic.
  • Beauty Is Bad: The attractive but Ax-Crazy character of Attaroa and to a lesser extent with the Alpha Bitch Marona.
  • Beta Couple: In The Valley of Horses, Thonolan and Jetamio. From The Plains of Passage onwards, Joplaya and Echozar. In The Land of Painted Caves, there’s Folara and Aldanor.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Jondalar and Ranec, respectively, for Ayla in the third book.
    • From the fifth book onwards, Ayla is the Betty and Marona the Veronica for Jondalar.
  • Bewildering Punishment: When Ayla is first learning the Clan's sign language, she tries to expand her vocabulary by watching people signing to each other. But staring at other people's private conversations is considered to be bad manners, especially if that conversation is taking place at another family's hearth, and Creb eventually has to tell Ayla to stop. Though Ayla isn't actually punished for her transgression, she is bewildered by Creb's behaviour towards her, partly because she was unaware that she was doing anything wrong, but mostly because he has never scolded her before.
  • Big Prick, Big Problems: Jondalar is so well-endowed that he has had to hold back with almost everyone he's ever had sex with; throughout the book in which he's introduced, it's a plot point that he's never able to fully enjoy sex because if he did, his partner wouldn't. The sole exception is Ayla, whose painful past experience have given her sufficient, shall we say, capacity to accept him fully. (Of course, once the two of them figure this out, the plot point is basically dropped.) Bigger Is Better in Bed is also averted from the other side: while Ayla has had physical experiences with other men besides Jondalar, after Jondalar, their comparatively lesser endowments are never described as being any sort of disappointment to her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Mammoth Hunters. Although Ayla and Jondalar happily reconcile, both learn important lessons and are beginning their journey to Jondalar's homeland to begin a new life, they still have to part with all the friends they made with the Mamutoi. It's especially hard on Ayla, as she had come to view many of them as a family and had even been adopted by Mamut and it's very unlikely they'll ever see any of them again. Also poor little Rydag has died and Ayla also has the unpleasant task of breaking up with Ranec, who is utterly heartbroken. The novel actually ends with him watching Ayla and Jondalar leaving, silently weeping while clutching the carving he'd made for her. Yeesh.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Clan men are larger and stronger than Clan women, but what makes them bizarre is that nearly every possible skill is a Gender-Restricted Ability. There's very little both sexes are capable of learning.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Suspicious Mamutoi try this on Ayla at one point in The Plains of Passage.
  • Boldly Coming: Jondalar and Thonolan when they meet a new tribe. Well, mostly just the outgoing Thonolan.
  • A Boy and His X: A girl and her horse. And lion. And wolf. Between leaving the Clan and meeting Jondalar, a period of about three years, the only relationships Ayla has in The Valley of Horses are with the animals she tames there. It's made quite clear that having them to look after and to keep her company are a big reason she didn't go completely mad from loneliness.
  • Boy Meets Girl: A main plot in the second and third books is Ayla and Jondalar meeting by fate (or one hell of a coincidence), falling in love, breaking up due to various misunderstandings and then realising how much they care for each other (especially after a Near-Death Experience) and getting back together.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Leadership among the Mamutoi is shown to work along these lines; the headman and woman of a given camp will be brother and sister rather than a married couple.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Literally for all of the Clan. Their use of sign language means that nobody can tell a lie, as their body language would give it away. Ayla adheres to this even when she learns to speak in Cro-Magnon language. The books repeatedly state that the closest the Clan gets to lying is omitting information. Ayla attempts the latter unsuccessfully in the first book when she is being interrogated about how she learned to hunt: when asked when she started to learn, she simply says she was there and happened to watch. It is only under direct questioning by Broud and Brun that she is forced to answer that she saw Broud being embarrassed.
  • Character Shilling: From the second book onwards, just about everyone who meets Ayla describes her as "beautiful" and "exotic" or even "the most beautiful woman they've ever seen" on a few occasions.
  • Child by Rape: This applies to most first generation "children of mixed spirits", the term used for those born of mixed Neanderthal (Clan) and Cro-Magnon (Others) parentage. However, Ayla (herself the mother of such a child) speculates that Rydag may be a rare exception since his mother, though initially wary of the members of Lion Camp, did not show the levels of fear which Clan women usually show around the Others.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Ayla literally dreams that her son Durc (half Clan, half Cro-Magnon) brings the two disparate communities together, but it never happens as far as we know. In the meantime she herself, a Cro-Mag raised in the Clan, is is the catalyst for the two tribes learning to have not quite so terrible feelings towards one another.
  • Christmas Cake: Ayla, 19 years old when finally married, thinks of herself as one. Justified: Clan girls reach menarche at 9 or 10, and it's not unusual for women of the Others to have children by 16.
  • Clash of Evolutionary Levels: Downplayed, Ayla's evolutionary superiority to her adoptive Neanderthal Clan causes some tension.
  • Coitus Ensues: From The Valley of Horses onward, Ayla and Jondalar have long, detailed sex scenes quite frequently. Minor characters too, sometimes. Apart from a few plot-important scenes, they do little except demonstrate the sexual openness of the culture... a point which was already made in other ways, such as through dialogue.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The series, in particular the first three books, is this for Ayla, detailing her life, relationships, the lessons she learns and her journey to find herself from the age of five to around 26. It can also be seen as a Coming of Age Story for Jondalar, who grows as a person and learns some hard lessons over the course of the novels too (though for some readers, it’s debatable as to whether they stick).
  • Convenient Cranny: In Clan Of The Cave Bear five year old Ayla hides in a cranny to escape a Cave Lion. The lion can just manage to stick its paw in to slash Ayla on the thigh, thus marking her totem.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Creb, for being a genius, infinitely patient, and being willing to love Ayla even when he couldn't accept her inappropriate behavior.
    • Mamut: "I have forgotten more than you will ever know."
    • Brun, who would be the best leader ever if he didn't love his Jerkass son Broud so much.
    • Zoug, the old hunter who is all about dignity in the face of brash young Jerkasses.
  • Costume Porn: The author frequently goes on for pages about what everyone's clothes look like, what they are made of, how they are made, how people wear them, what a certain piece of clothing's ceremonial use might be, how clothing affects social status, and how people react to certain pieces of clothing. This helps give a sense of place and enhances the Worldbuilding.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Ayla does this Valley of the Horses. When she is banished from the Clan and forced to leave her son behind, the carrying cloth she used to carry him around in becomes the only memento of him.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Jondalar's... endowment... is so immense that he must hold back to avoid hurting his partners (until he meets Ayla, who can handle him). Poor guy, huh?

     Tropes D - F 
  • Dated History:
    • The idea of the Clan using sign language was based on a theory that Neanderthal vocal cords were constructed in a way that limited the range of sounds they could verbalize. Specifically, there was no evidence that they had a hyoid bone. Recent excavations have debunked this, as a hyoid bone has been found in Neanderthal remains.
    • Neanderthals are portrayed as almost universally dark-haired while Cro-Magnons show all the phenotypes found in modern (mostly European) humans. Recent studies in neanderthal mDNA have shown that at least some of them were red-haired. Additionally, its likely that the Cro-Magnons would have been fairly dark skinned, since they'd have recently (from an evolutionary perspective) immigrated out of Africa.
    • The technology and cultures of the Others are a mixture of several different distinct Late Pleistocene material cultures, now known to have been separated by multi-millennial gaps in time.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Or, in this case, Dead Girl Junior. Uba was named in memory of her long dead great-grandmother.
    • Then there's Thonolia, presumed to be the daughter of Thonolan.
  • Death by Childbirth: To Jetamio, Thonolan's wife.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • It's the most recent Ice Age, 30,000 years ago — Older Than Dirt, in other words. It's fucking cold out. Flint knapping is the pre-eminent means of creating tools; merely cutting down a tree is a time-consuming business. Animals have yet to be domesticated — to anyone's knowledge, Ayla's tame lion, wolf and horses are the only ones ever. Textiles are in their infancy, and agriculture has yet to be invented. The characters live in a Death World, often in groups about the size of a school classroom (200 people is said to be an enormous community). The difficulty of survival, relatively low manpower and incredibly low position on the Tech Tree influences everything about how these have tried to shape themselves.
    • Most Cro-Magnon cultures are very liberal about sex, to the point where having full blown orgies is considered a sacred tradition and promiscuity is practically encouraged. Sex is talked about openly with children and no one minds if they witness sexual acts — some kids are even known to mimic sexual acts during play in imitation of their parents. Girls are expected to go through First Rites, where they are ritually deflowered by an experienced older man, as soon as they hit menarche, meaning most girls having First Rites are between 12 and 16. Boys are assigned to a donii-woman to teach them about sex when they hit puberty, so they are generally around the same age as girls. It's also not considered that strange for people to be married with kids by their late teens. This is partly Truth in Television, as real hunter-gatherer cultures where people live in close proximity are often more open about sex.
    • The Clan also have no taboos about public sex. Girls can be regarded as women as soon as they menstruate and married off as young as eight, though in this case, Clan girls actually reach physical maturity earlier than Cro-Magnon, so it's not quite as Squicky. Of course, the Clan also raise girls to be submissive to men and always do as they say. This includes 'presenting' themselves for sexual intercourse whenever a man gives them the signal and men being allowed to physically punish women for being disobedient, though the Clan draw the line at using excessive violence or beating women for no reason. Women can also be executed for using weapons and must isolate themselves when they get their periods and for a time after they give birth.
  • Does Not Like Men: Attaroa, a villain from the fourth book, who was apparently married to a half-Clan husband. He treated her with about the same level of respect Broud treated Ayla, and Attaroa liked it about as much. She became a violently misandric nutjob thereafter, locking all her camp's men in a pen and working them to death.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Ayla adopts a pet named Wolf. Guess what kind of animal he is.
    • Averted with Baby. The jury is still out on whether this trope applies to Whinney.
  • Doorstopper: 6 books, each ranging from ~500 to ~860 pages.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. Though it’s not really discussed that often, when Attaroa tries to force Jondalar to have sex with her in exchange for his freedom, which she has done with several other men in the past, it’s clearly presented as wrong. Jondalar is disgusted and refuses, stating that it is a perversion of the ‘Gift of Pleasure’ and that it is supposed to be done between willing partners. There was also an instance where a group of women all but swamped Jondalar, who became uncomfortable and pushed one woman away when she wouldn’t let go of him. He apologizes for hurting her, but when the woman tries complaining to Shamud, they point out that men don’t like being forcibly groped and that Pleasures should never be forced on anyone. It’s probably safe to say from these instances that any ‘perversion of the Mother’s gift’ is unacceptable, although rape of women by men is especially reviled.
  • Downer Beginning: The Valley of Horses for Ayla. She's completely alone in the wilderness, with no home, cut off from her family, friends and people and with no idea of where she's going or what she should do. She actually briefly contemplates suicide, but ultimately determines to push on and survive no matter what. Things gradually start getting better for her once she finds her cave in the Valley of Horses.
  • Downer Ending: The Clan of the Cave Bear actually has one of these. Broud actually gets everything he wanted - he becomes leader and curses Ayla with death permanently, forcing Ayla to leave the clan and never see her son Durc, sister Uba, Brun or any of them again. Creb also dies and the cave is destroyed in an earthquake so the clan need to find a new home; they're also stuck with the arrogant and incompetent Broud as their leader.
    That being said, there are a few rays of hope; Brun and Uba both promise Ayla they'll protect and care for Durc so she knows he'll ultimately be alright. Ayla is devastated by her banishment but refuses to be broken, determined to live on and hopefully find her own people some day, as her late adoptive mother Iza said she must. She also gets the final word in with Broud, declaring that she isn't really dead and he can prove it by striking her. He's so angered by this he tries to hit her (she ducks) and thus breaks the taboo about acknowledging cursed people. When he tries to deflect the bad luck onto Brun (who had subtly acknowledged Ayla) he just turns it right back on Broud, pointing out he just proved Ayla's point and publicly humiliating him by stating how ashamed of him he is and that he wishes Ayla had been his son because she will always be the better person; this leaves Broud deeply shaken and somewhat undermines his perceived 'victory'.
  • Dramatis Personae: Some of the books include a list of all the characters that appear in that book, including what cave/camp they belong to, their titles and who they're related to. Considering how big the cast gets and how many new characters are introduced in one book alone, this can come in handy.
  • Dystopia: Attaroa's band of S'Armunai has turned into a bizarre nightmare where men are kept in a large filthy cage with little food and no medicine, and slowly worked to death. The women are supposed to be the rulers — except talking to men isn't allowed (let alone physical intimacy with your former husband), giving birth to a boy is punishable by death, and the boys themselves are subjected to horrific fates. Attaroa's also incompetent, so they're nearly out of food. Really, the whole thing is just a show for Attaroa's sadistic megalomania. Though they try to pretend they're happy (complaining and disobedience are punished by hurting one's male relatives), many women get sick of it.
  • Earthquakes Cause Fissures: At the start of the first book, with Ayla's biological family apparently falling into one, leaving her orphaned and kickstarting the entire series.
  • The Epic: Certainly has the trappings of one, being set in primordial Europe (specifically the last Ice Age) and focusing upon the life and adventures of one woman from the age of five to around twenty-six (her Love Interest Jondalar gets a fair amount of page-time too, but we're with Ayla right from the beginning). One of the central plots of the series is Ayla's journey to find a sense of belonging and purpose, including a very long and perilous journey across the continent of Europe. In addition to covering around two decades of Ayla's life from childhood to adulthood, the books are all very lengthy and were published over the course of three decades. During the story, Ayla accomplishes some pretty impressive things, overcomes various obstacles and challenges, and helps change a lot of lives (and potentially the course of human history).
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Nobody has any concept of illegitimate offspring (fatherhood not having been discovered), nor have communicable diseases been figured out yet. Consequently, both the Others and the Clan have fairly lax sexual norms. A certain amount of partner-rotation is permissible among the Others, and before you get married you get to play the field. In the Clan there is a hand-sign, that can only be made by men, which indicates the man wants to "relieve his needs" and the woman should drop whatever she's doing and immediately present for intercourse. It is implied that the women can find this just as enjoyable as the men do. The Clan women have found herbal versions of hormonal contraceptives, but usually do not prescribe them unless a woman might die if she gets pregnant again. While it's considered unlucky for an unmated woman to give birth and they will try to pair her off beforehand, only two characters are known to have connected sex with reproduction so far, one of them being Ayla.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: As one of the themes of the series seems to be refuting the Sex Is Evil trope, the author describes sex between Ayla and Jondalar (and a few other people) with lots of detail.
  • Everybody Wants the Hermaphrodite: Transgender people (not that they're called that) are socially expected to become mamuti (medicine people), since they're already marked as "special" by the Great Earth Mother. They're considered quite attractive by both sexes.
  • Exotic Extended Marriage: Most matings are one man and one woman, but sometimes a man will mate with two women, or a woman with two men. Whatever works for them.note 
  • Explicit Content: This series has a great deal of story and most of the content is entirely non-sexual, but most sex scenes are unnecessarily detailed.
  • Extended Greetings: Sometimes combined with Verbal Business Card. When Cro-Magnon characters make formal greetings, in addition to their name they often list what tribe and cave/camp they belong to, who their family is (sometimes including extended family) and all their titles, to show their status. With more informal greetings, they'll usually just state their name and tribe. Ayla in particular has a very long list of ties since she's a Zelandonii, a Mamutoi, a Clan medicine woman, has the Cave Lion as her totem, and is friend to three horses and a wolf. Then she mates Jondalar and gets to add all his extensive family ties to her own.
  • Fantastic Racism: Race relations and racism are a major theme of the series. The Others call the Clan "flatheads" and claim they're animals related to bears, but despise them as unclean monsters in a stark departure from their attitudes towards actual animals (a hypocrisy Ayla points out to them). The Clan just think the Others are noisy, bizarre, and dangerous, and try to avoid them.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Particularly during the first book, during which Ayla usually does whatever she wants to, even if it's in direct defiance of Clan traditions. In the end they curse her with death. She's so cool, she outlives the death curse. Also, she's cursed again, and there are five more books!
  • The Film of the Book: A film based on the first novel was released in 1986, starring Daryl Hannah as Ayla.
  • First Guy Wins: Ayla's longtime love, and the father of her daughter, is literally the first man of "the Others" (that is, a Cro-Magnon like Ayla herself) she meets.
  • Fish out of Water: Ayla, amongst every culture she comes in contact with. Somehow most of them come to love her anyway.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Thonolan falls in love with his future wife Jetamio this way. He's attacked by a rhino, and she helps the healer attend him. He almost immediately becomes infatuated. Jondalar and Ayla also meet this way, after her pet lion mauls him.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Ayla's pet lion cub grows up to be the hugest, most well-nourished cave lion in Ukraine, and terrifies everybody who sees him. His name is Baby.
  • Food Porn: Auel can go on about the food people eat, how it was cooked, how many people it took to cook it, how it was hunted or gathered (sometimes with digressions about what animals aren't hunted, and why), how it tastes, the spices and herbs used to flavor it, what the food's nutritional value is compared to other food, and so on for pages.

     Tropes G - J 
  • Gendercide: This is Attaroa's ultimate goal for her people, using a concentration camp and forced labor as an intermediary step. Since — like pretty much everyone except Ayla in this setting — she has no idea how women conceive, she thinks women will just give birth to girls after all the men die.
  • Gender Is No Object: All of the Others (except the violently misandric band of S'Armunai encountered by the protagonists).
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: The Clan have built-in gender restrictions on learning totally mundane skills necessary for survival: men cannot learn to cook, tan leather, make clothes, find edible plants, or practice medicine. Clan women cannot learn to hunt or make weapons. This is explained as a trade-off that evolved along with their Genetic Memory, but it makes them unable to survive alone even briefly.
  • Genetic Memory: The Clan have this, mostly in an unconscious form. Only an extremely skilled mog-ur like Creb, with what amount to psionic powers, can make it conscious. This requires two huge trade-offs (Gender Restricted Abilities, and an inability to innovate) which are described as the reason they couldn't adapt to climate change and eventually went extinct.
  • Genius Cripple: Creb has one eye and one arm, walks with a limp, and can't hunt, so technically he's not even a man. But he's the most spiritually powerful mog-ur (religious leader, "shaman") of the whole Clan, brilliant and capable of insights most Neanderthals can't figure out.
  • Genre-Busting: Romance x Historical Fiction x Historical Fantasy x Travelogue x Ecology Essay.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Ayla and Jondalar several times in The Plains of Passage. One of the most notable times is after they finally make it over the glacier. As the most dangerous part of their journey is now over, Ayla decides on a whim not to make the contraceptive tea she's been taking and so falls pregnant.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: When Joplaya gets pregnant, her mother Jerika urges her to have an abortion since she's worried that the birth will kill her. This is because her mate is apparently half Clan, and they have larger skulls. Joplaya refuses, as she'd been trying for some time to have children with no success, and in the end safely gives birth. However, she does agree to use contraception to prevent future pregnancies.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Played straight with Ayla and Jondalar (and almost every other protagonist).
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Marona is excruciatingly jealous of Ayla for having Jondalar's love. Much earlier in the saga, Broud deeply resents the attention Ayla draws, though among the Clan that's never sexual attraction (by their standards she's butt ugly). Bodoa apparently felt this way after Joconan married Marthona instead of her. And Jondalar is crazy green-eyed over any guy who flirts with Ayla — much to her distress.
    • The existence of the Green-Eyed Monster is actually a motivating factor of the Eternal Sexual Freedom amongst the Others. When orgies are state-sanctioned, you always have a shot at someone, and there's no need to cause a ruckus. This is simultaneously enforced by Jondalar's Back Story, in which a guy tried to make trouble over Jondalar's girlfriend. They got into a Fist Fight and Jondalar knocked the guy's two front teeth out. Today we'd fix that with prosthetics. Back then, Jondalar had — literally — crippled him for life. When jealousy can literally ruin lives, A Party, Also Known as an Orgy seems like a much preferable alternative.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Any of the half-Clan/half-Other characters who have cropped up in the past, such as Durc, Rydag, and Echozar; there's even a three-fourths-human character, Brukeval (or at least it's hypothesized he is). Of course, the whole point of the race-relations depicted in the series is that Neanderthals are human, so the trope name doesn't really fit (Auel seems to have gotten their existence at least partially right). The Clan all think the "mixed spirits" people are deformed, and most Others consider them despicable inhuman "abominations."
  • Hand Signals: the Clan's language is based primarily in hand signals, which are apparently standardized enough that people from across the continent can still communicate. (This is partially justified by Genetic Memory.) However, hand signs merely express the formal elements of communication; posture, body language and facial expression provide additional context. Ayla notes that Others, who mostly learn only the hand signs, lack a great deal of nuance in their expression; their communication is often rendered in something not dissimilar to "You No Take Candle," and Ayla later describes it as "Baby talk." (This is actually Truth in Television: much modern Signed Language involves facial expression as a major component of phrasing.)
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Rydag, a half-Clan/half-Other boy who is adopted by Nezzie, the mate of the headman of the Mamutoi's Lion Camp. He's even sickly (a weak heart), but after Ayla teaches him the Clan's sign language, the rest of Lion Camp learn it to varying degrees so that they can communicate with him. When he dies of heart failure toward the end of The Mammoth Hunters, most of the Lion Camp are devastated (and even some readers get a little teary-eyed.)
  • Heinous Hyena: 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).
  • Hot for Student: When a boy of the Others becomes a man (by making a mess in his sleeping furs), he is submitted to the care of an older female for sexual mentoring (remember what we said about Eternal Sexual Freedom?). Because the female is considered to be filling a religious role, such relationships are expected to stay platonic... but Jondalar fell in love with his donii-woman and she with him. Another man, who desired said woman, spied on them planning to marry and publicized the whole thing. Jondalar punched him, there was a scandal, and Jondalar was sent to his divorced dad's place until it died down.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Late in The Plains of Passage, Ayla and Jondalar stay with the Losadunai, who live near natural hot springs. And yes, there are sexy times in the hot springs, although there's also a subplot where Ayla and Losaduna (the local shaman) utilize a sacred hot spring in a special ritual, to help a girl come to terms with a personal trauma.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Wolf (a tame wolf) howls during the funeral of Rydag.
  • Hufflepuff House: The Aterian, Hadumai and Sungaea tribes. Jondalar and Thonolan meet the Hadumai while on their Journey, staying with them just long enough for Jondalar to take part in a young woman's Rites of First Pleasures, which may have left her pregnant with his child; other than this, they are largely irrelevant to the storyline. The Sungaea are neighbours of the Mamutoi, but only appear directly when the members of Lion Camp visit a Sungaea camp where two young siblings have recently died. And the Aterians never appear at all, though it is mentioned that Ranec's mother came from that tribe.
  • Humans Are White: The story takes place entirely in Europe, and the characters generally have modern European coloration. Two exceptions:
    • Ranec, who is half-black. His father walked from (modern-day) Ukraine to northern Africa (yes, walked) before meeting his black mother's people. However, Ranec gets around sexually (like most men in this story), and many characters have observed his genetic influence on the younger generation, so a darker skin tone is present among some of the Mamutoi children whom he fathered.
    • In The Plains of Passage, we are introduced to Jerika (East Asian), the second wife to Jondalar's (European) father Dalanar, and their daughter Joplaya, and Jerika's father Hochaman.
    • Ayla, who hails from modern-day Ukraine, is considered to be quite exotic by her Love Interest's French relatives. (Her unusual accent doesn't hurt.)
  • I Am Not Pretty: Ayla continues to view herself by the Clan standards with which she was raised, according to which she's too tall, unfeminine, and very ugly. Everyone around her was a Neanderthal, so that's the appearance she's used to. By European Homo sapiens standards she's actually beautiful, but she can't wrap her head around that.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Jondalar's blue eyes are an intense glacier blue described as "magnetic" and "charismatic" and capable of seducing any woman he uses them on.
  • Idealized Sex: Some of the sex scenes are this, but others are, surprisingly, aversions. The first time Ayla and Jondalar get it on, she has no idea what to do because she’s never had sex before and actually makes commentary on the foreplay, to Jondalar's amusement. Another time, she and Jondalar have trouble getting her dress undone and Jondalar bangs his nose on her amulet; they also get interrupted by Wolf on a few occasions. It’s mentioned that Ayla always cleans herself after sex, with Jondalar eventually copying her, as this is what Iza taught her to do. While Ayla takes a contraceptive tea, as trained by Iza, the risk of pregnancy never really comes up because people don’t realize sex is linked to conception. Jondalar has also been taught how to pleasure his sexual partners (and has had a lot of practice) to make sure their experience is a good one, so this may partly justify the more idealized sex scenes. It does get a bit ridiculous, though, when Jondalar and Ayla can just throw themselves on the ground and immediately go at it with no foreplay, and yet Ayla's perfectly fine, claiming that her deep love for Jondalar means she's always "ready" for him.
  • Ikea Erotica: The series (with the exception of the first book) has pages and pages of this stuff (all the sex scenes average at least six pages each) largely devoted to the fact that Ayla and Jondalar have genitals of a complementary size, and are in fact, the only people with genitals of such a size. Also, they sometimes like to watch horses do it, or mammoths.
  • Improbable Infant Survival:
    • Played straight with the five-year-old Ayla, who somehow manages to survive alone for an unspecified number of days despite having no knowledge of how to fend for herself other than making sure to stay near water in order to avoid dehydration. She does come close to dying from the combined effects of starvation and blood poisoning (caused by the infected cave lion scratches on her leg) but Iza finds her in time and nurses her back to health.
    • However, the series also contains a few aversions. Rydag, for example, is around six or seven years old when he dies from his congenital heart defect.
  • Info Dump:
    • Increasingly as the series progresses. Auel rhapsodizes about the locales she sets the action in, as well as the ways her characters, as allegories for the areas' real ancient inhabitants, lived off the land and adapted to their environment. The flora and fauna are also described in detail, as well as their uses in both medicine and as food, to the point where readers of George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series might wonder if he takes cues from her about how to describe a meal. But her acknowledgments had to be moved from the beginning of her books to the end because they got exponentially lengthy, and the research she did has often been cited as one of the main reasons for the ever-expanding delay between sequels. Ultimately, her painstaking devotion to including as much of her research as possible in the story has become something of a detraction from the later novels, especially Land of Painted Caves, with readers complaining that her focus on the backdrop has caused the advancement of the plot and development of her characters to suffer.
    • She also does this a lot when it comes to retelling aspects of the story that has come before. Granted that by the time she got to Shelters of Stone, there was a lot of material to remember, but Auel would often rehash the same things more than once within the space of a few pages, both in a character's thoughts and in conversations that seem to just cover the same ground over and over and over. One wonders if she wasn't sure people would remember what they'd read before.
  • I Thought Everyone Could Do That: Ayla's "powers", her innovations and self-taught skills, are often like this. Somewhat justified, as her "inventions" probably aren't entirely hers. This is really WMG, but at least some of the things that just suddenly occur to her seem to be intended as clues to her past, memories of what she saw in her birth tribe. By the age of five, one observes and stores away quite a bit. When she finds the people who already have the things she's "invented," she will know she's closer to home. The fact that Ayla is repeatedly described as "exotic" is another clue that her tribe is elsewhere. Of course, by the end of book 4, she's about a continent away from where the Clan found her. And the author seems to have given up entirely on solving either Ayla's background or what became of her son by series' end.
  • Jerkass:
    • Broud is a sadistic, arrogant, out-of-control, all around unbearable character. He doesn't like Ayla from the beginning for being different, and being adopted into his family. After she was permitted to hunt, something women are not ordinarily allowed, he comes to hate her. Upon growing up, he begins raping her, with Ayla forced to submit as a result of their Clan's custom. By the end of the first book, even his father almost disowns him. He doesn't though-as a result, he's made the leader by inheritance, and promptly has Ayla banished.
    • Frebec of the Mamutoi Lion Camp is not a nice person — he's neglectful to his mate, bickers constantly with his mother-in-law, riles up everyone else and is very judgmental of Ayla and Rydag, but it's implied that a lot of this stems from feelings of inferiority, he genuinely loves Fralie and he turns into a Nice Guy by the end of the book.
    • Laramar, a loutish Zelandonii man who does nothing but drink the alcohol he brews, neglects his kids and eventually disowns them.
    • Brukeval, a short-fused Boomerang Bigot with a rather creepy love-hate obsession with Ayla, though he's almost certainly in Jerkass Woobie territory due his Freudian Excuse.
    • Even Jondalar can be a bit of a Jerkass at times, especially in the third book. However, it's usually only when he's under a great deal of stress and he's mostly a decent guy. He also regrets and tries to amends for his Jerkass behavior.
  • Jungle Princess: Ayla qualifies, especially if you believe the Clan are animals (many Others do). Jondalar has to teach her to speak verbally. In fact she insists on being taught since she knows the Others speak and she's planning to look for tribes of Others to live with. When she finds out he taught her his own language and the closest Others speak differently, she makes him teach her that language too.

     Tropes K - N 
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • In the first book, Ayla's birth family, Iza and Creb.
    • In the second book, Jetamio and Thonolan.
    • In the third book, Rydag.
    • In the fourth book, Attaroa and Shamud, though the latter's death is off-screen.
  • Lady Land: What Attaroa creates on the assumption that, if no men are present, all babies will be born female. (The Others believe that The Great Earth Mother decides when each child is conceived, and chooses the "spirit" of a nearby person to kindle in the mother's womb. If no men are available, only women's spirits will be chosen, yes? Meanwhile, Ayla notices that the only babies conceived during Attaroa's reign are to women who sneak out to the men...) It's as if Attaroa designed a (sadistic) experiment for Ayla to test her fatherhood hypothesis.
  • Language of Truth: Because the Clan speak in a mostly-silent sign language that incorporates body language, it is impossible for a person of the Clan (or Ayla) to lie, or be lied to: they always know you're withholding something. "Refraining from mentioning" is, however, allowed for the sake of privacy.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility:
    • Jetamio and Thonolan struggle to conceive, with Jetamio suffering several miscarriages. She eventually carries a pregnancy to term, but both she and the baby die in childbirth.
    • In The Land of Painted Caves, Ayla finds out she’s pregnant again and is excited, hoping it will be a boy this time (she and Jondalar already have a daughter). Unfortunately, she miscarries.
  • Left Hanging: Certain plot threads are simply never resolved. Given the scope of the main character's travels, and the difficulty of travel during that time, this is entirely justified, but it's still unsatisfactory from a narrative standpoint.
    • Durc is never seen again after the first book. There is no discussion of Other-Clan diplomacy, regardless of the fact that its Doomed by Canon.
    • Ayla's origin is never explained, with her birth family more or less serving the narrative purpose of a Doomed Hometown.
    • Almost none of the characters Ayla and Jondalar met on their Journey receive any closure, including Ayla's best friend, many mentors and Romantic False Lead.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted: The series, which purports to be about Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals just before the last ice age. Nevertheless, it has Ayla display intermittent clairvoyance and precognition, and Creb is so revered because he's got psychic powers as well; in one scene, he gives other Neanderthal men a sacred drink, then guides their thoughts back to the earliest Neanderthal ancestor and then forward in time until they're mentally tracing their own family trees and finally has them finish when they get to themselves. Mamut is also capable of limited clairvoyance, and it seems to be a common trait among shamans (for he mentions them displaying different powers). The point is that we have no information about what Ice Age people believed about psychic abilities, so Auel is really winging it here, especially on the ceremony of telepathic union. Some of the rest of it is based on what is known of the beliefs of traditional societies concerning ESP. It's left unclear just how much is real though. Many cultures really do believe that their shamans have magical powers as well, making this understandable.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Rydag, the half-Clan Mamutoi kid from The Mammoth Hunters.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Justified, in that Ayla and Jondalar travel around a lot and meet lots of people, but the sheer amount of characters comes close to rivaling A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Jondalar, before he meets Ayla.
  • Love Dodecahedron: In the third book, it starts as a Love Triangle between Ranec, Ayla and Jondalar (who are the Official Couple, so you can guess how it turns out) and then the another Mamutoi character, Vincavec, makes a bid for Ayla's attentions, but nobody except him ever thinks he's a real contender. Ranec also has his ex-girlfriend Tricie who still carries a torch for him, and Jondalar has his (not present) ex-girlfriends Zolena/Zelandoni, Marona, and Serenio. It continues in the sixth book: Jondalar's cheating with Marona.
  • Love Hurts: Jondalar is very familiar with this. His First Love was forbidden and ended in disaster, and he and Ayla both struggle with their relationship (largely due to culture clashes and poor communication). They seem to have largely resolved it by the fourth book, only to run into some more problems in the last one due to Ayla being preoccupied with her Zelandoni training and Jondalar cheating with Marona. They sort it out in the end.
  • Loving Details: In The Valley of Horses and following books, Ayla demonstrates a remarkable memory to Jondalar — specifically, when she learns that his morning routine includes a cup of tea and a small stick with which to clean his teeth, she makes a point of having those available to him every morning. At first he is impressed, but eventually it becomes routine. Then in the following book, The Mammoth Hunters, they break up... but Jondalar realizes that she's still putting them out for him every morning. This makes him realize that she still loves him.
  • Magical Queer: The second novel had a one-shot character with ambiguous gender who is a shaman. In an odd twist, we never find out their gender identity (they're simply called "Shamud", as the generic term for a shaman of their people). Also, they are commonly referenced, and LGBT individuals are said to be almost always powerful shamans, able to draw on the powers of both men and women. This reflects some real-life beliefs about LGBT people held by various cultures.
  • Marital Rape License: When men of the Clan make "the Signal," women are expected to drop everything and present for a sexual encounter. The Signal is generally done only with one's mate, but it can be given to any female if the male's need is that pressing and the female in question is not his sister. Broud does it to Ayla only to pound her viciously (he's a sadistic bully), and Ayla is shocked to learn later that other women like sex and are not above flirting with their men. Even Clan women employ certain seductive postures and motions to give men ideas.
  • Matriarchy: Attaroa creates an awful example with about the most deplorable conditions conceivable-not only do women rule (under her leadership), but men are all slaves and slowly being worked to death, in hopes of wiping them out (they don't know how reproduction works, thinking after this happens women will just only have girls).
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The series seems to be iffy as to whether the rituals of the mog-ur (Clan shamans) and the different Other shamans are genuine mystic journeys and psychic abilities, or just the result of good drugs. Or both, as some tribal groups believe certain substances have mystical powers. It's equally iffy about whether the Great Mother and Clan spirits actually exist.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Thonolan's eventual wife is named Jetamio, which resembles the French "je t'aime," "I love you." Arguably, also serves as Foreshadowing. (It makes a certain sort of sense because, according to the map of Europe in the books, Jetamio lived and died in Romania, but her husband and his brother are from what is now France.)
    • The sickly, pregnant Mamutoi woman Fralie (she's frail!) and her harridan of a mother Crozie (she's a bitter old crone!). Who is cross a lot of the time, and must be a real cross to bear if she lives at your hearth. But it also has "rosie" in it, suggesting a time long ago when I Was Quite a Looker.
    • The Losadunai girl Madenia (she's a maiden!) who was gang raped before her Rites of First Pleasures.
    • In The Shelters of Stone, we have Portula (she's portly!) and Kareja (who is courageous — her name sounding like "courageous" is even mentioned in the book), and, perhaps, also Marona (she's a bit of a moron!).
    • One of Jondalar's flames, Serenio (she's serene!)
    • Broud is one letter off from proud — he has a huge ego and that's a big reason why he hates Ayla. Every time he does something courageous or outstanding, she inadvertently shows him up and gets all the attention on her instead.
    • In The Land of Painted Caves the would-be priest who was found to have cheated on an important test is called Madroman (he's a madman! and insanely jealous of Jondalar).
  • Meet the In-Laws: Jondalar is finally able to introduce Ayla to his family in the fifth book, something both of them have been anticipating and worrying about for a number of years, especially as they may not react well to Ayla being raised by the Clan. Fortunately, although his family are surprised to learn of Ayla's orgins, they're not put-off by it and quickly warm up to her.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The later editions (pictured on this very page) are usually this, just having some Scenery Porn down the bottom and a cave painting of an animal, usually one featured prominently in the book (for example, The Clan of the Cave Bear has a bear, The Valley of Horses has a horse etc.). Earlier covers though, and the first edition of the last book, had more elaborate covers depicting the characters and scenes from the novels.
  • Mills and Boon Prose: Virtually all the sex scenes (and there are quite a few).
  • Miss Conception: Everyone in the world has some inaccurate views on conception, namely that they don't realize sexual intercourse between a man and woman leads to it. The Clan think women get pregnant when her totem is defeated by a man's, whilst Others think that the Mother chooses to mix the spirits of a man and woman. Ayla figures out relatively early on that babies are actually made when a man and woman's 'essence' as she call it are joined via intercourse. She eventually gets the Zelandonii in on this revelation, which most people had been slow to catch onto, and it leads to the concept of fatherhood, whereas previously, a male 'parent' was simply called 'the man of my hearth' and may not even have necessarily been a child's biological father.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Jondalar is worried about introducing Ayla to his First Love, Zolena (Zelandoni). As it turns out, Zelandoni and Ayla get on like a house on fire and she becomes her acolyte by the end of The Shelters of Stone. He really should’ve been worrying about the reaction of Marona, his ex-fiancée. She is obviously still bitter about their break-up and feigns being nice to Ayla only to try and humiliate her.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Due to people not realizing in-universe that sexual intercourse causes reproduction, most of the characters listed as siring children here aren't recognized as such. However, people still usually do realize mixed ancestry exists, they're just unaware of how it really does (thinking that it's a result of spirits mixing) but the Clan don't and think children with Cro-Magnon ancestry were simply deformed.
    • Ayla's son Durc is the product of her rape by Broud. She's a Cro-Magnon (Other), he's a Neanderthal (Clan). Many other people of this lineage also appear in the series later, some conceived by rape, but others not from what they can infer.
    • Ranec was born to his white father, a Mamutoi (from what's now Ukraine) and a black Aterian woman (in northern Africa). He's also fathered a number of children with white Mamutoi women who also count.
    • Joplaya, the child of Jerika (who's East Asian) and Dalanar (a white man from what's now France).
  • Moral Guardians: Due to its unabashed sexuality, and a graphic scene involving Ayla being raped by Broud, the book has been frequently banned.
  • Mother Nature: The Great Earth Mother, worshipped by most Cro-Magnon. It's unclear if She's a real deity or not-Auel leaves this up to the reader.
  • My Brain Is Big: Auel goes into considerable detail at the very beginning of the first book, about how the Neanderthals have almost no frontal lobes but massively developed brains in the back of their heads where bodily sensation and memory are stored. Their brains are so huge that their heads have evolved to accommodate, making it very difficult for Clan women to give birth. In reality, memory is handled in a variety of places in the brain, and so is new learning and the kind of imagination necessary to invent new things, which the Clan supposedly lacks. The Real Life section of this trope has information about the real difference between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon brains.
  • New Parent Nomenclature Problem: Twice, both with children and their adoptive mothers.
    • In Clan of the Cave Bear Ayla sees some Clan children using a special sign which means "Mother" and starts using it on Iza, who is deeply touched.
    • In The Mammoth Hunters: Ayla teaches Rydag, a half-Clan child raised by Cro-Magnon humans, some Clan sign language including Mother, which he then uses on the woman who is taking care of him, who's moved to tears.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Judging by Ayla's vision of the Mother being forsaken for the Son and a number of Zelandonii men's reactions to her new verse in The Land of Painted Caves, our heroine may have established the basis for future patriarchies. She's almost certainly bringing an end to Eternal Sexual Freedom amongst the Zelandonii, and later, other groups, with her concept of fatherhood. Those Who Worship the Great Earth Mother will probably not be best pleased.
  • No Antagonist: The second, third and fifth books don't have clearly-defined villain characters, though Marona, Laramar, Brukaval and Madromon are shown as petty, selfish and jealous in the fifth and sixth books. Frebec does play the heavy in the third book, but he gets better.
  • No Fathers Allowed: All the cultures portrayed in the books have no concept of fatherhood, not realizing there's a connection between having sex and reproduction. While some do notice a resemblance between certain men and children, this is ascribed to their "spirit" affecting them. Thus a man will refer to one as the "child of their spirit", but this isn't viewed as a biological connection. Because of this, their sisters' children are a man's heirs, not any child whom their mate has. Children refer to their mother's mate as "the man of my hearth", though usually they have the emotional relationship a father would. However, in some cases this may not be their birth father anyway, since sexual exclusivity isn't strictly enforced due to the aforementioned lack of knowledge that paternity exists (though a person's mate may be hurt if they have sex with another). Ayla realizes that men are needed to produce children, however, as a result of her observations. Despite initial skepticism, she eventually convinces people it's true and the series makes clear this will profoundly change culture into what is normal now.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Played straight in the Clan since Ayla is extremely tall and hideously misshapen to their eyes, and then averted by Jondalar and most of the Others, who have no problems with Ayla's self-sufficiency. Stands to reason, too: if you live in communities of 50-100 people or so, you'd be suicidal to turn down able-bodied workers just because they happen to have tits.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Menstruation is mentioned several times and becomes semi-important to the plot occasionally. In the first book, Clan women (including Ayla) must isolate themselves whilst they're menstruating and aren't allowed to have contact of any kind with men. In the second book, Ayla frets over this a bit because she doesn't want to flout Clan traditions by being near Jondalar whilst she's on her period, but needs to be around him to tend his wounds and feed him due to him being incapacitated.note  Luckily, Jondalar and the rest of his people have no such taboos about periods. Later, Jondalar is able to count the marks she'd made on sticks to keep track of her menstrual cycle and figure out how long she's been living in the Valley (alone, we might add) and by extension how old she is. In The Plains of Passage, a Sharamudoi woman named Tholie gives Ayla straps made from plants and animal skins to use as sanitary napkins (with Auel describing how they're made and everything) as a parting gift, knowing it saves Ayla having to find the materials to make her own.
  • No Pregger Sex: Averted. Ayla and Jondalar have sex frequently during her pregnancy, though they tone it down in her final months due to physical discomfort. There doesn't appear to be any social taboo against it either.
  • Not So Different:
    • Every time someone of the Others tries to justify their Fantastic Racism towards the Clan with some terrible thing a Neanderthal has done (such as Broud raping Ayla), she points out that some of the Others have done the exact same things (with actual examples) and asks if that makes them dirty animals.
    • Attaroa turns her camp into a misandric matriarchal dystopia and tries to work all the men to death... because her husband, the former leader, forbid women from hunting, treated them as inferiors, and encouraged men to beat their wives. The hypocrisy is totally lost on her, because she's batshit insane.
  • Nubile Savage: Ayla, especially when played by Daryl Hannah. 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 heavy breasts, at least when she's hunting.note 

     Tropes O - S 
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: A continual source of drama throughout the series, starting with The Valley of Horses. Ayla and Jondalar have to face cultural clashes and miscommunications, jealousy, a Love Triangle that nearly results in them breaking up permanently, making a long and dangerous journey across an entire continent, nearly dying multiple times, conflicting life choices and infidelity. They manage to overcome most of these challenges and are Happily Married to each other by the end of the series.
  • Oh, Crap!: The biggest one in the series is when Ayla see a hyena attempting to eat Brac (Broud's son). She doesn't even think, just kills the animal with her sling, but immediately after doing so realizes that she's just shown everyone that she can hunt, which Clan women can't and don't do. Broud, and the rest of the clan, are even more taken aback, as the concept of women hunting is entirely foreign to them. Even after Creb reveals that in the distant past, Clan women routinely hunted (often to provide for their kids), the men still can't quite wrap their heads around it.
  • 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.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: In order: A) Ayla's horse Whinney, which she adopted after killing the foal's mother for food; B) Baby, a cave lion cub who later became the inadvertent sort-of matchmaker between her and Jondalar; C) Whinney's son Racer, later Jondalar's steed; and D) Wolf, a cub whose mother Ayla killed because she (the mother) was being a pest, only to find out the mother was nursing and rescue her one surviving offspring out of guilt.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Iza, after having lost her mate in an earthquake, lives on the hearth of her brother Creb, caring for his needs, confering with him about the Clan's daily business (he is the shaman, she is the healer) and with Iza stating that, over time, she has come to love Creb as other women love their mate, without this having a sexual touch. The siblings also raise an adopted child together, Ayla, who pretty much considers Iza her mother and Creb her father.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If it weren't for the lack of actual resultant deaths, The Mammoth Hunters could be subtitled Poor Communication Kills: the Novel. Ayla may have learned to speak Mamutoi and Zelandonii, but she and Jondalar still spend the entire book perpetually miscommunicating and misinterpreting each other. Part of the problem is that their unspoken cultural assumptions are totally incompatible; the other half of the problem is Jondalar's numerous silly hang-ups, unwillingness to just tell Ayla he's jealous, and rather low self-confidence. This trope nearly breaks Ayla and Jondalar apart permanently before the Mamutoi finally talk sense into them.
    • What makes it worse is that the Lion Camp, for the most part, knows what is going on and no one truly attempts to intervene. Ayla and Jondalar, young and inexperienced as they are in long-term romantic relationships, are left to continue in misunderstanding, even when Jondalar is near-suicidal and Ayla gets engaged while in a compromised emotional state. Meanwhile, the older and wiser adults (particularly Mamut and Nezzie) continue to watch instead of attempting to explain. For example, Ayla, whose only consensual relationship was with Jondalar, gets involved with Ranec on the rebound. She had no way of knowing about 'rebound' prior, and none of the Mamutoi take the time to explain to or warn her. Mamut, who understands Clan values, explains the idea of consent to Ayla. However, he does not explain to Jondalar that with Ayla's Clan background, she honestly doesn't know why Jondalar is hurt and jealous after she goes to bed with Ranec. For that matter, no one explains to Ranec that Ayla took his invitation as a command, etc., etc.
  • Powers That Be: The spirits the Clan and the Others believe in. Some have names, others are more mysterious. It's never made entirely clear if they actually exist, though certain occurrences leave the reader to wonder...
  • Power Trio: Siblings Brun (the clan leader), Creb (the mog-ur/shaman) and Iza (the medicine woman). They're also the tops in their respective fields among all the local clans.
  • Purple Prose: Although the prose is usually easy enough to read, certain categories of objects or events — sex, geography, food, and so on — are described with a considerably larger vocabulary than other objects.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Or at least Ayla, Jondalar, Mamut, and Shamud.
  • Questionable Consent: At least twice between Jondalar and Ayla.
    • First, while he still teaches her about the pleasures of sexuality and makes "the sign" to her that, according to the Clan's rules, commands her to immediatey allow him to have his way with her. Ayla obeys because she is conditioned a lifetime long to do as man tells her, but her thoughts are in the range of "for the first time, she would have refused". The fact that she's into it immediately as he starts makes it come across like "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization. There's also been some problem with communication between the pair, further complicating matters.
    • Second, in the third book when they go on a hunting trip, while Ayla is technically in a relationship with Ranec and Jondalar generally behaves like a Jerkass. Jondalar, pissed off and jealous, forces himself upon her and realizes this afterwards, and while Ayla insists that she is "always ready for him", and there's more communication breakdown here, he definitely did not ask for her consent.
    • Possibly Ayla and Ranec's first time. He propositions her and she seems to be under the impression she is obligated to go with him (due to the Clan training), in spite of the fact she finds him attractive. Mamut actually points out to her that it's her right to say no.
    • Ayla and Laramar in the sixth book, considering she was extremely drunk at the time. Laramar claims she sought him out, but she was still intoxicated and Laramar's hardly the most honest and honorable man of the Zelandonii - even the First believes he's exaggerating.
  • Raised by Wolves: Not literally in Ayla's case, but considering how animalistic the Others consider the Clan to be, there's little difference in their eyes. Inverted when Ayla domesticates Wolf, who is the first of his kind Raised By Humans.
  • Rape as Backstory: Though never stated as such, this is implied to be part of Attaroa's past, and possibly part of how she became so screwed up.
  • Rape as Drama:
    • For a short period of time in the first book, Ayla is raped by Broud, the son and heir-designate of the clan's leader. Since he gave her the Signal, the women of the clan can't figure out why Ayla objects, whereas Ayla knows he does it to humiliate her. And indeed, Broud loses interest when she stops resisting because she got pregnant by him.
    • Later, a band of ruffians rapes an adolescent girl, who had not gone through the ritual deflowering ceremony and now refuses to have sex. Though Auel doesn't mention it, this brings up a possible reason for why a culture would guarantee girls have a magical first time: any woman who can have children will be willing to try, which is nice for population growth (or at least maintaining a population with realistic prehistoric mortality rates.)
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: In the Clan, boys have to make their first kill on a hunt to prove their worthiness to the Clan. They are then considered an adult.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: Jondalar suggests he and Serenio become mates, as they've lived together for nearly two years and a lot of people expect them to. She turns him down and explains it's not because she doesn't want to be his mate, but rather it's because she's in love with him while he would just be settling, she knows she'd eventually resent him for it and she thinks they both deserve better. Jondalar comes to agree and they amicably part ways. Jondalar goes on to meet the love of his life, Ayla, while it's later revealed Serenio fell in mutual love with a man named Gulec and is now happily mated to him.
  • Rejection Ritual: In Clan of the Cave Bear, the Clan have a ritual called the Death Curse the medicine man does to make a person "dead". Nobody acknowledges the person and it's implied that Your Mind Makes It Real — they really can't see them, and the person figures that if they're dead, they'll just lay down and die. Ayla has this done to her twice; the first time it's just for a month, but the second time it's permanent. She doesn't actually die either time though.
  • Retroactive Precognition: Ayla, particularly in her speculation about whether sex causes pregnancy. (She hasn't figured it out completely, but every reader knows she will eventually.)
  • Revenge Against Men: Attaroa in The Plains of Passage doesn't like her man, so she kills him, makes all the women-folk give up their men too, and locks them in a cage.
  • Romantic False Lead: All of Jondalar’s lovers before he meets Ayla.
  • Runaway Bride: Ayla decides, on the day of her planned Matrimonial ceremony to Ranec, to go back to Jondalar and journey to his people.
  • Runaway Fiancé: Jondalar decides that, instead of showing up at his wedding, he's going to go east with his brother Thonolan. (You can guess where he's going to end up).
    • To be technical, he and Marona were never formally Promised, but she was under the impression he was going to mate her.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: Ayla has a strong aversion to hyenas, ever since she started hunting and especially since a hyena grabbed a Clan baby after 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).
  • Scenery Porn: The books often describe in detail what the landscape looks like, what type of plants grow in steppe-tundra, which animals live there, how the food chain works, what the weather is like, and how glaciers affect it all. When described from Ayla's point of view, the landscape can also be overlaid with herbal medical knowledge.
  • Screaming Birth: Ayla, when giving birth to Durc, a hybrid with an overlarge head. When she herself is eleven (which it turns out wasn't so far fetched, since lifespans were shorter back then, so people matured earlier).
  • Sent Off to Work for Relatives: In the Backstory to the series, as a teen Jondolar got sent to his divorced dad's new settlement to learn a trade after he got in trouble for beating up another character so bad it knocked his teeth out.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: All over the place, but most explicitly in "First Rites" — the ritual deflowering of a virgin girl by an experienced man, designed to give her a safe and gentle first time. Young fellows have this ceremony also with a mature woman showing them how it's done.
  • Sex God: Jondalar is portrayed like this, due in no small part to his hardware and how well it and Ayla's own fit together. It gets to the point where Ayla insists she's always "ready" for intercourse with him, no foreplay required, whenever she's around him because he's apparently just that damn sexy.
  • Ship Sinking: The Ranec and Ayla ship is pretty much sunk by the end of The Mammoth Hunters, when Ayla leaves him for Jondalar, also choosing to move to the other side of the country with Jondalar at the same time - because of how long and arduous it is to make journeys in this setting, it's very unlikely they'll meet again anytime soon, if ever. It doesn't help that Ayla spent much of their relationship pining for Jondalar anyway and feeling guilty for not fully returning Ranec's affections, and straight up tells him when they break up that she was never truly in love with him. The Land of Painted Caves hammers the final nail in the coffin, as when Ayla is visited by some Mamutoi travellers, she is Happily Married to Jondalar and they have a kid and she's training to become a zelandoni for her new people, whilst the visitors reveal that Ranec is now mated to Tricie, his girlfriend (and the mother of his child) before he met Ayla. Not that any of this stops some shippers, of course.
  • Shown Their Work:
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Creb in the film. At the end of the movie he fills the role of Brun, promising to look after Durc and bidding Ayla farewell, whilst in the book, he was killed when the second earthquake caused the cave roof to collapse.
  • Spontaneous Generation: No one except Ayla believes conception involves men having sex with women. Rather, in their view the Great Mother (for the Others) or totem spirits (among the Clan) are said to do this. However, at least the Others acknowledge children's looks can have an influence by men's spirits, though it still isn't thought to be something physical for them. Ayla manages to convince people over time however, pointing out how children usually resemble their mother's mates, virgins don't have them etc. It's hinted this is going to usher in a social revolution afterward, as men become more possessive over women as a result to make sure that their mates' children are theirs genetically.
  • The Stoic: This is the Clan standard of masculinity. They expect men to completely control their emotions at all times, no matter what. One character is embarrassed to show pain when his leg is broken and he's been sitting on it for half an hour. Broud, being a complete Jerkass by every other metric, also fails this standard.
  • Stranger Safety: Ayla and Jondolar are constantly meeting new people, who are (almost) always helpful and friendly, though this is somewhat justified by the emphasis within Cro-Magnon culture on Sacred Hospitality.
  • Suffer the Slings: Ayla's Weapon of Choice.
  • Symbolically Broken Object: Mog-ur has a vision of the Clan dying out and the Others taking over the world. When Ayla accidentally breaks the ceremonial bowl Iza uses to prepare one of her potions, Mog-ur sees it as a sign that his vision will come true

     Tropes T - Y 
  • Take Care of the Kids: After she is cursed with death at the end of the first book, Ayla leaves Durc in Uba's care. The last thing she says to Uba is:
    Take care of him, my sister.
    • Brun also promises to look out for Durc when Ayla begs him.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Ayla is raped and impregnated while still a pre-teen. It is normal for Clan women to give birth this young, but it's way too early for Ayla, even though she's a late bloomer by Clan standards. It's not considered that unusual for Cro-Magnon women to have children in their late teens.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: It's mentioned that practically everybody knows about willow bark tea, even non-healers.
  • Title Drop: The words "shelters of stone" get used a great many times in the book of the same name, as that is how caves are described and the characters pretty much always live in caves.
  • Token Minority:
    • Ranec, along with the children he's sired (only one is ever shown) were the only dark-skinned humans in the books. This is justified as it's set in Ice Age Europe, where populations were separated by vast distances, as traveling on foot was long and difficult. In spite of this, he owes his existence to a European man doing just that (from what's modern Ukraine all the way to North Africa). There his father Wymez (not that they know yet about paternity) had married a black African woman and fathered Ranec, then returned with him many years later. She and her tribe were only mentioned.
    • Ayla also counts as one in regards to the Clan (Neanderthals), along with the mixed Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal children (including Ayla's own son Durc). This was again pretty justified as the Clan and Others dislike each other to varying degrees, so such couplings are rare (unfortunately, they're often rape).
    • A couple of East Asian people also appeared in the last books, who'd also made a very long journey, along with the woman's daughter by a European man.
  • Tragic Bromance: Between Jondalar and Thonolanhin The Valley of Horses. The two brothers are very close and go through many trials and adventures together, that is, until Thonolan falls into a deep depression following his mate's death in childbirth and is later killed by a cave lion due to recklessness. Jondalar is utterly distraught and never fully gets over it, though he does gain some closure over it in the fifth book.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Aside from having the wrong physical description (6'6, broad-shouldered, blond & blue-eyed) Jondalar fits this trope.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Traditional Cro-Magnon greetings don't involve surnames (these haven't been invented yet). They do involve the person's home, their family ties, which tribe they belong to, their accomplishments, occupation, etc. As always, this becomes a way of keeping score: someone with short introductions are at the bottom of the social pecking order. Additionally, you're supposed to repeat the list back, and the details you choose to emphasize or omit can go a long way towards establishing how you plan to relate to the person. (For instance, when Jondalar first brings Ayla to Meet the In-Laws, he places more emphasis on the fact that someone is his brother than the fact that said someone is also The Leader of the cave. Ayla reciprocates this emphasis, as she's more interested in making a good impression as Jondalar's girlfriend than as a contributing member of society.)
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The second book of the series switches back and forth between the experiences of Ayla and Jondalar as she survives alone in the valley of horses, in what is today Ukraine, and he slowly heads that way from (modern-day) France. It's the only book to satisfy this trope; there's Switching P.O.V. once the two of them unite, but they're always in the same place.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Joplaya. Maybe just as well, considering that, while she and Jondalar are only considered 'hearth cousins' by the overall culture of the Others, the readers know that she and Jondalar are half-siblings who share a father.
  • Un-person: Essentially what the death curse is. The Clan believes it turns the person into a spirit, and that it is unlucky to look at or acknowledge them. So they simply ignore the person and dispose of their belongings, and usually said person just gives up.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Ayla and Jondalar in The Valley of Horses. They eventually resolve it. A lot. They actually manage to fall into this again though due to poor communication in The Mammoth Hunters.
  • Victory by Endurance: Used several times. In one instance a group of hunters tire out a woolly rhinosaurus by each one jumping into its field of vision, making it chase them, and then another person jumps in, etc. At the end the rhino is practically dead from exhaustion, and they finish it off with spears.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Hyenas (at least as Ayla sees them) are savage, ravenous monsters who kill for pleasure. She hates them and sees them as her natural enemies. They're just animals following their instincts, but she's had some bad experiences with them and has an irrational prejudice because of it, contrasting to her very friendly regard toward all other life.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: The Shelters of Stone is so filled with comma splices (where a comma is used where a period, semicolon or dash would be more appropriate) that it makes one wonder if the book had any editors.
  • Wedding-Enhanced Fertility: Inverted for Ayla and Jondalar and Joplaya and Echozar, who both discover they're pregnant before getting hitched. Ayla is visibly pregnant during her Matrimonial. In their culture, this is seen as a blessing and pregnant brides are viewed as even more attractive.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: When Durc the Half-Human Hybrid was born, the Clan leader attempted to expose him because he was "deformed;" another Clan woman who bore a hybrid (she was raped by one of the Others) was demoted to the bottom of the pecking order. The Others rarely tolerate halfbreeds, calling them "abominations" and consider them ritually filthy — and don't even get started about how they treat the women who bore them.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Many of the series' antagonists are just jerks, ignorant or misguided rather than truly evil, and usually think they have good or justifiable reasons for their behavior. Some of them even overcome this and become good friends with the protagonists. Some notable exceptions include Broud, Attaroa and the gangs led by Charoli and Balderan, who are straight-up evil (or their actions are), with no justification for it.
  • Women's Mysteries: Iza teaches Ayla about a special herbal tea she makes that can prevent pregnancy, known only to medicine women. Ayla in turn shares this secret with some other women she encounters, many of whom have never heard about it. Ayla makes a point of not telling any men, not even her lover Jondalar, as Iza had stated that Clan men probably wouldn't be too happy to find out there was a way to prevent pregnancy (Iza herself secretly took the tea to spite her abusive mate, whose lack of potency was held against him by other males).
  • The X of Y: Applies to the title of every book in the series, with the exception of The Mammoth Hunters.
  • You Are Grounded: Ayla's punishment for trying to force Brun into accepting her "deformed" son, Durc, is to have her freedom to come and go as she pleases curtailed. Initially, she is confined to Creb's hearth for a month, her existence unacknowledged by those who do not share the same living space. After that, she is forbidden to leave the area of the cave except to go on essential plant-gathering forays; even then, she has to ask Brun's permission and is under strict orders to return promptly. Her hunting privileges are also revoked. These restrictions remain in force until after Brun's clan return from the Clan Gathering.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The death curse, the ultimate punishment among the Clan causes those so cursed to believe they are dead (as does everyone else), and generally just lie down and die. If they didn't pine to death the co-dependent gender-based memories will get them; e.g., men can hunt but don't know how to butcher and preserve their kills, and literally can't learn to gather edible plants or cook. Women could gather vegetation but their only defense is running, with zero tracking skills to avoid danger, and they're totally unable to learn to hunt. A number of real cultures have death curses, wherein the entire tribe treats a member as dead, and eventually they give up and die. Anthropologists call this "voodoo death." Similarly, the kurdaitcha or bone-pointing curse found in some Aboriginal Australian groups is thought to cause death because the people cursed by it believe it will kill them, and then waste away slowly due to the nocebo effect (they later tried this on Europeans, but it didn't work).

Alternative Title(s): Clan Of The Cave Bear


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