In creating the Earth’s Children® Series, author Jean M. Auel did extensive research, learning all she could about “bones and stones.” But “attempting to characterize the culture of the early humans was a problem which presented several difficult decisions. The archeological record can only hint at activities and behaviors of people,” she states.

Learn more about the author’s inspiration for the key characters in the Earth’s Children® Series, from The Clan of the Cave Bear through The Land of Painted Caves.



“Ayla was part of my original idea.”

Ayla is Cro-Magnon, called “The Others” by the Clan. At age five, she is orphaned by a cataclysmic earthquake, and is taken into the Clan of the Cave Bear. Ayla’s prototype is a nearly 6-foot-tall female skeleton found at Cro-Magnon in France; her distinctive blonde hair, blue eyes, and lithe frame, which seem so bizarre and unattractive to her adoptive Neanderthal clan, is not unusual among the Cro-Magnon. Ayla’s quick intelligence–notably her grasps of herb lore and medicine, her practical inventiveness, and her instinctive connection with animals–is how she survives life as an outcast. Author Jean Auel believes that her heroine’s adaptability and seemingly-modern assurance are qualities our ancestors must have had to thrive in a hostile world.



Born to Ayla while she still lived among the Clan, Durc is considered half-caste: part “other,” part Clan. His father is Broud, the brutish son of the Clan leader who repeatedly raped Ayla as a form of punishment. He displays physical characteristics of both Clan and Zelandonii; like Ayla he can vocalize. Although the concept of interbreeding between Neanderthal and other early humans is debated by scientists to this day, remains at several sites indicate that it happened. Durc’s fate is bound up in the Clan; when Ayla is cursed with death (outcast) for the second time when she defies Broud who has been named the new leader, she leaves the Clan and her son behind. Readers around the world express their desire to learn what fate has in store for Durc.



“I took a little literary license here…”

Jondalar is based on male skeletal remains found at the abri called Cro-Magnon, although the author has given Jondalar an extra quarter inch of height; the actual skeleton is only six foot five-and-three-quarters inches tall. An accomplished flint knapper (tool maker) Jondalar’s inventiveness is rivaled only by Ayla’s own. He has the Zelandonii blond hair and deep, penetrating blue eyes. The intensity he displays throughout the Earth’s Children® series is the author’s interpretation of what our forefathers must have been like.



“A careful study of the archaeological record shows [me] that humanity is defined by compassion, curiosity and by art and invention.”

Iza is a medicine woman who braved the Clan’s prejudice to take orphaned Ayla into her hearth. Scientists have unearthed a female Neanderthal skeleton in Shanidar, Iraq, known as Shanidar IV who was buried with flowers and herbs we know have medicinal properties. The author interpreted this to mean that among this early society, healing was a respected skill. Iza is remarkable in many ways, and became Ayla’s first teacher and role-model.



“You DO exist!”

Ranec is half-Mamutoi, a master artisan and charismatic male Ayla finds very attractive. He is the first dark-skinned “Other” that readers encounter in the Earth’s Children® series. He is tall like the Others but his skin and features are different. He is half-Negroid; his father is Wymez, the brother of the Mamutoi Lion Camp leader’s mate, who made a long journey in his youth, met and mated with an African negroid woman who has his son. On their return journey, she downs while crossing the straits of Gibraltar, when a storm overturns their boat. Wymez brings his son home to his Mamutoi people with him, and he is raised by Wymez’ sister, Nezzie.

The author learned since she finished writing THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS thatat the site of Kostienki (called The Lion Camp) a male skeleton has been found that forensics experts say is half Caucasian and half Negroid. “It’s a bit spooky to find that Ranec, a character I imagined based on some logical extrapolation, really existed, and fun to realize that he was published in my book first,” Jean Auel states.



“People then, just like today, come in many sizes.”

Zolena is the First of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii. But prior to that ascension, she was introduced to readers as Zolena of the Zelandoni, the woman who initiated Jondalar into sex, and for whom he developed an obsession that was considered unfitting by his people. It was to break this obsession that he undertook the journey described in The Valley of Horses with his brother Thonolan. It is fitting that she was inspired by the many beautiful sculptures found by archeologists and paleontologists, and specifically, the famed statue called “Venus of Willendorf.”



“I had found my character.”

Creb is Neanderthal, and known as the Mog-ur (magician, or shaman) of the Clan of the Cave Bear. Ms. Auel had the idea of Creb in mind very early in her creative process; he was to be an older man, with a crippled arm, who is instrumental in helping Ayla during her early years. Having imagined him, Ms. Auel felt rewarded and excited when she subsequently read about the excavation of the Shanidar cave in Iraq that revealed the skeleton of an elderly male–called Shanidar I–whose arm had been amputated, who was blind in one eye and crippled in one leg. She imagined a complex society, a society that would know how to care for an amputee, and one that would accept and give respect to him.



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