Trashy Tuesday – The Shelters of Stone

Woo, almost done with the cave pr0n series!  The Shelters of Stone is the second to last book in the Earth’s Children series, and…[sigh]  as tedious as the last one was, this one is almost as bad.

Let’s get to it!

(I actually just clapped my hands together, if that helps)

We last left the hottest couple to hit the paleolithic era as they were walking up to the cave that Jondalar calls home.  He’s been gone for five years, and no one really expected to see him back.  We get introduced to many, many, many, many people.  Full introductions.  Not just “this is my other brother Daryl” kind of stuff, but “son of Arathorn, leader of the hobbits under the hill, friend to some other a-hole you never heard of, brother to blahblahblah.”  Because of the ridiculously long-winded introductions, it takes over 200 pages for them to even get through the first DAY of being back with the Zelandonii.

Some of the heavy-hitters we meet are:

  • Marthona and Willomar, Jondalar’s mom and step-dad.
  • Joharren and Proleva, Jondalar’s brother and his mate (Joharren is now leader of the Ninth Cave, he stepped up to the plate when their mother retired).
  • Zelandoni/Zolena, the woman who is now first among the mystic-type people and the one who initiated Jondalar into the ways of Pleasuring women (the first gong he banged)…oh, but she’s now morbidly obese.
  • Marona, the woman Jondalar was going to mate before he took off on his Journey.
  • Laramar, the cave drunk (he makes barma, the alcoholic beverage)
  • Brukeval, he’s a quarter Clan, but denies that his grandmother would have ever lain with a filthy animal.  He’s got some serious rage issues.

Right away, there’s going to be a huge welcoming feast for our weary travelers.  Jondalar and Ayla sneak off to “take care of the horses,” but we all know what they’re really going to do.  While they’re washing up after their little bit of afternoon delight (yes, get that song out of your head now!  haha!), Marona comes by and makes some not-so-veiled comments about Jondalar’s manhood, but then offers to help Ayla get all gussied up for the big feast.  Ayla hasn’t had any girlfriends in a while, so she decides to take her up on her offer.  Of course, it’s all a set up.  Marona and her friends put Ayla in little boys’ winter underwear.  Some short leggings and a leather tank top type-thingy that’s really too small to contain her boobage.  Ayla walks out of Marona’s hut and everyone starts laughing.  Not only is she wearing boy underthings, but she’s also got this belt on that only young men wear when they’re looking for a woman to teach ‘em how to “be a man.”  Yeah, it totally backfires, because then everyone is pissed at Marona for being such a bitch.

Everyone LOVES Ayla Sue (how could they not, she’s absolutely perfect in every way), but they all comment on her strange way of speaking.  We’ve heard for the last four books how everyone comments or thinks about her accent/speech impediment, why mess with a good thing?  Except we only have to hear it EVERY SINGLE TIME someone meets her.  Anyway, it’s a feast which means everybody gets stupid drunk.  Laramar is always most popular during feasts because his barma is best.

I got yer barma right here!

The next day, a bunch of the caves get together to go hunting and Ayla and Jondalar are all excited to show off their spear-throwers.  One dude gets trampled, and Ayla is able to keep him alive just long enough for his mate to show up so they can bid each other a tearful farewell.  Zelandoni/Zolena realizes what an awesome healer Ayla is and starts trying to come up with a way to get Ayla to join the cult  mystics so she can keep her under control.

So, the dude that dies actually ends up causing a lot of trouble for our dear protagonist.  Since she’s a foreigner, she’s supposed to walk behind the person of lowest status in the funeral (that would be Laramar, who else?).  HOWEVER, since she’s marrying the brother of the current leader and son of the previous leader, Zelandoni/Zolena cooks up a scheme to have her walk in with all of the zelandoni (this whole capital/lowercase of THE SAME WORD for different meanings is super confusing), then go stand with Jondalar.  Even though it’s a freaking funeral, Laramar raises a huge stink because he was all excited about not being last for once.  This is where he really starts hating the gorgeous stranger.

From this exchange, we’re able to discern that anyone that doesn’t like Ayla is obviously a bitch (Marona) or a complete douche.  I forget how it happens, but Ayla discovers that Laramar’s mate has lost her milk (because she’s constantly drunk), and their 9 year old daughter is taking care of the baby.  Ayla basically shames all of the lactating women in the cave into helping feed the baby by telling them “even flatheads wouldn’t let a baby die because the mother lost her milk.”  There she goes again…making friends and influencing people.

They all head off to the Summer Meeting (there are SO MANY stupid Summer Meetings in these books), and I forget if anything happened along the way.  I don’t think so, I’m pretty sure that nothing good happens until they get there, but there’s at least 20 pages of the aforementioned nothing.

Anyway, the Ninth Cave arrives and there’s a big to-do over the animals again.  Ayla has to introduce Wolf to roughly 1000 people (and we get to read about each one!), but the big thing about this Meeting is that it’s where Jondalar will finally make an honest woman out of Ayla.

Yup, that’s right, they’re going to “tie the knot.”  Ayla finally gets to give Jondalar the gorgeous white tunic she made for him that winter she was shacking up with Ranec, and everyone ooohs and aaaaahs over her beaded tunic and leggings that she also brought with her from the Mamutoi.  We are told repeatedly about how she must have super high status among her own people to have such a beautiful garment.  There are over 1000 beads on the stupid thing, and we hear about practically every single one.  [heavy sigh]  We’re also told repeatedly that Ayla is super gorgeous at her matrimonial, and see into the heads of several men who want her for their own, especially since she’s already knocked up.  I’m sure the fact that she had her boobs out had nothing to do with that, cos…you know, it’s tradition among her people.  Brukeval especially, has these really disturbing fantasies about what he’d do with her if she was his woman.  He’s got this love/hate thing going on with her.  He loves her because she’s gorgeous and smiles at him, but he hates her because she thinks he’s part-Clan.  He screams a lot about how he’s NOT A FLATHEAD!  Um…

Once the knot is tied, the young couple have to spend the next two weeks without speaking to anyone other than each other.  Jaundice and Ayla Sue LOVE this because it means they can spend the next fortnight boinking away, and they don’t have to worry about being rude by ignoring people.  They find a special little glade near a stream and spend most of their time there, only making the occasional foray afield to either hunt or have sex in new and interesting places.

On their way back to the Meeting after the two weeks are up, they come across a group of young men engaged in a bit of wooly rhino baiting.  Alas, one of them is too slow and he ends up getting gored.  Ayla (best healer in the world that she is) fixes up his leg and he doesn’t die or lose it.  He’s just a bit lame, but her super-awesome flint-knapper husband is willing to take him as an acolyte.  Blah.

Meeting over, they head home.

Months pass, Ayla gets huge, Whinney gets huge.  They both have baby girls (within days of each other), which I found kind of odd.  Ms Auel did all this research, but I was always under the impression that horses had longer gestation periods than humans?  How did Whinney have her baby around the same time as Ayla, when Ayla got knocked up first?  Whatever.

Ayla names her daughter Jonayla (I poo you not), and the baby horse is named Gray.

Yup.

Phhhhbbbbbt.  That’s me blowing a raspberry at this stupid book.  Final installment next week!

Trashy Tuesday – The Plains of Passage

This book should’ve been called How to Pleasure Your Way Across Europe, Righting Injustices Along the Way.

I’ve been meaning to do this write-up since I finished the book (over two weeks ago), but kept putting it off.  The Plains of Passage comes in at just under 800 pages, but they’re 800 pages in which nothing much happens.  It’s meant to chronicle the trip Ayla and Jondalar make from Ukraine to France (on foot, across a glacier) that takes over a year.  You end up feeling like you’re there with them the entire time because it’s so. much. nothing. happening.  If you take out the minutiae of the scenery and plants (and the Pleasures bits), I’d be willing to bet this book would be less than 200 pages.  That’s a whole lotta nothing, guys.

Image courtesy of donsmaps.com

The book  starts with a mammoth pr0n scene.  By this, I don’t mean a lengthy scene with much lasciviousness, I mean actual mammoths having actual sex.  In great detail.  For many pages.  I’m talking all the gory details about scents and what the male mammoth’s…manhood…looks like – it’s really too much.  I almost put the book down right then, but I had to keep reading because I know you guys are expecting me to.  See how much I heart you?

More nothing happens for a while, then they come across a herd of funny looking animals and Ayla asks her One True Love what they are.  He tells her that they’re onagers and she laughs at the funny name and the funny sounds they make, and even wonders why she’s never seen them before.  This part made me super annoyed.  Why?  Because with as much research as Ms Auel does for her books, she can’t remember that she’s mentioned the stupid onagers at least five times already, including the time that Ayla hunted them because she wouldn’t kill horses anymore?  They were what she was hunting when she found Baby!

They passed massive herds of bison, and giant deer with huge palmate antlers, horses, onagers, and asses… – CotCB

and

Once the pitfall was prepared, Ayla whistled for Whinney and circled wide to get behind a herd of onagers. She couldn’t bring herself to hunt horses again, and even the onager made her uncomfortable. – VoH

and

Then she poured water into a cooking basket from the large onager-stomach waterbag that was hanging on a post, and she put some cooking stones in the fire to heat. – VoH

So, yeah.  I was only, like, 6 chapters in and I already wanted to punch someone.  In case you are wondering, this is what an onager looks like:

So, after the onagers debacle, more nothing happens.  They pass a little village, but the people all run and hide from them because they think the people traveling on horseback with a wolf at their side are obviously evil spirits.  This leads to a lot more nothing happening for A LONG TIME.

Finally, something happens when they reach the Sharamudoi (those people Jondalar stayed with in Valley of Horses?  His brother married one of their women?), who are all thrilled to see Jondalar again.  Ayla heals a woman (mate of the leader) whose arm was broken and healed wrong, and soothes long-held prejudices against the Clan.  Unfortunately, these parts didn’t last very long and we were back to nothing much happening.

They cross the same river a few times and meet up with those people Jondalar met at the beginning of VoH…remember the whole First Rites thing, where he was supposed to give the virgin a baby with blue eyes?  Yeah, those people.  Unfortunately, they don’t speak the same language.  The one guy seems to be telling them not to continue the way they’re going, but Jondalar is all “Damn the torpedoes!” because they have got to cross this glacier before it starts to melt or the consequences could be dire.  Also, Jondalar is too self-conscious with Ayla there to even pantomime asking whether Noria was ‘blessed by the mother.’   He’s worried she’d get jealous or feel bad about herself since they’ve been together for so long without any pregnancies.

Against the advice of the Horse Hunters, they continue north.  Since it’s almost winter, there’s a lot of foul weather and they decide to hole up for the night in a little cavelet (is that even a word?  I’m making it one).  In the middle of the night, Whinney is kidnapped by a renegade band of wild horses!  OH NOES!  This part was kind of confusing because I guess I didn’t realize that wild animals went around stealing other animals to be part of their herds.  Huh.

You're coming with us, see?

Horsenapping. It (apparently) happens.

Ayla has to have Whinney back because they’ve got this super special bond, and she just can’t bear the thought of going on without her.  They track the horses to an open plateau area, and as Ayla is trying to coax Whinney back to her, some hunters spook the horses into stampeding over the edge!  While she’s trying to gain control of both horses, Jondalar is knocked out and spirited away.

Finally, something is happening.

Jondalar wakes up locked up in a little cage, and discovers that he’s being held prisoner by a group of people called the S’Armunai.  They have this Amazon-like leader (Attaroa), that’s a total man-hater and has all of the men of the village being held inside this giant enclosure.  Her line of thought is that men are the cause of all of their society’s ills, and if they get rid of them all, the Mother will be forced to use the spirits of two women to create babies, and only girl babies will be born.  [sigh]

He’s locked up for a few days while Ayla is tracking them and trying to figure out how to proceed, but he doesn’t know that she’s even still alive.  Ayla rides up as he’s about to be tortured and sets him free.  Everyone thinks she’s a spirit at first (because they all think this), but they’re still invited to a feast.  Our Power Couple figure she’ll try to poison them, so they resolve to only eat what they’ve brought.  When Attaroa realizes she’s not going to be able to kill them easily, she starts to attack Ayla, but Wolf jumps out of his hiding place and rips her throat out.  Good boy.

Buh-bye, Attaroa!

The S’Armunai try to get them to stay the winter, but Jondalar is all impatient about the glacier again.

They move on, and eventually get to the Losadunai, keepers of the Great Mother’s Sacred Waters (these are naturally occurring hot springs).  While there, Ayla helps a girl who’s been gang-raped feel better about herself, and the girl consents to go through her First Rites at the next Summer Meeting, because she’s been purified in the Springs and doesn’t think she’s worthless and used up anymore.  There is a band of men from different caves in the area that grew tired of forcing women of the Clan, and moved on to young girls that are out by themselves.  The Losadunai also try to convince them to stay, but  Ayla and Jondalar move on before there’s any kind of conclusion with that situation.

They’re almost to the glacier now, but have to make one last jaunt through flathead Clan country.  They’re in the process of making camp for the evening when they hear cries coming from nearby.  Those guys that raped that little girl?  They’re in the middle of attempting to force themselves on a Clan woman, but they didn’t realize her mate was there.  Even though his leg is broken, he’s still trying to fight them all off and keep them away from his (second) mate.  Ayla and Jondalar chase them away and she gets to use her years of Clan Sign lessons to communicate with them, and even Jondalar joins in the conversation.  Ayla convinces them that she’s a medicine woman of the Clan and that she can help him with his leg.  He finally lets her set the bone, then hobbles off the next day.

Time for the glacier!

Days and days and days spent crossing the ice.  The horses’ feet start bleeding, so Ayla invents the horseshoe (actually little booties for the horses and wolf)…then she falls in a crevasse and (for the very first time) sees that glacier water is the same blue as Jondalar’s eyes.  Barf out.

The colour of Jondalar’s eyes revealed…at last!

As they’re almost across the ice, a warm wind starts to blow, so it’s a race against time.  Will they make it?  OF COURSE THEY WILL!  They ride their little bowl boat down the side of the glacier and just barely make it to safety.  Of course once they’re off the ice, they stop to share Pleasures (barf again).

From the ice, it’s only another 50 pages or so until we get to the Lanzadonii.  This is where ‘the man of Jondalar’s hearth’ lives.  He left the Zelandonii to start his own people (with blackjack!  and hookers!), and Jondalar lived with him for a while after he beat the crap out of some guy for telling everyone that he was involved in an inappropriate relationship with the woman that taught him how to pleasure other women.  Anyway, they get there and Ayla meets Jondalar’s father, step-mother and half-sister…even though none of those terms are used.  Turns out that Joplaya (step-sister, or close-cousin) has been in love with her brother for years.  Once she sees that Jondalar isn’t going to run away with her, she agrees to marry this guy Echozar, a man that’s half-Clan.  They stay there for a few days, and receive yet another invitation to stay.  By now they’re so close to the Zelandonii that Jondalar is even more excited than ever to get home.

They stop on the way to clean up and share more Pleasures before they get to his home cave…the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii.  Whinney goes into heat again, and almost gets napped by another band of renegade horses.  Ayla follows them, and they watch while Whinney gets it on with the Stallion of the herd.  Ayla smiles, thinking that Whinney will have another baby, and they’ll be pregnant together.  Yup.  She got knocked up when they got off of the glacier.

When they walk up to the cave leading the horses, Ayla gasps.  She’s had a dream about this particular cave and realizes she’s finally home.

This could also have been “Home is Where You Hang Your Loincloth.”

Whatever.

Trashy Tuesday – The Mammoth Hunters

Right.  The Mammoth Hunters picks up right where The Valley of Horses left off.  Jondalar and Ayla were out riding their horses and are hailed by a big dude with a smile on his face.  Ayla’s first impression of him is how huge he is, because he’s even bigger than Jondalar (who is 6’6″ and looks like a young Ron Perlman, remember?)  So, the giant invites them back home with him (cos everyone is super friendly in the stone age, dur) and they meet the Mamutoi of the Lion Camp.

I could go into all of the names and hearths and stuff, but it was pretty boring and I kind of zoned out while I was reading it (I did find this awesome 360 view of what one of the Mamutoi Lodges looked like, though).  Important people:  Nezzie, the mate of the headman of the Lion Camp.  Ranec, a half-African man whose father is Mamutoi, but his mother died on the trip back from Africa when he was small.  Mamut, the ancient mystic shaman.  Frebec, asshole.  Rydag, boy of mixed spirits that Nezzie adopted (he’s got a bad heart and has been frail since birth).

There are a bunch of long-winded introductions (which sets the tone for even longer-winded introductions in later books), but they’re not as long as they could be because Ayla introduces herself as “Ayla of No People.”  She has an interest in the boy that Nezzie adopted because he kind of reminds her of Durc – the son she was forced to leave behind.  Rydag is unable to speak because he inherited his neanderthal mother’s underdeveloped vocal cords, so Ayla teaches him the Clan sign language and the rest of the camp starts using it as a way to communicate with him, but also just to mess around.

Ranec decides pretty much the minute they show up that Ayla is The Love of his Life, and is determined to convince her to share his hearth with him.  This pisses Jondalar off, but he’s too busy being a passive aggressive jerk to actually tell Ayla how he feels about it.

Little known fact, Jondalar was the world's biggest douche until James Spader came along as Steff in Pretty in Pink.

Of course, because Ayla is so Mary Sue awesome everyone loves her (except Frebec, more on him in a bit) and they decide that instead of her being Ayla of No People, they’re going to adopt her and make her Ayla of the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi.  Ayla decides this is an awesome idea since her totem is the Cave Lion.  When she finds some amber on the ground with a bug inside, it cements her decision because that was obviously a sign from her totem.  At about this point, there’s this big long passage about how she is wearing pants for the first time, so she has to figure out how to pee without taking them completely off.  Not only did she not invent the pants (shocker, I know!) but she isn’t even smart enough to figure out how to pull them down a little and squat.

Mamut realizes that she’s a very powerful medicine woman, and instead of letting the Lion Hearth adopt her (as was originally intended) he speaks up during the ceremony, saying that she will now be part of the Mammoth Hearth.  Jondalar sits there all pissy because he doesn’t really want Ayla to become one of these people, he wants to take her home to mommy…only he’s never actually told her this, so how is she supposed to know?  Frebec stands up and objects because Ayla was “raised by Flatheads” and had a half-breed baby, so she’s an abomination he doesn’t want associated with him in any way.  He changes his tune when Ayla shows off her mad fire-making skillz, and Ayla is adopted into the Mamutoi.

There is much celebrating that night, much bouza to drink (not joking, their alcoholic drink is called bouza) and Ranec invites Ayla to “share his furs.”  Since she was raised that women don’t say no to men who are making advances, she goes with him and Jondalar has a massive freak out.  He starts giving her the cold shoulder and stops sharing a bed with her.  Ayla has no idea what she’s done wrong, she just thinks her Jondalar doesn’t love her any more.  This goes on and on.  Seriously, they spend the whole winter there and everyone senses the tension between them, but not one person suggests that they actually, you know, talk to each other.   Ranec seizes his chance and convinces Ayla to be his mate because he loves her so much and blahblahblah.  Ayla agrees, but really only wants Jondalar.

blahblahblah, nothing much happens except Ayla convinces an old lady to teach her the secret of making white leather, and she works on a soopersekrit tunic that will be a surprise for an unnamed someone.    Oh, and she invents the sewing needle, no big.

One day, Ayla is out collecting ermine from her snares and sees that a black wolf has been eating her kills.  She becomes very upset and chases after the wolf.  She kills it with her sling, then notices that it was a nursing mother.  Overcome with a fit of remorse, she follows the trail and finds its den.  Inside is a lone puppy wolf.  She deduces that because the mother was black it was ostracized by the other wolves for being different, and various other things that are just to give this baby wolf a back story.  The bottom line is, she killed its mother so she’s now responsible.

She takes the wolf puppy back to the lodge and everyone is super shocked at first.  The horses are one thing because they’re useful, but this is a meat eater!  Nevermind that he’s a super tiny puffball, some people don’t want him to stay.  Too bad.  This is Ayla Sue, she always gets her way.

Mamut is trying to teach Ayla the ways of the spirit world, but they have a bad drug trip and Jondalar calls her back before she’s trapped there forever.  She doesn’t know that his was the voice that called her home, and sees Ranec when she wakes up…they spend the night sharing Pleasures.  Ew.

Jondalar decides he can’t take it anymore and that he’s going to head out THIS INSTANT to get home.  Nezzie convinces him to stay, because they want him to hunt mammoth with them at the Summer Meeting and show off those nifty spear-throwers he invented.

They arrive at the Summer Meeting, and everyone is totally wary of Ayla and her animals.  Not only are the horses and wolf with her, but Baby (remember, her lion?) shows up and starts trying to cuddle up to some other blonde chick.  Ayla goes to greet him, then rides him across a meadow.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  After that, though, people are sure she’s sent by Mut, and everyone wants her to be their mate.

A whole bunch of them head north to hunt mammoth and on the way back to camp a volcano erupts!  Sadly, this was not as exciting as it sounds, it just covers everyone in ash.  Wolf (yes, that’s his name) was left at camp with Rydag, and he comes running to find Ayla even though they’re days away from the meeting at this point.  Of course Wolf finds her and she hurries back, but it’s too late.  Rydag dies shortly after she arrives and she gives him a proper Clan burial.

Jondalar sleeps with a bunch of women at the meeting, but none of them compare to his beautiful Ayla.  He’s even asked if he’s willing to participate in the First Rites ceremonies, but (for possibly the first time ever) he declines, claiming the girl they want him to “open” is too close to him and it would be like doing his little sister. The day Ayla is supposed to be mated to Ranec is the day Jondalar actually leaves.  When she realizes he’s gone, someone finally tells her to go after him and she does.  They profess their undying love for each other, and tell each other how stupid they’ve been for the last year.  DUR, EVERYONE SAW THIS BUT YOU!

So, yeah.  After this, they ride off into the sunset together.  We’ll find out more about that journey next week.

Trashy Tuesday – The Valley of Horses

So, when last we saw Ayla, she’d been given the Death Curse and was off on her own.  The Valley of Horses picks up immediately after leaving Brun’s Broud’s clan and starts Ayla’s hunt for the mysterious Others.

Meg and I are trying to figure out what's wrong with her back in this picture. Meg thinks she may have invented scoliosis.

While Ayla is travelling, the narrative splits, and we’re also following the travels of Jondalar and Thonolan.  They are brothers on a Journey (yes, always capitalized).  They started out in the south of France, and Thonolan is determined to see the end of the Great Mother River (the Danube).  Jondalar has just done a runaway groom kind of thing.  He was Promised to a girl (Marona), but ditched out on her to accompany his brother before they could tie the knot (um, yeah…they actually use that phrase).  Both boys are described as being ridiculously good-looking, Jondalar more so than Thonolan.  He’s 6’6″ with blonde hair and the most amazing blue eyes.  He gets in lots of loincloths cos of those eyes.  I went looking for a picture of a blonde, blue-eyed cro-magnon man, and came up with a ton of pictures of Ron Perlman.  That actually kind of works.  For the rest of the narrative, I’m picturing Jondalar as a young Ronnie:

See? Not much imagination stretching required.

They stumble upon a group of horse hunters and even though they don’t really speak each other’s languages, Jondalar is asked to have First Rites with a young girl to “open her to the delights of womanhood and give her a baby with his blue eyes.”  For the first of many times, we’re told how he is just so…hung…that he has to take it easy on the girls he’s with (especially the virgins, and apparently he’s been given the honour of deflowering many virgins).  So, yeah.  Jondalar does the virgin and hopefully leaves her with a “child of his spirit” (remember, sex ≠ babies yet) and they continue on their merry way.

This is where babies come from. The man's spirit penetrates the woman's defenses, and a baby is conceived! A woman can never be sure who the father of her child is, not because they're all pretty busy sleeping around, but because she's almost always surrounded by the spirits of many different men.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch Ayla is still trekking vaguely northward from the Beran Sea, looking for more people like her.  Since winter is coming, she worries about surviving the cold months.  She hasn’t found anyone, so she decides to find a place where she can hole up and conveniently discovers a cave in a primo location.  She starts gathering grains and stuff to last her through the winter, but realizes she’s going to need more meat (heh) than just her sling can bring in.  She digs a pit trap to catch a horse (there’s a herd of horses living in the valley below her cave, that’s where the name of the book came from.  Dur, keep up!), and successfully makes her first kill with something other than a well-thrown rock.  Unfortunately, the mare that Ayla kills has a foal…one that is now an orphan.  Having been an orphan herself, Ayla feels a deep sympathy toward the little horse and takes her back up to the cave.  Now she has company and doesn’t have to spend the winter alone (as an aside, when I was young, I thought that ponies were baby horses).

Cut back to Jondalar and Thonolan, who are camping on the edge of the river, when they decide to go hunting.  Thonolan gets gored by a wooly rhinoceros and Jondalar is pretty sure he’s going to die…until a giant boat appears on the river and the day is saved by a group of people known as the Sharamudoi.  They just happen to have their Shamud (medicine man) with them, and he does a pretty good job of patching Thonolan up until they can get the strangers back home.  Thonolan opens his eyes and sees this woman Jetamio, and it’s True Love at First Sight.  Once he’s better, he tells his brother he’s going to be mated to this woman and is settling down.  Jondalar picks a single mother to receive his attentions, and once again, a big deal is made of how he has to be gentle with her.  [sigh]

Ayla has been alone in her new cave all winter, except for her little horse.  One day when she’s returning inside from gathering ice to melt for water, she sees the snow piled up outside the cave entrance and thinks it looks a little like Brun.  She then decides to make the world’s first snow man.  Bet you didn’t know you had a lonely cave woman to thank for all those fun winter days, did you?

I can't even caption this picture because I'm laughing too hard.

The majority of the year passes with not much happening.  Ayla decides to stay on for another winter, because she’s still not ready to go looking for people.  Jondalar stays with Thonolan, helps him build boats and gets lusted over by many different women.

Some highlights:  Ayla discovers that fire can be started using iron pyrite and flint (completely by accident).  She uses braids when weaving baskets and one day decides to start braiding her hair to keep it out of her face and on a whim decides to ride her new horsey friend.  Holy crap!  Equestrianism was just invented!  With the horse-riding comes the concept of the travois, and she gets Whinney to drag her kills back to the cave.  She goes to hunt onagers into another pit trap (because now the thought of eating horses is icky) and a baby cave lion is trampled in the stampede.  Oh noes!  Another abandoned (wounded) animal!  Of course she has to bring the baby lion home and fix up his wounds (medicine woman, remember?).  In the course of a very short period of time, Ayla has single-handedly advanced the human race significantly.  You want to believe that next she’ll be taming shark-riding unicorns and building rocket ships…unfortunately, that doesn’t happen yet.

Whinney goes into heat and disappears with a herd of wild horses and the cave lion grows steadily larger (but is still called Baby by his adopted mommy).  Whinney comes back when she realizes it’s going to be cold out on the steppes by herself and Ayla’s happy little cave family is almost complete.  She only wishes occasionally for other people to share her life with.

Back with Jondalar and Thonolan, Jetamio (Thonolan’s mate) has died during childbirth.  Thonolan is too heartbroken to stay with his new people and decides to continue on his Journey.  Jondalar goes with him, because he can’t let his little brother head off on his own.  They reach the end of the Great Mother River, but Thonolan decides he wants to head north to hunt mammoth with the Mamutoi.  They both learned a little bit of the Mamutoi language while they were staying with the Sharamudoi and again, Jondalar decides he can’t abandon him when they’re so far from home.

Whinney is very pregnant, and Baby has gone off to find a female cave lion to have a little lion family with.  One day, Ayla decides to go for a ride in a different direction than she normally does.  Jondalar and Thonolan are hunting, but a cave lioness steals their kill.  Thonolan has a bit of a death wish since Jetamio died and decides he’s taking his kill back from the lion.  Bad idea, dude.  They are both attacked, and Ayla hears something she hasn’t heard in several years…human voices.  Unfortunately, they’re screaming as they’re being mauled.  Ayla rides over to investigate, pushes Baby away from the people that invaded his territory and assesses the situation.  Thonolan is too far gone for help, but Jondalar is still alive.  She drags the body of the younger brother over beneath an overhang and causes a rock slide to bury him, then loads Jondalar on the travois to get him back to her cave for medical attention.

Here Lies Thonolan

Jondalar has a deep gash in his thigh from his mauling, so Ayla performs the first recorded instance of surgery by stitching him up…using an awl to poke holes in the skin and muscle and some sinew to tie everything together.  He’s unconscious for quite a while, and when he wakes up the first thing he sees is Ayla acting as midwife to a horse.

Ayla isn’t alone anymore!  And she’s got this handsome injured man to take care of!  The only problem is that they don’t speak the same language.  In fact, the only language Ayla knows is that of the Clan, which Jondalar doesn’t even see as being a real language at all.  He teaches her to speak, just words at first.  Then one night, Ayla has a dream about the earthquake that destroyed her real family and wakes up completely proficient in Zelandonii.  Perfect syntax and everything.

The two grow to know each other, and Jondalar is incredibly attracted to her but thinks she must be a powerful servant of the Great Mother of All who is only away from people to hone her skills.  They’re out with the horses one day, and his *ahem* need is so powerful he goes into a copse of trees to take care of his own business.  He thinks he’s all sly, but Ayla notices and is incredibly offended.  The way she was raised, any man would take whatever woman was available, rather than take care of himself.

Eventually, they get over themselves and Ayla tells Jondalar about her upbringing.  When he learns that she was raped repeatedly by Broud he freaks out.  The Clan are called flatheads by every group of cro-magnons we’ve met, and they’re all looked down upon as animals.  It gets worse when he discovers Ayla had a half-breed child, and he recoils in disgust.  She gets super pissed, and he decides the way to make it up to her is to take her through the First Rites to cover up for the fact that’s she’s never known pleasure in that way.

Ayla has a funny thought that maybe sex actually does cause babies, cos she knows she didn’t get pregnant until Broud started “spilling his essence in her” (I’m not even kidding, I could not make that up).  Iza taught her of herbs she could take that would keep a woman’s totem strong and prevent pregnancy, so she starts taking them just in case.

Since Jondalar has been with many women, he knows his way around and is determined to make things good for her.  There’s lots of talk of “nodules,” “warm folds” and “turgid manhoods.”  It’s all quite ridiculous.  What it comes down to is that Jondalar has always had to hold back with every woman he’s been with so he doesn’t hurt them, BUT HE DOESN’T HAVE TO WITH AYLA!  No, no…her “deep well” fits him perfectly.  I totally snickersnorted as I was reading this (even more so trying to figure out how to write about it).  This was what came to mind:

This is SO LUXURIOUS!

If you don't get the reference, click this picture.

Anyway, after Ayla’s First Rites, she becomes an insatiable beast.  They take time off from their Pleasures to go hunting together, and to teach Whinney’s foal the basics of being domesticated.

Jondalar is quite impressed with Ayla’s proficiency with a sling, and wonders if he can somehow throw a spear with it.  Of course that doesn’t work because it’s a stupid idea, but it does get his brain working.  Oh, and wonder of wonders, someone besides Ayla invents something!  He calls it a spear-thrower (because that’s what it does).  When I was reading these as a kid, I couldn’t even picture in my head what they were talking about.  This was in the days before the internet was around (well, it was around, but not for everyone), so I had no idea until recently that they were talking about an atlatl.  What’s an atlatl, you ask?  That’s easily explained (as so many things are) by a demotivational poster:

 

Ayla and Jondalar take the horses on a short Journey to explore the area surrounding her valley.  They frequently stop early to share Pleasures (I cringed just now when I was typing that), and one day when they’re out riding they’re hailed by a person.  That’s where the book ends.  Seriously.  Some big dude waves at them and they smile at each other.  [shrug]

We’ll pick up where they’ve left off next Tuesday.  Until then!

Trashy Tuesday – The Clan of the Cave Bear

When I was 12, we spent my Christmas vacation driving from NorthWestern Montana down to San Diego to visit family for the holidays.  Most of the time was spent at my great-grandmother’s house and I got super bored.  I’d already read all of the books I brought with me on the drive down and so went looking through Great Mama’s book cupboard to find something to occupy myself with.  There were various romance novels (dismissed for ickiness), a tattered old copy of The Story of Little Black Sambo (read many times when I was really little…by the way, I still think of using tigers for butter every single time I eat pancakes) and the first four books in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M Auel.  Since I knew I had no interest in the Harlequins, I decided to read The Clan of the Cave Bear and see if I wanted to follow up with  the other books.  I read them all in the two weeks we were there.

Pretty sure those jeans were pegged.

I still question my great-grandmother’s enthusiasm for letting me read these books at that age.  The first one (the one we’re talking about today) wasn’t so bad, but the next few were/are pretty graphic – especially for an adolescent.  That’s my warning to you right now.  I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow (heh) of the sexy cave situations, but a big part of these books is the sex (which is why they’re being featured on Trashy Tuesday, dur!) – if that bothers you, maybe stop reading?

Right, so, the book opens with a little blonde, blue-eyed Cro-Magnon girl going out for a swim in the early morning.  While she’s in the water, there’s an earthquake, which causes the cave she lives in with her family to collapse.  Not a whole lot of detail was gone into about the aftermath of the earthquake, but I always wondered if she actually bothered rooting through the rubble or if she was just all “Oh well, they must be dead!  Time to be moving on!”  I guess if she’d actually spent time looking for them, we wouldn’t have the rest of the story, so disbelief needs to be put on hold for a bit.  She wanders around lost for several days/weeks.  Mostly she follows the course of the river she was swimming in and eats plants she’s familiar with, but when she leaves the river she wanders into cave lion territory and is chased into a little burrow.  The lion tries to get to her, but she’s managed to squirrel herself away pretty well, so she only gets scratched on the thigh instead of eaten.  She hides out in the hole for a few days until she’s sure the lion is gone, then crawls out – only to collapse from dehydration/starvation.

Cut to a travelling band of Neanderthals.  They’re looking for a new cave because theirs was also destroyed in the earthquake.  Iza is a middle-aged (at 20), pregnant medicine woman.  She has super high status because of her mother and grandmother, plus her brother Brun is the leader of the clan.  Her other brother Darryl Creb is the Mog-ur, which is like a shamany-type-thing.  Iza sees the little girl near death with buzzards hovering around her, and gets permission from Brun to pick her up and bring her along.

The clan is very much a patriarchal society, women must ask for permission from a man before they “speak” (in quotes because the Neanderthals in this story haven’t fully evolved speech capabilities, they use a complex form of sign language to communicate with a few grunts for emphasis, along with naming words).  Iza brings the girl along with them on the hunt for the new cave and heals up her lion wounds, wondering how the girl managed to escape from a fully grown cave lion at such a young age.  The Clan (capitalized to indicate all clans of Neanderthals) is a deeply spiritual group, every one is given a protective totem on their naming day, and Iza thinks she must have an extremely powerful totem to have survived on her own for so long.

The girl manages to give them her name, which none of them can pronounce, so she agrees that Ayla is close enough.  Once Ayla is healed enough to be running around, she discovers a new cave (which is absolutely PERFECT – spacious and it was once inhabited by their holiest of spirits, the Great Cave Bear) and they all move in.

Creb (the mogiest of all Clan mog-urs and worthy of capitalization because he was chosen by the cave bear [meaning attacked] at a young age) works on teaching her their sign language, and appeals to Brun to allow her to be adopted into the clan at the ceremony where they formally accept the cave as their new home.  The clan primarily avoids the cro-magnons (or Others, as they’re referred to) because of hostilities between the two groups, so Brun is a bit wary of accepting her at first.  Only after Creb explains that it must be the will of the Ursus – since the Other girl found their new home – does Brun relent.  Ayla has obviously been chosen by the Cave Lion since she already bears the Clan marks for that particular totem.  Everyone welcomes her, except for this little douchey kid Broud.  He’s the son of the leader and is totally jealous because the weird Other girl stole his first kill manhood ceremony thunder just by being adopted.

She is raised as Iza’s daughter, and learns the skills of the medicine woman.  She has to work really hard at everything because she doesn’t carry the racial memories that members of the Clan have.  The majority of Brun’s clan think she’s a bit stupid because she doesn’t need to just be reminded of things, she has to try to remember them.  Iza does her best to teach her to be a dutiful woman of the Clan – always mind the men-folk, anticipate their needs (of the sexual AND sandwich making variety), NEVER EVER touch weapons (women who touch weapons will DIE), do all of the work except for hunting and so on and so on.

One day while Ayla is out gathering herbal remedies for Iza, she stumbles upon the men practicing hunting with slings.  Broud sucks and since he’s such an asshat, Ayla is overjoyed to see him fail.  Once the men leave, she decides to give it a try to see if she can do any better.  Of course she rocks it right away.  But wait!  What about the thing that women will die if they touch weapons?  Dude, it’s gotta be her protective cave lion totem!  Cave lions hunt, therefore she should hunt too, right?  Oh, but she can’t hunt stuff that would be used for food because no one can know that she’s learned how to use a weapon, so she starts hunting carnivores that hang out around the cave.  One time, she’s almost killed by a lynx, so she develops a new method utilizing two stones instead of just one…and she masters that too.

In case you're lame like me, and couldn't figure out how a sling worked from the description.

Brun’s clan makes its regular trip out to the Crimean Peninsula to fish and one of the kids gets snatched by a hyena.  Everyone is standing around panicking because the hyena is already out of range and feeling bad about the kid that’s about to get eaten when Ayla whips out her sling and drops the hyena with two stones.  It was kind of an “oops!  Did I do that?” moment, because she has just outed herself to everyone and for suresies a Death Curse is on the way.  Everyone is so totally grateful that she rescued the kid, though, that they don’t know what to do with her.  Finally, it’s determined that she will die, but it will only be a temporary death.  Wait, what?  Yeah…in the Clan, they don’t actually kill you.  They just pretend that you’re not there.  If they see you, it’s only because it’s your evil spirit trying to take their spirit with you to the spirit world.

Silent Treatment, Death Curse...same thing, really.

Of course she survives the Death Curse, and when she returns to the clan a month later, she is named Woman Who Hunts and is allowed to hunt with her sling from then on.  Broud has been jealous of Ayla ever since she was adopted, and has beaten her several times.  One day he is out hunting, but comes back with nothing.  When he sees that Ayla successfully brought something down, he’s even angrier than ever, but knows that if he beats her again he’ll no longer be in the running to be leader when Brun steps down.  He decides a new way to cure her of insolence will be to give her the signal that he needs to “relieve his needs” with her, and rapes her just to humiliate her.  Repeatedly.  Enough so that everyone else starts talking about how weird it is that he wants to do this ugly chick when his mate is ready and willing.  Ayla hates it (dur!), but eventually stops fighting back.  When she does, he gives up – but it’s too late because she’s already pregnant.  This was before people knew that sex led to pregnancy, so everyone is shocked that there was a male totem in the clan strong enough to defeat her cave lion.

She gives birth to a half-breed child that everyone thinks is deformed, and she knows that Brun is going to have her kill her son (deformed children are not allowed to live) so she runs off with the baby, intending to force Brun to accept him on his naming day.  She realizes forcing Brun’s hand is a bad idea, so she comes back early and the baby is allowed to live.  Half-Clan, Half-Other, Durc is able to vocalize like his mother, but he still looks a little weird.  As a punishment for her insolence (this was a word used repeatedly that began to grate on my nerves), she’s told she can’t hunt until Autumn.  That Summer, they head to the Clan Gathering.  There are 10 Clans present (a little over 200 people) and there Ayla meets a Clan woman who has another child of “mixed spirits.”  It’s a girl, so they agree that their children will mate once they’re old enough.

Ayla is now a fully fledged medicine woman (at 11) and since Iza was too sick to come to the Gathering, she must prepare the hallucinogenic sacred beverage for the mog-urs.  She doesn’t make it right and they leave some behind, so since it’s not supposed to be wasted she drinks the rest.  Tripping balls, she wanders through the host cave until she comes upon the mog-urs soopersekrit ceremony where they’re travelling through their shared memories of the past (all the way back to the beginning of time) and eating the brains of one who was killed chosen by Ursus earlier that day.

Holy Men eating human brains and doing drugs. No big.

Creb realizes she’s there and they go on a journey through the past AND future of the Others too, and Ayla sees the world as it will appear at the time the novel was written (1980).  She doesn’t know what to make of it, and Creb is scared, so it puts a distance between them.

They return to the home cave just in time for Iza to die, but before she does, she tells Ayla to leave and find herself a man of the Others like her.  Once Iza is dead, things get steadily worse for Ayla and Creb’s health begins to decline even more.  For the next few years, she takes joy in her son but not much else.

The day that Broud is made leader, Creb also hands over mog-ur duties to his acolyte.  One of Broud’s first acts is to put a permanent Death Curse on Ayla.  It is done and there is another earthquake, which kills Creb.  Everyone pretends they can’t see Ayla, but she gathers her things and heads off into the great wide paleolithic open.