The popular, somewhat controversial Earth Children series extrapolates backward, drawing on anthropology and archaeology, including figurines of idealized mother figures. Science fiction of prehistory, exploring human origins, has been dismissed as “caveman,” but this series defies such categorization.
Concepts are carefully interwoven. Clear inventions both raise scientific questions and complicate the plot. Neanderthal racial memory (based on large brain size) gives rise to extrasensory power even as it explains why the older group disappeared. Racial memory hinders adaptability to changing conditions, leading Clans to reject new options. Ayla and Jondalar represent Cro-Magnon learning. They think through problems rather than meditating on ancestral knowledge, invent devices, and question the natural world. Ayla even challenges spiritual wisdom, suggesting that babies might come from copulation, not the Great Mother.
Ayla is a curious character. She is a Cro-Magnon child who learns from Neanderthals, but what explains her peculiar power? Haunted by recurring nightmares of losing her mother to an earthquake, her dream journeys become more mystical after she connects with Creb by drinking magic potions concocted for magicians at the Summer Gathering. Her spirits touching of Crebs empowers her throughout the series, a fact Mamut recognizes from the moment he meets her. Mamuts very existence suggests that Cro-Magnons may also have mystical powers. Aylas have been enhanced by the blending of her own peoples magic with that of older magicians.
(The entire section is 652 words.)