The Mammoth Hunters Essay - Critical Essays

Jean M. Auel

The Mammoth Hunters

Ayla, in THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR (1980), is adopted and reared by Neanderthals; in THE VALLEY OF HORSES (1982), she spends her teen years as an outcast. Ayla is then adopted by the Mammoth Hunters, who believe that she has supernatural powers. She astounds and subdues a mob by riding off on a giant cave lion that she had tamed as a cub.

The Mammoth Hunters soon learn that the sensitive young girl whom they have adopted possesses wonderful gifts of healing, language, and memory, as well as a host of skills including taming animals, toolmaking, fire-starting, and hunting. As Ayla weaves her life into the activities of the tribe, the reader is treated to vivid descriptions of tribal life through a series of events that provide detailed descriptions of every aspect of Ice-Age life ranging from flint-tool and weapon-making to shelter design, all as seen through the eyes of Ayla. Her sexual encounters and love affairs occupy a prominent place in her story.

Careful and thorough research and a talent for vivid description make Jean Auel’s tale of an Ice Age woman a convincing and spellbinding novel that leaves the reader looking forward to the next volume in the series. Auel’s grasp of anthropology and archaeology is impressive, and anyone with an interest in prehistory, the early development of Europe, or simply exciting fiction will want to read THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS.