Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Clan of the Cave Bear is a story set in prehistoric Europe during the last ice age; it has sometimes been categorized as “caveman” fiction. The novel’s exact setting on the Crimean Peninsula is detailed in a map preceding the text. The heroine of the captivating story is Ayla, a Cro-Magnon girl who, at age five, loses her family in an earthquake and survives a number of terrifying events, including the attack of a cave lion, before she is found half-dead by Iza, the medicine woman of a Neanderthal clan uprooted by the same earthquake and in search of a new cave. Iza empathizes with the barely alive child and convinces her brother Brun, the leader of the Clan of the Cave Bear, to let her bring the child along. When the girl recuperates from her wounds, it is obvious that two separate worlds have met: The Neanderthal Clan members are described as short, stocky, bowlegged, dark-haired, with large heads, and communicating mostly with hand gestures; Ayla, on the other hand, is thinner, taller, blond, blue-eyed, and talking freely in a language that the Clan does not understand.

Initially, everyone is suspicious of the orphan, who is so different from them and who belongs to what the Clan terms the Others. Ayla’s biggest supporter is Creb, the Mo-gur, the mighty magician of the entire Clan of the Cave Bear. Creb, brother to Iza and Brun, is a misshapen, one-eyed cripple, who, as a child, had survived the attack of a cave bear. Ayla shows...

(The entire section is 496 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The Venus of Willendorf Published by Gale Cengage

What Happened to the Neanderthals
Perhaps the people most frustrated with the commercial success of The Clan of...

(The entire section is 785 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Point of View
The Clan of the Cave Bear uses a third-person, omniscient narrator to explain Ayla's...

(The entire section is 748 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

After writing her first enormous manuscript, Auel realized that she needed help in the techniques of fiction writing. Always a self-educator,...

(The entire section is 236 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Clan of the Cave Bear combines important interests of American society in the 1970s — feminism and methods of survival — in an...

(The entire section is 267 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Research the anthropological and archeological evidence about the origins and the extinction of the Neanderthals and compare the scientific...

(The entire section is 107 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Clan of the Cave Bear draws on a number of popular novel traditions. Its numerous anthropological details at times give it the...

(The entire section is 129 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In The Clan of the Cave Bear Auel concentrates on Neanderthal daily life and the difference between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon...

(The entire section is 162 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Clan of the Cave Bear was released as a motion picture in January 1986 by Warner Brothers. Directed by Michael Chapman and...

(The entire section is 102 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

The Clan of the Cave Bear was made into a feature film directed by Michael Chapman, scripted by John Sayles, and starring Pamela Reed...

(The entire section is 40 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

The Valley of the Horses is the 1982 sequel to The Clan of the Cave Bear. The story follows Ayla after she leaves the Clan....

(The entire section is 246 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Carlin, Margaret, "Love in the Ice Age," Review, in The Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1990, p. 7....

(The entire section is 299 words.)