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.)