Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597
Lok, the consciousness through which most of the book is mediated. It is his perceptions of the “new people” that dictate readers’ responses to them, and it is through his thoughts and actions that readers come to understand how Neanderthal people could have constructed their reality. By default, he...
(The entire section contains 597 words.)
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Lok, the consciousness through which most of the book is mediated. It is his perceptions of the “new people” that dictate readers’ responses to them, and it is through his thoughts and actions that readers come to understand how Neanderthal people could have constructed their reality. By default, he becomes the people’s leader after the deaths of Mal and Ha, but it is not a role that sits easily on him. By nature, he is a joker and clown. His decisions are not always the best. Fa’s instincts are sounder, and he finds himself deferring to the power of her intuitive intelligence. He understands far less about the new people than she does, not being able to conceive of evil at all. He is gentle, and in the end he wills himself to die.
Fa, Lok’s consort. Family relationships do not seem formalized among the people, but she and Lok regard themselves as Liku’s parents, even though it is never stated that she is their daughter. Fa has lost one baby but hopes to bear others; this is why she urges Lok to walk away from the catastrophe and start again. She has a priestess role; her pilgrimage to Oa as ice goddess is described. Only females are allowed access to the sacred: This is a main feature of the people’s gender roles. Informally, she provides emotional sustenance for Lok, and she hides from him the knowledge of Liku’s terrible death.
The old woman
The old woman, who is never named. She is Mal’s consort and retains the tribal memory. She is also the fire carrier, the one who tends and guards it, another gender role. She is perceived as having a religious force within her as a representative of Oa, and the rest of the people treat her with loving awe.
Mal, the people’s leader. There is a natural deference to him, even when he appears too old to make new decisions. He is the only one to die naturally, of old age.
Liku, a young girl but old enough to go hunting with Lok and Fa. She is kidnapped by the new people but tries to make friends with Tanakil. She seems to be adjusting easily to the new people’s society when she is killed, probably as a human sacrifice or as part of a hunting ritual.
Tuami, who takes over from Lok in the final chapter as the narrative consciousness. He is confused by the conflict and panic over the Neanderthals, whom he now regards as devils. His previous confidence is shattered. He becomes ambivalent about his plans to assassinate Marlan and assume leadership.
Vivani, the femme fatale of the novel. She is aware of her femininity as providing both sexual attractiveness and power, as well as in her felt need for a baby to suckle after the earlier accidental death of her own. She is both fulfilled and ashamed in having a Neanderthal baby, whom the others regard as evil.
Tanakil, a girl probably about Liku’s age, though much bigger. In the new people’s fear, she is left as an exchange for the baby. The experience causes her to go out of her mind. All she can repeat is the word “Liku.”
Marlan, an old man and leader of his group, which appears to be a breakaway one, created by his taking Vivani. Because he drives his people rather than leading them, he is accorded only grudging respect, unlike the deference given to Mal.