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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 196

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Jean M(arie) Auel 1936–

American novelist and poet.

Auel's first novel, The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), and its sequel, The Valley of Horses (1982), are considered interesting and original attempts to depict early human history. These stories take place in the Middle Paleolithic age when the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon species coexisted. The basic conflict in the first of these novels is between a Neanderthal tribe and the Cro-Magnon girl whom the tribe adopts. The girl, Ayla, performs feats which earn her the respect of all but one member of the tribe, who forces her into exile. The second novel continues her story. While The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Valley of Horses have been faulted for their stereotypical characterizations of the blond, blue-eyed Ayla and her tall, handsome mate, Jondalar, they are also noted for Auel's well-researched and detailed descriptions of survival techniques. The books have been described as "cave operas," since they have some of the characteristics of popular romances and soap operas and have been well received by the public. Auel is planning several more novels with prehistoric settings which will form a series called Earth's Children.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 103.)


John Pfeiffer