the Clan of the Cave Bear Series
(Another Literature Suggestion)
You can’t get farther away from current troubles than hunting Woolly Mammoths on the windswept ice tundra in front of the mile high glacier sheets? Enjoy!! Dummidumbwit
Jean Marie Untinen was born February 18, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. She is the second of five children. Her father was a housepainter. After high school she married Ray Bernard Auel and raised five children of her own. In 1964 she became a member of Mensa. She earned her masters degree in 1976 – attending night school while working for a Portland electronics firm. At that time she quit her job in order to find ‘more suitable work’.
Three months later she still hadn’t found a new job that suited her. About that time she got an idea for a short story about a prehistoric girl. According to Jean, “The ‘short story’ led me to do some research; the research fired my imagination, and the wealth of material made me decide to write a novel. The first draft turned out to be more than 450,000 words and fell into six parts. On rewriting, I realized each of these six parts was a novel in itself. I have used that rough draft as the outline for the series.” 1
She proceeded with work on the first novel. She rewrote the whole thing four times and some parts twenty to thirty times until she was satisfied with the end result. This was in September 1978. She had a hard time finding a publisher to take on the series, given the large task ahead – with five more novels pending. In September 1980 when The Clan of the Cave Bear finally saw the light of day it was an instant success. Within a month more than 100,000 copies sold, after which it was on the best-seller lists for eight more months.
The story takes place around 35,000 to 25,000 years ago in the late Pleistocene epoch (the Ice Age) in prehistoric Europe. It is about a Cro_Mannon girl named Ayla and her interaction with Neanderthals, her environment, and finally with other Cro-Magnon people.
Jean’s extensive research has taken her to prehistoric sites in France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Germany (to follow a portion of the Danube for the 4th novel).
She has learned, through various sources, how to knapp flint, construct snow caves, tan hides, gather and prepare wild foods, medicinal plants and herbs. She worked with the Malheur Field Station in the high desert steppe country of central Oregon and took Aboriginal Life Skills classes from anthropologist and instructor, Jim Riggs. Jim taught her how a fire is made, how a spear-thrower is used, how bulrushes make sleeping mats, how to pressure-flake a stone tool, and how to squish deer brains to turn deer hide into velvety soft leather. She worked with professionals in many different fields and countries to gain firsthand knowledge of recent discoveries and new theories. In 1990, after Plains of Passage was published, Waldenbooks interviewed her in France, where she had gone to study Cro-Magnon painted caves research for the fifth book.
“These people were the first modern humans. It’s fairly well accepted by most of the archaeological community that they had the same range of intelligence and the same psychological and emotional reactions as we have, except that theirs were directed in different ways. We could not have lived in their world and they would have trouble adapting to ours. What I was trying to show is that just because prehistory seemed to be a ‘simpler time’, that doesn’t mean that prehistoric man did not need a great deal of intelligence, knowledge and wisdom to survive.”
Future plans: “I’ve been working 17 years on this project, and I want to do something else–maybe a mystery, or a thin little literary science fiction book, or something. But, I admit, I’ve learned a lot. I love the research. I can’t think of anything more fun than learning anything I want and earning a living writing about it the way I want to.” 1