|Culture||Crimean (originally) |
Unborn child (deceased)
|Novel appearances||The Clan of the Cave Bear|
The Valley of Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone
The Land of Painted Caves
|Film appearances||The Clan of the Cave Bear (film)|
The Land of Painted Caves Trailer
"You can make me go away, you can take my son from me, but you can't make me die!"
- -Ayla, The Clan of the Cave Bear.
Ayla is the main character, and the primary "Earth's Child," in Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series. Introduced in The Clan of the Cave Bear, she evolves from a kinless outcast to a very important religious leader that changes the course of human history.
- 1 Appearance and personality
- 2 Novel canon
- 3 Film appearances
- 4 Other appearances
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 Gallery
- 7 Trivia
- 8 References
Appearance and personality
Ayla is a nearly 6-foot-tall female of the Others. She is agile and fairly muscular for a female, with a tanned skin. Full-grown, she is depicted as being a beautiful woman with long, wavy dark blonde hair - sometimes compared to the colour of ripe hay or the dun yellow of her horse, Whinney's coat - and blue-grey eyes.
Ayla's face and hair are described in detail in the fourth book:
"Her long, thick, dark blond hair, gleaming with highlights where the sun had lightened it, was held back out of her way with a thong. But it had a natural wave and loose strands that had escaped the leather binding curled around her tanned face."
"Her large eyes were grey-blue outlined with lashes a shade or two darker than her hair; her eyebrows were somewhat lighter, between the two in colour. Her face was heart-shaped, rather wide with high cheekbones, a well-defined jaw, and a narrow chin."
Some of Ayla's traits come from living with the Clan. Her exceptional strength comes from trying to keep up with the massive Neanderthals. Ayla has a strangely accented voice. Her speech is also a remnant of their way of speaking, but not as obvious as strength. Almost every male character of her species in the series finds Ayla exceptionally beautiful, but Ayla initially describes herself as "big and ugly." Another word frequently used to describe her is "exotic," indicating that she seems a bit foreign to everyone who meets her, and that her own people live somewhere else. She is said to be from the Crimean area.
Ayla is shown throughout the novel to be a courageous, strong-willed woman. She has a strong will to survive and also longs for love and acceptance. Ayla has a habit of challenging authority figures and rules, though she is generally polite and respecful towards people. Ayla has difficulties with her self-esteem, viewing herself as being physically ugly and also believing she not a "good Clan woman". She also struggles to express her inner thoughts and feelings to people, a flaw which persists right to the end of the series. It takes Ayla a long time to finally break free of her Clan training and value herself. Ayla tends to be quite modest about her more exceptional skills and talents, often expressing embarrassment when people praise her. She is shown to be quite intelligent, using both logic and 'outside-the-box' thinking to solve problems. Ayla is very honest and straight-foward, due in part to her being raised in the Clan. Whilst this is an admirable trait, it also leads to her inadvertently offending people, sometimes with disastrous results.
Ayla likes helping people and becomes angry and righteous if she encounters prejudice or injustice in any form. Her compassion extends to most living creatures, with the exception of those who harm others or people she cares about, and hyenas, which she despises and uses as a metaphor for anything she considers to be wicked or unjust.
Ayla’s prototype is a nearly 6-foot-tall female skeleton found at Cro-Magnon in France. It's also implied that Ayla's hairstyle and facial features were partly based off of the Venus of Brassempouy, which was also found in France.
Very little is known of Ayla's family, people and origin. All that is really known about her people is that they resided somewhere on the Crimean peninsula. Ayla is deduced as being around five years old when she is first introduced. One can assume with the facts given that she and her parents were on a hunting expedition or travel of some kind, as they were alone. Whilst away from their settlement, Ayla's family perished in an earthquake. Frightened and alone, Ayla wandered the steppes, unable to fend for herself. Inadvertently making her way into cave lion territory, she was chased by a male lion into a small gap in the mountain side. She escaped with four parallel claw marks on her left leg and her life. At first terrified to leave her small sanctuary, thirst finally drove her out. Using common sense, Ayla deduced that she needed to stay near water, saving her. However, weakened by hunger and her festering wound, after miles of walking Ayla fell into unconsciousness by a stream.
Life with Brun's clan
Brun's Clan, left homeless by the same earthquake that had orphaned Ayla, also wandered the peninsula in search of a new cave. Iza, the medicine woman of the clan, noticed Ayla as the clan passed by the stream. Taking pity on a child of the Others she begged Brun to allow her to keep the girl and treat her. Brun was hesitant but finally acquiesced thinking she would not survive anyway. However, she recovers and is eventually accepted into the Clan as Iza's daughter and given the totem of the Cave Lion.
As a child among the Clan, she is described as lucky, favored by the spirits. Iza surmises that Ayla was born to a medicine woman of the Others though Ayla has very little memory of her birth mother and knows nothing of the tribe of the Others to whom she was born. Although Ayla lacks the Clan's ability to access ancestral memories, Iza succeeds in training her as a medicine woman. She also grows close to Iza's brother Creb, the Clan's Mog-ur, whom she comes to view as a father figure. In her childhood and young adulthood she invents several things previously unknown, as well as innovations to existing tools and their uses.
Although Ayla is gradually accepted by the Clan, she inadvertently earns the animosity of Broud, Brun's son and heir. The two develop a mutual hatred, with Ayla deliberately defying or irritating Broud, whilst he, on one occasion, beat her to unconsciousness in a fit of anger. One day, Ayla witnesses a fight between Broud and Zoug, who is teaching the young men how to use a sling. When Broud storms off, flinging his sling to one side, Ayla retrieves it and finds herself compelled to learn how to use it. Even though Clan women are forbidden to use weapons, Ayla feels her totem is guiding her down this path and secretly watches the hunters train, copying their techniques and practising until she has mastered the sling. Ayla even develops a technique that allows her to fling two stones almost simultaneously after a near fatal encounter with a lynx. Although Ayla cannot hunt herbivores without her secret coming out, she secretly hunts and kills carnivores - which the Clan do not eat - in an attempt to help the Clan.
Iza is too sick to go on a mammoth hunt with the rest of the Clan, so Ayla travels with them instead as their healer. Here, she witnesses Broud's young son Brac being attacked and carried off by a hyena. Ayla, who is the closest, uses her sling to kill the hyena and sets Brac's fractured arm, saving his life and ensuring he won't be crippled. However, in the process, she reveals her use of a sling to everyone. Brun and the other adult male members of the Clan are conflicted as to what they should do with Ayla; although the punishment for a woman using a weapon is death, Ayla's Cave Lion totem seems to want her to hunt, and if she didn't learn, Brac would be dead. Eventually, Brun decides that Ayla will be cursed with death for one month and, if she survives to the end of that time, she will be allowed to return. Ayla finds the death curse traumatic, but manages to survive by finding a small cave and using her sling to hunt animals. She returns safely after one month, where she is welcomed back with open arms. Creb then holds a special ritual, where he invokes spirits known as the Ancient Ones, who were once worshipped by the Clan, to bestow upon Ayla the title of 'The Woman Who Hunts'. This permits Ayla to hunt for the Clan, though only with a sling, in accordance to the wishes of her totem.
Ayla is happy with her new status and provides food for her family, however, Broud's resentment of her grows more intense. When Ayla is about ten, Broud takes advantage of her adult status to try and force her into 'relieving his needs'. When Ayla resists, Broud brutally rapes her. He continues to assault her for some time, causing Ayla to become depressed and stop taking care of herself. Even though no one intervenes, as they believe it is Broud's right, they can see how unhappy Ayla is. However, Ayla's depression ends when she discovers she is pregnant, as she had always wanted to be a mother, ever since Iza gave birth to her adopted sister Uba. Everyone is shocked by Ayla's pregnancy, as everyone believed Ayla's Cave Lion totem was too strong to be defeated by a man's totem. Unfortunately, the pregnancy makes Ayla very sick and Iza urges Ayla to end the pregnancy for her own safety. Ayla, however, refuses. At the age of eleven, Ayla goes into labour. The birth is long, difficult and excruciating, with Ayla nearly dying, but she manages to deliver a healthy son.
Ayla is horrified when Iza says her son is deformed and must be left outside to die, as the Clan do not allow deformed children to live. Ayla instead takes her son and secretly flees to her cave, intending to return in seven days' time, after which Brun will be forced to accept her son. During this time, Ayla realises her son isn't 'deformed' but was simply born with the features of both the Clan and the Others. This realisation forms the beginning of her theory that children are actually conceived via sexual intercourse, which becomes an important plot point in later novels. Ayla returns to the Clan early when Uba informs her that Brun intends to banish her for her subversion and pleads for her son to live; Creb vouches for her and her son is allowed to live. Creb names him Durc, after a character in Ayla's favourite legend.
Iza's illness causes her to retire from healing, making Ayla the Clan's official medicine woman. As a result, Ayla accompanies Brun's clan to the Clan Gathering, bringing Durc with her. Ayla is supposed to prepare a sacred root for the Mog-urs' ritual, but the other Mog-urs are initially opposed to this due to Ayla being a woman of the Others. However, Creb convinces them that Ayla is a medicine woman of the Clan, highly skilled and comes from a respected line of medicine women (Iza's family), finally prompting them to accept her. At the Gathering, Ayla meets a woman from another Clan, who's daughter, Ura, is also considered "deformed". She is excited to meet Ayla and Durc, suggesting that it be arranged for Durc to mate her daughter, as it is unlikely anyone else would want to mate due to their supposed deformity. Ayla agrees to this so that Durc will not be alone. Upon hearing that the woman conceived Ura after being forced by a man of the Others, and noting the physical similarities between Ura and Durc, Ayla is even more convinced that intercourse leads to pregnancy.
When Ayla prepares the sacred root for the Mog-urs' ceremony, she ingests some of the juice from the root and is strongly affected by its psychotropic properties, accidentally wandering into the cave where Creb is conducting the ceremony. Creb makes telepathic contact with her and she follows him through his psychic exploration of the Clan "memories". She then follows the path of the Others' divergence from the Clan and, among other things, sees a glimpse of the future: "Boxlike structures...long ribbons of stone...strange animals crawling at great speeds...huge birds that flew without flapping their wings." Apparently Auel intends to describe Ayla seeing a glimpse of the modern era, and even beyond to the next stage of human evolution. Creb has seen all these things with her, and telepathically orders her out of the cave when she returns to her own mind, to prevent the other Mog-urs from discovering and killing her. However, Creb becomes somewhat distanced from Ayla after this, knowing in his heart that only the Others will continue to evolve and that the Clan will die out.
Upon returning, Ayla is devastated upon discovering Iza s gravely ill. Despite tending to her as best she can, Iza passes away. Before dying she urges Ayla to leave the Clan and seek out her own people, as she fears what Broud will do to Ayla when he becomes leader. Ayla does not take her advice, as everything she knows and loves is with the Clan. Her grief over Iza's death causes her milk to dry up; fortunately, the other women help nurse Durc. When Ayla is about fourteen, Brun hands over leadership of the Clan to Broud, whilst Creb, who has never been the same since the experience at the Clan Gathering, hands over his position to his acolyte. Broud immediately announces that he intends to take Ayla as a second mate, but that Durc will remain with Uba and her mate. Realising he is deliberately doing it to spite her, a furious Ayla confronts Broud. In anger, he orders she be cursed with death, this time permanently. An earthquake suddenly shakes the area, destroying the cave. Ayla, realising Creb is still inside, races into the cave to rescue him, but to her grief, discovers he has been killed by falling rocks. Broud still orders her to be cursed with death and the new Mog-ur reluctantly complies. Ayla manages to get Brun's attention and he subtly acknowledges her and promises to protect her son. Knowing she cannot stay, Ayla packs some things and prepares to leave. She has a final confrontation with Broud, standing up to him and saying that even though he has cursed her, he cannot make her die. Broud tries to strike her in anger, but realises too late that he has committed a taboo act by acknowledging her. He tries to deflect the bad luck onto his own father but pointing out that he also took notice of her, but Brun tells Broud he is ashamed of the way he acts and that he wishes Ayla had been his son. Ayla then leaves the Clan and Durc forever, heartbroken.
Valley of Horses
Alone in a secluded valley where she has fled after being expelled from the Clan, Ayla has a psychic link with a Cro-Magnon man, Jondalar (who will become her husband) long before she meets him. She experiences his emotions in her dreams, and may have picked up her knowledge of how to draw a spark from flint and iron pyrite from her psychic connection with him. After she rescues the badly-injured Jondalar from a cave lion and tends his wounds, and he comes to live with her and begins teaching her his language, she dreams of her own mother speaking to her and of an earthquake (which betoken tragedy and upheaval to Ayla.) After this dream, Ayla suddenly speaks Jondalar's language fluently with only a trace of a Clan accent, though the day before she had spoken only in broken and barely-coherent sentences. This transformation is implied to have been the result of Ayla finally facing the trauma of having lost her family, which in the early pages of Clan of the Cave Bear is described as repressing memories. It is also a testimony to her extraordinarily-trained memory, which was cataloging his speech without her conscious effort.
Living with the Mammoth Hunters
Ayla continues to have psychic and prophetic experiences linked to the rituals used by the Mamutoi people. She dreams that she has two sons, Durc and an unknown son who appears to have no Clan lineage at all; they are on the verge of open conflict, and Ayla struggles to reach them in time to prevent the destruction of one son by the other. It is suggested that the meaning of the dream has less to do with her 'children' than the evolution of the Others and decline of the Clan. Her new friend Ranec comes to believe that she is an incarnation of what he calls the "Spirit Woman," the perfect spirit model of a woman in whose image all are made, and that she may even be the Earth Mother incarnate. Shaman Mamut indicates to Jondalar, Ranec, and Vincavec, another Mamutoi shaman who wants to marry Ayla, that Ayla has some great purpose. Vincavec attempts to hypnotize Ayla, but she is able to resist him, as well as the spiritual influences of others. Though Ayla contends that her ability to tame and win the loyalty of animals is only a matter of time, patience and proper handling, her gift for making friends of numerous animals is considered a sign of her supernatural gifts.
Journey to the West
On the journey back to the Zelandonii territory, Jondalar's home, many of the tribes Ayla encounters mistake Ayla's extreme creative intelligence and even her common-sense reasoning for supernatural powers. Jondalar and Ayla both insist that she has no such gifts, but they do not stay in one place long enough to convince anyone otherwise. Ayla continues to have prophetic dreams.
Living among the Zelandonii
Upon arriving at the Ninth Cave, Jondalar's dwelling, Ayla realizes that this cave is identical to one she's been seeing in her dreams. Her dreams and waking psychic visions become more frequent and more powerful, and the female shaman Zelandoni can sense them. However, Ayla rejects Zelandoni's offers to train her as a priestess, saying she merely wishes to live a normal life. Zelandoni finally convinces Ayla to join the spiritual devotees, known as Those Who Serve the Mother. She also gives birth to a daughter, whom she names Jonayla to signify that she of both her essence and Jondalar's.
In The Land of Painted Caves Ayla gets her education to become one of Those-Who-Serve-the-Mother. She visits many of the sacret painted caves. And she struggles to balance her education with her family life which leads her husband to "share pleasures" with Marona, a woman he was almost Promised (or engaged) to, as a way to relieve himself since his wife is often busy or too tired to do anything. This causes a rift between them that is only lifted when Jondalar manages to bring her back from a death-like coma induced by a root, due to a prayer to the Mother by Jondalar.
Her life with the Clan is quite similar to the novel.
In popular culture
- Ayla is a common Turkish feminine name that is usually synonymous with "moonlight."
- One of her skills, the ability to sling two stones at once, is not actually possible.
- It is possible that Ayla is not her true name, or at least the one she was born with, as at the beginning of The Clan of the Cave Bear, Ayla tries to tell Iza and Creb her name. However, it is too difficult for them to pronounce. Eventually Creb calls her Ayla, which as close as the Clan can get to pronouncing her name. Even though five year old Ayla thinks to herself that 'Ayla' is not quite right, she decides it doesn't matter and eventually forgets what she was originally called, going by Ayla from then on.