Earth's Children

Zolena, more commonly referred to as Zelandoni, Zelandoni Who Is First or the First, is a member of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii and is the First Amongst Those Who Serve the Mother. She is a major character in The Shelters of Stone and The Land of Painted Caves, becoming a spiritual mentor to Ayla.


It is fitting that she was inspired by the many beautiful sculptures found by archeologists and paleontologists, and specifically, the famed statue called “Venus of Willendorf.”


Zolena of the Zelandonii was introduced as the woman who initiated Jondalar into sex, or donii-woman, for whom he developed an obsession that was considered unfitting by his people. Zolena came to return Jondalar's affections despite their relationship being considered taboo and was very nearly convinced by him to leave the zelandonia and mate him. However, another young man, Ladroman, who also loved Zolena, jealously revealed their relationship. Jondalar beat Ladroman in a rage, causing him permanent disfigurement. Afterwards, Jondalar was sent to live with the Lanzadonii, the tribe his father, Dalanar, founded. Zolena came to her senses, realising that a relationship with Jondalar was impossible and that serving the Great Earth Mother was her true calling. She continued her training and was considered exceptionally gifted, eventually giving up her own name to take the title of Zelandoni. As a result, in spite of being considered rather young for the role, Zelandoni was made First, the leader of the all the zelandonia, shortly before Jondalar left on his long Journey with his brother Thonolan. By this time, Zelandoni no longer loved Jondalar, though she always retained some affection for him and they remained lifelong friends.

Physical Appearance[]

Zelandoni who is First is described as being tall and pretty, though not as beautiful as she was as a younger woman. As a young woman, she was curvaceous and voluptuous, and was considered one of the most beautiful women in the Ninth Cave. Zelandoni is now rather overweight, though strong and fit. She is sometimes compared to a donii figurine in appearance, with Zelandoni herself jokingly remarking that the Mother must've Called her to serve her knowing she'd end up looking like her someday. 

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