Set in the last ice age, this is a story of survival of
individuals and is it also the story of natural selection? Ayla, a Cro-Magnon
is orphaned at a young age by a natural disaster. Alone and defenceless, she
wanders and instinctively hugs the side of the river, by whose side the family
she cannot remember once lived. Lacking the basic knowledge to feed herself, -
injured and exhausted she finally falls down.
The circling vultures attract the attention of Iza, - Medicine Woman. The
rest of the Neanderthal clan of which Iza is a member put her desire to help
the strange toddler down to her peculiarities, displayed since a child, of
rescuing injured animals. They grudgingly and gradually accept the outsider.
Thus begins the story of a clash of two cultures, one a rule
based culture highly dependent on traditions, shared history and knowledge, - the
other a more analytical and imaginative based culture. Ayla’s struggle for
acceptance and survival leads to a harsh life with intermittent and severe
emotional anguish punctuated with moments of joy.
Hunting and gathering form the pattern by which the clan
lives. With little or no knowledge of how to measure the passage of time the
clan is dependent on the magician to mark the key events of their year.
We learn of the ancient traditions, the spirit world, the
drugs used to achieve a heightened sense of awareness; is that a telepathic
sharing of knowledge or is it a conversation with the spirit world?
One man allows a perceived childhood grievance to pervade
his reasoning and with his jealousy and bruised ego sets off down his chosen
path; taking the entire clan with him.
We are left wondering if he will
expedite the demise and destruction of his people, sentencing their traditions
and sharing culture into oblivion. Too late do his fellows see him for who he
really is; disquiet and insecurity descend upon the clan in a most unwelcome
and alarming fashion.
Courage, intelligence and sheer determination are the key
supports for Ayla as the years pass. Her
internal battle to conform to a group so fundamentally different is invisible
to most; the loss of loved ones and changes in the structure of the clan
finally brings a cruel reckoning day. To find out what ultimately happens you must read "The Valley of Horses".