Others (Earth's Children)

Others (Earth's Children)

The Others is the term which the Clan of the Cave Bear uses when referring to the Cro-Magnon peoples described in Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series. Though the reader learns the names of several different tribes of the Others during the series' progression, the heroine, Ayla, consistently uses the term when referring to the several tribes in general.


Different societies

Throughout "The Valley of Horses" and "The Plains of Passage", large parts of which are travel adventure narratives, several tribes of Cro-Magnon (Modern human) peoples are introduced. A few are never named, merely referenced and noted as hiding in fear from the travelers and Ayla's animals along the return journey of Jondalar and his bride-to-be to his home in south-western France at 'The Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii'; other groups are only given the stage briefly, as both novels are much concerned with experiences encountered on the journeys and cannot stay long in one place. These tribes tend to differ mostly in government forms, usually devolving to some leader or leadership group, though Ms. Auel was inventive in depicting even the similar cultures she reveals with almost too much variety.

Virtually all her societies idyllically share a nature religion worshiping 'the Great Mother of All' (or 'The Great Earth Mother') and they all have similar open sexual practices and cultural memes. Hippies from the sixties and free-lovers from the seventies would feel quite welcome in Auels' different but very similar societies. "The Mammoth Hunters" and "The Shelters of Stone", being better centered on stationary locations than those two, flesh out the two tribes and their societies which are central to the action of their respective stories, and by extension and from similarities we can infer further corollary correspondences to the tribes less covered.

Likewise, midway through the Valley of Horses Thonalon and Jondalar's stay with the dual-culture of the mountaineering Shamudoi and boat masters and river dwelling Ramudoi which together give another detailed glimpse of a plausible late stone age culture  — albeit one situated in a unique geographic setting, the 134 km (83 mi) length of the long mountain splitting white-water rapids inflicted river gorge known today as the Iron Gate of the Danube[1]

The tribes of the Others are listed according to the location of their territory, respective to the territory of the Clan which adopted Ayla that lived near the Beran Sea:

Jerika's People

Jerika is the foreign born wife of Dalanar, whom we would call Jondalar's biological father, and Auel's societies refer to as Jondalar being born to Dalanar's hearth, the men providing a living and living space — the hearth — and the woman honoring it by her presence and the blessings of children she raises within it. This backward reference to fatherhood is common to all the cultures painted by Ms. Auel's books, and only Ayla is suggesting a man has any direct link to fatherhood; the prevalent belief system being that the Mother of All chooses the spirit of a man to cause a woman to become blessed with a child. Consequently, Jerika's people are referenced by descriptive mention only as people who live as far east as the land goes, near the Endless Sea, and in relation to the exremely long journey her father and mother undertook from their far homeland before Jerika was born along the journey.

Jerika's people by context are apparently proto-Chinese or proto-Mongol. It is impossible to tell with any certainty due to the vague description Jerika gives to Ayla and Jondalar at the end of The Plains of Passage, but there are clear allusions to oriental racial traits. In her backstory, her father Hochaman persuaded his mate to undertake an unprecedented Journey to the fabled Great Waters of the West, and Jerika was born during their travels. Her people could have come from as far north as upper Siberia or as far south as Thailand and Vietnam. Concurrently, they may have come from the Indian Sub-continent and be unaware of lands further east. The aged Hochaman finished his epic journey on the back of Jerika's spouse Dalanar, who carried him piggy-back the final distance.

Ayla's People

To date, Auel has not revealed any information about the tribe to which Ayla was born. Ayla's facial features, while quite obviously Cro-Magnon, are considered unusual or foreign-looking by all of the tribes of Others she encounters, indicating that Ayla's people were not known to those tribes living along the Great Mother River (Danube). Most of Brun's Clan, according to Ayla, had never seen one of the Others before; Mamut, the old shaman who adopted Ayla in the Mamutoi's Lion Camp, was the only one that any of the elders might remember seeing, but Mamut's time with the Clan was when Uba (the grandmother of Iza, Brun and Creb, after whom Ayla's adopted sister was named) had treated him for a broken arm. Like Jerika's parents, it is possible that Ayla's birth tribe was from an area far-removed from the Beran Sea peninsula where her parents died, but this would seem to indicate that Ayla was born along the way. Otherwise, it is unlikely that her parents would have undertaken a long Journey with a small child in tow. It is possible therefore, that Ayla's parents were from Northern Europe or Northwestern Russia; again, unless Auel reveals something about Ayla's parents in the next book, any conclusions about Ayla's parentage are speculative at best.

From maps included in the novels, it appears that Ayla's family camp was north east of what we now call Yalta, on the peninsula on the northern border of the Black sea. The clan's cave was not so far away, and their cave was destroyed in the same earth quake. As she wandered alone, their path's crossed. The new clan cave was found south east of where they found Ayla, a few days walk from the sea, north east of what is now called Sudak. (Although coastlines have changed, maps show they have not changed drastically). To go to the clan gathering, they had to cross the straights which were then connected by salt marshes, then travel south east deep into southern Russia.


The Children of the Great Earth Mother who Hunt Mammoth. The Mamutoi live on the steppes just to the east of the Beran Sea, and utilize every possible part of the giant wooly mammoths which they hunt in their everyday life: from clothing, to food, to shelter, to holy ritual objects. They organize themselves into Camps, and within those Camps they are divided into Hearths. Hearths are identified by animal names: the Crane Hearth, the Lion Hearth, the Aurochs Hearth; Camps are identified by the name of the Hearth of the Camp's leaders. Brothers and sisters share joint leadership of the Camp; a man's heirs are not the children of his own hearth, but rather his sister's children. They hold an annual Summer Meeting, at which ceremonies such as First Rites and Matrimonials take place, as well as organized hunts and games. During the Summer Meeting, the Mamutoi Council of Sisters and Council of Brothers meet, as well as the various members of the Mammoth Hearth. The Mammoth Hearth is the Mamutoi term for the organization of Those Who Serve the Great Earth Mother; the individuals are known as Mamuts. Ayla was adopted into the Mammoth Hearth when she became a member of the Lion Camp by the Camp's Mamut, who was perhaps the oldest living Mamutoi and whose birth name had long since faded from memory. By virtue of his age and spiritual power, he was considered First of the Mammoth Hearth.


Little is revealed about the Sungaea; they appear to share some territory with the Mamutoi, and are perhaps an offshoot of the Mamutoi. Apparently, the Sungaea share the same racial features with the Mamutoi and their language shares common roots (such that upon her first exposure to it, after having learned Mamutoi, Ayla felt there was something familiar about it, like she should be able to understand it, but did not), but their culture (rites, dresses, tools, religion...) are completely different. It seems that the relations between the Mamutoi and the Sungaea are somewhat strained, and the two peoples tend to avoid one another.


The Sharamudoi are a dual society: the combination of the Shamudoi and the Ramudoi. The Shamudoi live on the land, while the Ramudoi live on floating docks moored to the shore of the Great Mother River. While the Shamudoi hunt chamois and have perfected their techniques for curing hides into soft, supple leather, the Ramudoi have perfected a canoe-shaped boat and hunt the giant sturgeon living in the river. An elaborate social arrangement known as 'cross-mating' has been established between the two people, fostering kinship between them: when a Ramudoi couple decides to mate, they 'cross-mate' with a couple among the Shamudoi, and vice versa. During the colder months of the year, the Ramudoi come ashore and live with their cross-mates or other cross-kin. There is a separate leader for both the Ramudoi and Shamudoi, but Those Who Serve the Mother among them are known as Shamuds. Jondalar and his brother Thonolan stayed with the Sharamudoi for several months; Thonolan mated with a Shamudoi woman named Jetamio, who subsequently died in childbirth, and Jondalar took a woman named Serenio for a lover. After Jetamio's death, Jondalar and Thonolan left, and Serenio subsequently mated a Mamutoi cousin of Thonolan's female cross-mate. Her son, Darvalo remained with the Shamudoi.


Very little is known about the Hadumai; Jondalar and his brother stayed with them briefly during their Journey east, and when Jondalar and Ayla began to trek west, they met only with a group of hunters. Haduma, the matriarch of the Hadumai, was the mother of five generations; when Jondalar and Thonolan encountered them, Haduma appealed to Jondalar to be the man at her descendant Noria's First Rites. Haduma wanted Noria to have a child with Jondalar's blue eyes; that child would be her sixth generation. The majority of the Hadumai do not speak any of the languages of their neighbors: only Tamen, Haduma's grandson, could converse with Jondalar and Thonolan through broken but intelligible Zelandonii, as he had journeyed to their lands as a young man. When Jondalar and Ayla encountered the hunters, Tamen was not among them. Through some pantomime and a few proper names, Jondalar was able to learn that Haduma had died since their previous encounter, and surmised that Noria had indeed delivered a baby with his blue eyes as Haduma had wanted. He had no way to confirm this, however, due to the difficulties communicating.


The S'Armunai are first introduced in The Plains of Passage; only one camp was described, though others existed from which the described camp had socially isolated themselves. The language was similar to Mamutoi, and the S'Armunai in general were also mammoth hunters, though the described camp had not done so in some time. The S'Armunai appeared to share some genetic characteristics with the Clan, which indicates that at some point in the past, procreation and possibly mating between the Clan and the S'Armunai was accepted. A young woman of their people named Bodoa was sent to the Zelandonii in order to train with the Zelandonia to become a S'Armuna, or One Who Serves. While there, she nearly became a co-mate of Joconan and Marthona (Joharren's parents), but a promise to her uncle made it impossible and she returned to her people. Years later, a woman named Attaroa killed her own mate, who was leader of the S'Armunai, and set herself up as the leader. Attaroa then began to kill or imprison the S'Armunai men, taking out her anger and hatred for her mate and the men of her family who abused her on all men. It was not until her Wolf Women captured Jondalar that the situation was uncovered, and Attaroa was eventually killed by Wolf for trying to kill Ayla. S'Armuna, who had helped Attaroa out of her own bitterness, was known for developing a process to bake clay bearing mud into pottery (generally of an artistic/spiritual nature, not functional pieces); she began to atone for her own crimes and help the S'Armunai rebuild their previous way of life. Also from the S'Armunai was a man named Andovan, who escaped near the beginning of Attaroa's cruel reign and took in a Clan woman who had been cursed with death and her young son, Echozar. Echozar eventually became a member of the Lanzadonii.


The Earth's Children who live near the high mountains. The Losadunai, due to lingual similarities to Zelandonii, are believed to once have been Zelandonii, just as the Sungaea were possibly once Mamutoi. They live near a natural hot spring, which they use for both ceremonial and recreational purposes. They are best known for developing lye soap, an improvement over soaproot plants, and for their 'burning stones'(coal). They organize themselves into Caves, though the ranking/naming system of the Caves is not specified. Those Who Serve are known as Losadunas.


Founded by Dalanar and Jerika near a large chalk deposit, the First Cave of the Lanzadonii is known for the excellent quality of its flint and its flint knappers. Jondalar was taken in by the Lanzadonii after the scandal with Zolena. Most of the Lanzadonii are former Zelandonii who decided to settle near the flint mine with Dalanar, and they currently still share a common language; it will be a few generations before the Lanzadonii could be considered fully separated from the Zelandonii. During The Shelters of Stone, Dalanar and Jerika came to the Zelandonii Summer Meeting seeking a member of the Zelandonia to become the First Lanzadoni.


The Earth's Children who live in the West. There have been at least twenty-nine caves of the Zelandonii, named in order of establishment (the First and Third Caves, among others, have since died out). Like the Mamutoi, the Zelandonii hold an annual Summer Meeting for First Rites, Matrimonials, hunts, games, and meetings of leaders and the Zelandonia, or Those Who Serve the Mother. The Zelandonii make their homes in the limestone caves of what is now southern France, near the Pyrenees Mountains. Given the large population of Zelandonii, their society is known for being generally prosperous in nearly every respect, and hosts a number of skilled artists and craftsmen. The Ninth Cave, Jondalar's home, lives in the Cave with the Falling Rock, which Ayla began seeing in her visions during the Clan Gathering when she was fourteen and continued to see during her journey westward with Jondalar.


The Aterians are a North African people mentioned in The Mammoth Hunters, obviously identified as the ones who produced the Aterian Culture in Morocco. When Ranec's father Wymez was young, he travelled to their lands after following the Mediterranean coast and spent some years there, where he married a local woman and fathered Ranec (although it is possible that Ranec's mother could come from a different tribe from the south). The Aterians make stone tools using a unique method and built large trading canoes which are used to cross the Gibraltar Strait from time to time. The Aterians were at war with another people when Wymez and his family left them.

Rituals and Beliefs

While there are differences among the various peoples in the details, the majority of the tribes of Others seem to share a common spiritual belief system, and a common set of rituals surrounding those beliefs:

Great Earth Mother

The names of the several tribes are meant to indicate who they are among the Mother's Children, or the Earth's Children. Every tribe believes in the Great Earth Mother and her many gifts, including the Gift of Pleasure. The Gift of Pleasure is how the Others refer to consensual sex, and pleasure given to both parties during copulation is said to please and honor Her. Unlike the Clan, who venerate the Spirit of the Cave Bear as their supreme deity, the Mother is the creator of all life: plant, animal, human. Children are the result of the Mother mixing the spirits of men who have pleased her with the spirits of women who have pleased her, and women are considered Blessed of the Mother. The ceremony of First Rites, discussed below, is meant to open a woman who has begun her monthly cycle so that she might receive the spirits from the Mother and bear children.

First Rites

All tribes encountered in the stories, with the possible exceptions of the S'Armunai and Sungaea, have a ceremony similar to the one known among the Zelandonii as First Rites. Basically the ceremonial deflowering of girls who have just entered puberty, the ceremony is designed to ensure a young woman's first time is gentle and considerate, and that she is properly opened to receive the Blessing of the Mother. It has also become an important test of a woman's character to wait for First Rites, rather than experimenting with sex on one's own; a woman can lose status if she allows herself to be opened before her First Rites. Unless the young woman begins her cycle during the late fall or winter, this ceremony is usually performed during the Summer Meeting, with all of the recently pubescent girls being deflowered on the same night. It is typically considered a breach of custom, if not an outright taboo, for a young woman to become attached to the man of her First Rites; it is a serious taboo for a man to perform First Rites on a girl to whom he is closely related.

Donii Women

While the above term is the Zelandonii phrase for the position, other tribes appear to have a similar concept. Parallel to the Ceremony of First Rites, though not nearly so formalized, is the availability of older women during the Summer Meetings to young pubescent men who must learn how to properly honor the Mother with Her Gift of Pleasure. Unlike First Rites, these women are available to young men during the entire Summer Meeting, and are usually designated by a symbol which they wear, and latter serves as a stimulant to grown men. (For example, Donii women wear a red fringe, which makes fringes particularly exciting to Zelandonii men; Mamutoi women serving in this way dye their feet red with a dye that takes all summer to wear off, making pinkish feet an object of desire amongst the mammoth hunters.) It is considered equally taboo for a young man to become emotionally attached to his donii woman, which was the source of the scandal which resulted in Jondalar living with the Lanzadonii. It is also taboo for a woman to tutor a young man to whom she is closely related in the sexual arts.


Again occurring at the Summer Meetings, Matrimonials are en masse, with many couples mating during the ceremony. Bride Prices, or dowries, are often negotiated beforehand as a means of establishing the status of the parties involved. Matings are neither sexually exclusive nor perpetually binding; it is commonplace for mated men and women to honor the Mother with other members of the Camp/Cave during Mother Festivals. Removing the stones of a man's hearth from her dwelling is a Zelandonii indication that a couple wishes to separate; as the concept of a man's hearth within a woman's home is another apparently universal custom among Cro-Magnon people in Auel's novels, it is likely that a variant of this is true for all tribes.

The Clan

By and large, the Others believe that the Clan of the Cave Bear, to be understood by the readers to be Neanderthals, are not humans, but rather animals. They are generally referred to as 'flatheads', and it is an extreme insult to call a 'human' a flathead. Going out in packs to rape Clan women is equated to baiting rhinos among young men: a dangerous sport, but thrilling. It is unthinkable for a woman to share Pleasures with a flathead man; children of 'mixed spirits' are considered abominations in light of the fact that they are seen as half-animal. Until Ayla introduces the idea, it is generally believed that the Clan have no ability to communicate, no complex concepts similar to the Others, and are simply dangerous animals to be avoided or killed when necessary.

A region inhabited by Clan members but no permanent Earth's Children groups is "Flathead Country". Its size is variable; apparently, the entire Crimean Peninsula is Flathead Country in the books' timeframe.


  1. ^ data, main article: Iron Gate (Danube)

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