This is the final book in the Earth's Children series and it follows the journey of Ayla, as she attempts to become a Zelandonia (read: medicine woman) of her adopted tribe the Zelandonii. Ayla must survive in a prehistoric world in which danger lurks at every corner and life is dependent upon gathering from the land, while going through rigorous training which will test all of the skills that she has developed to date. Most people who train for the Zelandonii are not mated, let alone have children and so this journey will test Ayla's relationship with Jondalar - the first human she met after being expelled from the Clan. Will Ayla finally come full circle and be welcomed and cherished by the others from whom she was seperated from so many years ago?
I know that normally when we a review a series, we start with book one and follow through until the end but because I first read clan of the Cave Bear when I was a pre-teen and didn't know until recently that Auel had finally gotten around to finishing the series, starting at the beginning just felt like too much. Including a review of The Land of Painted Caves is a bit of a stretch on Fangs for the Fantasy given that it's not exactly paranormal; however, it does fall clearly into the realm of historical fantasy. Auel has clearly done a lot of research into the tools used in prehistoric times and created a world which includes a creation myth and a religion that we can only imagine because not much survives from this time.
The Land of Painted Caves is seven hundred and fifty-seven pages long and could easily have been cut down by a minimum of three hundred pages. It was only my determination to see this story through to the end because of the fact that I started this series so young which caused me to persevere to the end. It's quite possible to skip entire pages at a time and not miss a single thread of the story. The Land of Painted Caves is absolutely the definition of over written and pointless.
It's not surprising that given the fact that modern science as we understand it is thousands of years away in The Land of Painted Caves that Auel had her characters worship natural spirits. It makes sense to me that Auel had the Zelandonii practice a form of earth based religion; however, said worship quickly became tedious. Because the Zelandonii are in a pre written word stage of development, they practice an oral tradition of passing on information. Auel took this oral tradition too far because she insisted on writing "The Mother's Song" repeatedly throughout the novel.
Out of the darkness, the chaos of time,
the whirlwind gave birth to the Mother sublime.
She woke to Herself knowing life had great worth,
the dark empty void grieved the Great Mother Earth.
The Mother was lonely. She was the only.
From the dust of Her birth she created the other,
A pale shining friend, a companion, a brother.
They grew up together, learned to love and to care,
And when She was ready, they decided to pair.
Around Her he'd hover. Her pale shining lover.
She was happy at first with her one counterpart.
Then the Mother grew restless, unsure in Her heart.
She loved Her fair friend, Her dear complement,
But something was missing, Her love was unspent.
She was the Mother. She needed another.
She dared the great void, the chaos, the dark,
To find the cold home of the life-giving spark.
The whirlwind was fearsome, the darkness complete.
Chaos was freezing, and reached for Her heat.
The mother was brave. the danger was grave.
She drew from cold chaos the creative source,
Then conceiving within, She fled with life force.
She grew with life that She carried inside.
And gave of Herself with love and with pride.
The Mother was hearing. her life She was sharing.
With a thunderous roar Her stones split asunder,
And from the great cave that opened deep under,
She birthed once again from her cavernous heart,
Bringing forth all the creatures of Earth from the start,
From the Mother forlorn, more children were born.
Each child was different, some were large and some small,
Some could walk and some fly, some could swim and some crawl.
But each form was perfect, each spirit complete,
Each one was a model whose shape could repeat.
The Mother was willing. The green earth was filling,
All the birds an the fish and the animals born,
Would not leave the Mother, this time, to mourn.
Each kind would live near the place of its birth,
And share the expanse of the Great Mother Earth.
Close to Her they would stay. They could not run away.
They all were her children, they filled her with pride
But they used up the life force she carried inside.
She had enough left for a last innovation,
A child who'd remember Who made the creation,
A child who'd respect. And learn to protect.
First Woman was born full frown and alive,
And given the Gifts she would need to survive.
Life was the First Gift, and like Mother Earth,
She woke to herself knowing life had great worth.
First Woman defined. The first of her kind.
Next was the Gift of Perception, of learning,
The desire to know, the Gift of Discovering,
First Woman was given the knowledge within,
That would help her to live, then impart to her kin.
First Woman would know. How to learn, how to grow.
Her life force near gone, the Mother was spent,
To pass on Life's Spirit had been Her intent.
She caused all of Her children to create life anew,
And Woman was blessed to bring forth life, too.
But Woman was lonely. She was the only.
The Mother remembered Her own loneliness
The love of Her friend and his hovering caress,
With the last spark remaining, Her labor began,
To share life with Woman, She created First Man.
Again She was giving, One more was living.
To Woman and Man the Mother gave birth,
And then for their home, She gave them the Earth,
The water, the land, and all Her creation.
To use them with care was their obligation.
It was their home to use, But never abuse.
For the Children of Earth the Mother provided,
The Gifts to survive, and then She decided,
To give them the Gift of Pleasure and caring,
That honors the Mother with the joy of their sharing.
The Gifts are well earned, When honor's returned.
The Mother was pleased with the pair she created,
She taught them to love and to care when they mated.
She mad them desire to join with each other,
The Gift of their Pleasures came from the Mother.
Before She was through, Her children loved too.
Her last Gift, the Knowledge that man has his part.
His need must be spent before new life can start.
It honors the Mother when the couple is paired,
Because woman conceived when Pleasures are shared.
Earth's Children were blessed. The could rest.
Reading this horrendous poem one time in an over seven hundred word tome, is not necessarily a bad thing but reading it repeatedly because for some bizarre reason, Auel was determined that readers be beat over the head with her creation myth is just not forgivable. I perhaps could have gotten over the poem that just wouldn't end if Auel didn't decide to send Ayla on a tour of supposed sacred caves. On Ayla's first trip in, I read through the speculation as to why there were paintings on the cave walls, as well as justifications as to why said cave was supposedly sacred (note: because of echos apparently) and I really was fine with it but by about the tenth cave I was done. I found myself begging for mercy. How many times does one have to read about how amazing the long forgotten artist was or how important it was to create an echo to prove sacredness? Give it a rest already. By the half way point, anytime they entered a cave I started skimming for the sake of my own sanity.