The beautiful thing about books, for me, is the power there is in rereading them. There’s books that feel like old friends, that I’ll pick up every once in a while and read, even though I’ve plowed through them 20 times before. And each time I read them, they’ll make sense to me in different ways. At different times in life, there’s different things I notice. Different lessons to learn. Different nuances to discover. And sometimes, suddenly, after seeing the same words for 20 times – puzzle pieces fall into place because everything suddenly makes sense. I LOVE IT.
The Clan of the Cave Bear is one of these old friends. Hell, we even watched the Daryl Hannah movie during historie class in high school! (Can you just imagine the whooping and cheering at the hump-scene. Hilarious!)
Prehistoric fiction in it’s purest form, and thus deliciously awesome in many a way. They were published 30 years ago – so I’m not apologizing for the many spoilers in this blog. Mostly because after a certain time, things become public knowledge enough to not warrant spoiler alerts. I mean – no one hides the fact that Darth Vader is Lukes father anymore either, right ;).
I first read this when I was somewhere in my teens. My grandmother (or a family friend, the memory is fuzzy) owned the entire series and I’d borrow them to read. As an early teen – my first read-throughs of the books were…well. Porn. Because damn, these Earth Children went at it like bunnies. In all the ways that’d get an inexperienced girl-that-couldn’t-talk-to-boys hot and bothered. I definitely picked up some foreplay demands from Jondalar. Kudos on that man and his tongue.
When I was reading them throughout college I’d mostly reread the second book where Ayla spends her time in the Valley of the Horses because the strong and independent huntress style really suited me. I loved the descriptions of the surroundings. The attention to details and the crafting she did. Bringing up a small lion? Awesome! Plus, the gooey romance between her and Jondalar? Yes please.
But I’ve picked up the books again these past few months. And I’ve been reading them so. entirely. different. This time round. Because, these books turn out to be very helpful in making sense of my brush with polyamory and my following struggles. Because, as it turns out, this fight between mono- and poly-loving has been around since the Stone Age. And fucked up people then, too.
(And for everyone going: YIKES! at the notion of polyamory. This quote was very fitting. It might not work for me as a principle of love, but casting it aside entirely as wrong: unnecessary. But it works the other way around too. Holding on to monogamous needs and wants is not wrong either. Choosing what is YOU, is important. I gained my importance, this past year.)
He began to understand that just because some people thought certain behavior was wrong, that didn’t make it so. A person could resist popular belief and stand up for personal principles, and though there might be consequences, not everything would be necessarily lost. In fact, something important might be gained, if only within oneself.”
― Jean M. Auel, The Mammoth Hunters
You see, for about a year, I opened up my mind to the concepts of polyamorous loving, much like Jondalar and Ayla. I found myself dating a man that already had a partner. And wanted even more of ’em. One that saw my monogamous views of love as a handicap, while I found his polyamorous ways (in the end) inconceivable and unbearable. Yep. Great basis for success, right? Yeah yeah, we were idiots.
It’s an impossible divide – take it from me. And much like me – Jondalar experiences this same internal fight throughout books three and four. Living in a an era and community where polyamory, having several wives, and free loving is all fine (and actively partaken in by him before) – he finds himself stuck because all he suddenly wants . Needs. Sees. Craves. Is Ayla.
After years of carelessly moving in a polyamorous setting he suddenly experiences himself as being mono-as-fuck. Wanting her and only her, all to himself. And that causes all sorts of trouble.
No matter how much he gets the concept of polyamory. Knows how it works. Sees what might happen and why. Understands why it’s not wrong. He can be accepting of it just fine but at the same time personally incapable of living that way. Wise lesson. They, however, make it through all of it (unlike yours truly, sadly). Together. (Monogamously (just sayin’)).
I empathize with Jondalar in a great many ways. Just like I do with Ayla in others. All throughout his life he felt out of place. Hiding the strength of his emotions for all but those closest to him. Lover of many, but in love with none. He could not find a partner to bear the full brunt of his love, and as such, he ‘loved‘ freely. Breaking all the hearts around him for not returning the favor.
All his emotions were too powerful. Even his mother had felt forced to put a distance between them, and she had watched with silent sympathy when friends backed off because he clung too fiercely, loved too hard, demanded too much of them.”
― Jean M. Auel, The Valley of Horses
Until he met Ayla.
It kind of hurts, I guess, seeing that transformation in Jondalar. Seeing him cast aside his open mind to focus his entire being solely on Ayla. Choosing her. Seeing him go through the change I’d love to have seen in my ex. The change I myself went through, just the same. Because she inspired such love in a man who had too much to begin with. Goosebumps!
I feel that to my core. I never really connected to people very deeply. Never loved fully. Never understood possessiveness and jealousy much. So I found myself being open to trying this poly thing, because hey, I wouldn’t really care too much. Until I did. And that’s when I broke down in much the same way as Jondalar. While my Ayla didn’t.
“She loved him, more than she could ever find words for, but this love he felt for her was not quite the same. It wasn’t so much stronger, as more demanding, more insistent. As though he feared he would lose that which he had finally won.”
― Jean M. Auel, The Mammoth Hunters
And at the same time I also connect to Ayla. Ayla wants nothing more than to learn about a new lifestyle. His world. Wants nothing more than adapt to what that new society expects, while all the while thinking about nothing else than Jondalar, wishing it was just the two of them. Yup. Also me. These damn books suddenly pinpoint all the struggles I’ve experienced for the past year and shed clarity on them. With ways to handle issues AND tips on how NOT to handle them. It’s insane!
So now I find myself reading books three and four, where previously I’d stuck solely to book 2 in the past decade. And I KNOW that books five and six might probably hold future lessons, seeing as that’s when the baby struggles begin.
Oh god. What if I’ll be writing this same blog in 5 years – but then zoom in on the wise lessons I learned about the to-baby-or-not-to-baby puzzle – straight from my Stone Age friends. Guess we didn’t really evolve all that much, yet. Anyone else feel a sudden hankering for Mammoth meat and wearing loincloths?