Journal for the Study of Religion

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Religion in the Earth’s Children Series of Books by Jean M. Auel

M Clasquin-Johnson


The Earth’s Children series of prehistoric novels by Jean M. Auel, beginning with The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980) and culminating in The Land of Painted Caves (2010), contains a compelling vision of two species of human practising two utterly different kinds of religion. On the one hand there are the Neanderthals, who practice a pure totemism, while on the other there are the anatomically modern humans, whose religion centres on the worship of an Earth Goddess. Auel’s heroine, Ayla, straddles both religious spheres, but she herself initiates a crisis within the anatomically modern human religious world. This article examines the different fictional religions in these popular and influential books, considers the sources Auel drew on in creating them and considers the influence these books may exert on public understanding of religion, including among future cohorts of students of religion.

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