But one of the most interesting things about this genre of fiction is its forays into anthropological guess work. There is much extrapolation built on real scientific evidence as to how prehistoric people lived and grew. So it is a nice blending of fiction with a smattering of scientific fact.
This blending of science and fantasy is nicely shown in the banner novel of the genre "The Clan of the Cave Bear:" by Jean M. Auel. In it the main character is a Cro-magnon girl who is orphaned and taken in by a clan of Neanderthal people and Auel explores the hypothetical differences between Cro-magnon and Neanderthal, particularly in the way they think and learn about the world. The novel nicely shows how inferior brain ability lead to the downfall and eventual demise of Neanderthal.
The whole genre is actually quite a pleasure to read if you like a bit of science in your fantasy reading and although I wouldn't classify it as "Science Fiction" it makes a nice escape from the typical science fiction fare without giving up the science.
When her parents are killed by an earthquake, 5-year-old Ayla wanders through the forest completely alone. Cold, hungry, and badly injured by a cave lion, the little girl is as good as gone until she is discovered by a group who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, have little interest in the helpless girl who comes from the tribe they refer to as the "Others." Only their medicine woman sees in Ayla a fellow human, worthy of care. She painstakingly nurses her back to health--a decision that will forever alter the physical and emotional structure of the clan. Although this story takes place roughly 35,000 years ago, its cast of characters could easily slide into any modern tale. The members of the Neanderthal clan, ruled by traditions and taboos, find themselves challenged by this outsider, who represents the physically modern Cro-Magnons. And as Ayla begins to grow and mature, her natural tendencies emerge, putting her in the middle of a brutal and dangerous power struggle.
The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first novel in the Earth's Children Series
The Books in the Series in the order they were written:
- The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children (Paperback))
- The Valley of Horses
- The Mammoth Hunters (Earth's Children (Paperback))
- The Plains of Passage (Earth's Children)
- The Shelters of Stone (Earth's Children, Book 5)
There are some other great writers and works in the genre of Prehistoric Fantasy and they include:
This is a series of books that take place in Prehistoric North America with American Indians.
The Books in the First North Americans Series
- People of the Wolf (The First North Americans series, Book 1)
- People of the Fire (The First North Americans series, Book 2)
- People of the Earth (The First North Americans series, Book 3)
- People of the River (The First North Americans series, Book 4)
- People of the Sea (The First North Americans series, Book 5)
- People of the Lakes (The First North Americans series, Book 6)
- People of the Lightning (The First North Americans series, Book 7)
- People of the Silence (The First North Americans series, Book 8)
- People of the Mist (The First North Americans series, Book 9)
- People of the Masks (The First North Americans, Book 10)
- People of the Owl (The First North Americans Series)
- People of the Raven (First North Americans)
- People of the Moon (First North Americans)
Prehistoric Fantasy in the Movies
Prehistoric fantasy has had a small amount of success in the movies and usually it is fodder for comedies ala Ringo Starr in Caveman. But there has been some good work that still retains the flavor of prehistoric times with the meshing of good scientific extrapolation and conjecture. Probably the best example of this is the movie Quest for Fire which starred a young Rae Dawn Chong.
Clan of the Cave Bear Was made into a major motion picture in 1986 and released onto DVD in 1989. It starred Daryl Hannah and was considered to be a big box office flop.