Notable Oregonians: Jean Auel - Writer
Jean Marie Untinen was born February 18, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois, the second of five children. Her father was a housepainter. After high school she married Ray Bernard Auel and raised five children of her own. She earned her masters degree in 1976 after attending night school while working for a Portland electronics firm. At that time she quit her job in order to find "more suitable work."
Research for a short story about a prehistoric girl eventually led to a novel. The first draft ran to 450,000 words in six parts. In the rewriting process, Auel decided that each part was actually a novel in itself, which led to the outline for a series of six books. Her first book, Clan of the Cave Bear, was published in 1980 and stayed on the bestseller list for eight months. The story takes place around 35,000 to 25,000 years ago in the late Pleistocene epoch (the Ice Age) in prehistoric Europe. It is about a Cro-Magnon girl named Ayla and her interaction with Neanderthals, her environment, and finally with other Cro-Magnon people. The book was later adapted into a 1986 film of the same name.
Auel's research has taken her to prehistoric sites in France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Germany. Through her studies she has also developed skills such as how to knapp flint; construct snow caves; tan hides; and gather and prepare wild foods, medicinal plants, and herbs.
Auel's other books include The Valley of the Horses (1982), The Mammoth Hunters (1985), Plains of Passage (1990), and The Shelters of Stone (2002). The sixth and final book in the series, The Land of Painted Caves, was released in 2011.