Jondalar: Father of All Alphaholes

I always tell people that the first romance novel I ever read was a Loveswept — Joan Pickart’s Warm Fuzzies, which has a hero named Acer Mullaney who talks to a six-foot-tall teddy bear created by the heroine, Lux Sherwood. And it’s true, this was my first romance novel, if you understand “romance novel” in a narrow sense.

But the truth is, my real first romance hero was a seven-foot-tall prehistoric babe-magnet flint knapper with blond hair, a talent for spearing things, and . . . well, a talent for spearing things.

Oh, Jondalar of the Zelandonii. You did give me some tingly moments.

The hair, the furs, the spears — guh. Just, guh.

The fun thing about the age of social media is that you find out that all the books and movies you secretly obsessed about as a precocious girl of ten and never mentioned to anyone, ever, were the exact same things all your Twitter friends obsessed about at the same age. So it is with Jondalar. I have a lot of romance writers and romance readers in my Circle of Twitter, and when I happened to mention Jondalar a few weeks ago, my Tweetstream exploded with fond reminiscence.

Dude, a lot of us were reading Jean M. Auel books back in the day. A lot of us. And it seems that most of us now write romance novels. Go figure.

For the uninitiated, Jondalar is the hero of Auel’s epic Earth’s Children series, which takes place way back when Man had fire and hunting but not metallurgy or the printing press. As Auel would have it, there were two types of two-legged, language-possessing humanoids on the planet at the time, the Flatheads and the Others. The Flatheads were an older, less evolved species. They spoke in signs and had an elaborate ritual culture. Also, they only had sex doggy-style, at the command of the menfolk, who were named things like Broud and Durc. The Others were, as far as I can tell, just like white Europeans, but in animal-skin leggings, and with goddess worship and a lot of sexytimes instead of all that annoying Puritanical crap that came along later.

Ayla, as played by Darryl Hannah. Because why not? She’s blond.

Ayla, the protagonist of the first story, Clan of the Cave Bear, is one of the Others who is found and raised by Flatheads. They think she is ugly, stupid, and clumsy. One of them hates her and serially rapes her. She has his baby, who’s declared a freak and almost left for dead, then near-universally despised. It’s a grim story, and at the end, Ayla gets exiled.

The second novel, The Valley of Horses, is the one where Ayla lives by herself in a valley, domesticates a horse, weaves baskets, tames a lion, susses out how babies are made (hint: it involves semen, not spirits), invents the whole idea of using flint to start fires as well as a variety of other useful household tools, and finally meets Jondalar when her lion kills his brother and strands him with a gaping thigh wound. Luckily, Ayla is a healer. If you rolled your eyes and said “of course she is,” you’re beginning to get the idea.

I never realized this before, but Ayla is a classic romance novel heroine. She’s very smart, but she thinks she’s stupid. She’s tall and muscular and stacked, but she thinks she’s ugly. She’s not a virgin, but she doesn’t understand that sex can be pleasurable. She’s used to being despised and rejected, but she’s totally industrious, competent, and just generally the kind of gal that a guy would want to keep around. She’s lonely and available for the right fellow to come along and plant his flag in her, explorer-style.

Before he was Jondalar the Alphahole, he had an emo teen phase.

And Jondalar . . . oh, Jondalar. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that Jondalar was the Original Alphahole.

Like Ayla, Jondalar is good at everything. He’s the best flint-knapper in all creation, the best spear-thrower, the best virgin deflowerer (iz totally a skill), the best sibling, the best-looking, the best story-teller, and he has the best schlong. It’s a Giant Schlong. No woman can ever take his entire schlong. You know where this is going.

I can hear him saying, “Jondalar doesn’t spoon, baby.”

But as chance would have it, Jondalar, despite being an all-around fabulous guy, is kind of a dick to Ayla. He tries to be nice to her, but she won’t talk to him, and he doesn’t understand her behavior, and he hates being cooped up in her tiny cave while she brings him tea and carries off his waste products and saves him from dying of the enormous gaping lion wound in his thigh. (Oh, and Ayla also invented sutures. Natch.) Then, one day, as his recovery is proceeding apace, Jondalar notices that Ayla’s not bad looking, so he plays grab-ass with her, and she gets all freaked-out and blushing (because she’s a victim of serial rape). That bewilders and upsets him. But she’s so hot, it’s hard for him to keep his hands off her. In fact, it’s starting to look like they just might do the deed when Ayla tells him that she was raised by Flatheads, had sex with one, and gave birth to his baby.

That’s when he calls her “an abomination.”

Cue four hundred pages in which Jondalar desperately wants to have sex with Ayla but can’t because she’s soiled goods.

Now, of course, in the end, he gets over himself, and he introduces her to the art of Pleasures (yes, they’re called that), and there’s a lot of sex that sure did seem graphic at the time. Here’s a moment I remember vividly from the very first sex scene, which involves tongue-circles on the boobs:

Not too shabby, Jondalar.

And here’s the moment when it becomes clear that the Giant Dong of Jondalar fits fully into the Capacious Sheath of Ayla:

 <–and then afterward, the cuddling.

True story: I took this book to Girl Scout camp. One of the counselors saw me reading it, and she said, “Isn’t that book kind of . . . graphic?” And I said, “Yes.” But the truth was, I had no idea what “graphic” meant.

Returning to the subject at hand: Jondalar. He is awesome at everything, petulant on his sick bed, inclined to be handsy and insensitive, rather dense about obvious things, totally dickish on the subject of Ayla’s soiled-ness, and a stickler for foreplay before the plunging. That makes him an Alphahole, right? Kind of a classic Alphahole? Possibly the classic alphahole, since clearly Cave Sex pre-dates all those regencies and even all those medievals?

Yes. I have found the Father of All Alphaholes, and his name is Jondalar.

The longer the series goes on — and it’s still going, and the books keep getting longer and less readable — the more awful he gets, because his primary function, plotwise, is to Be Jealous of Ayla for No Particular Reason. Indeed, Jondalar’s irrational jealousy is the primary conflict engine of every single book that follows Valley of Horses. He is a total whiny baby.

And yet I loved him so much, back then. I still kind of do.

You never forget your first, I guess. And I’m just going to go ahead pretend that it’s a complete coincidence that the boy I gave it up for in college was nearly seven feet tall. And blond.


P.S. Jondalar has a Facebook page.

About Ruthie Knox

Ruthie Knox writes witty, sexy romance novels for grownups. Read more >
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23 Responses to Jondalar: Father of All Alphaholes

  1. Serena Bell says:

    Could not love this post more. And now I understand why my first boyfriend was over six feet and blond. IT ALL MAKES SENSE.

  2. OMG yes yes yes this! The cavedwelling sexytimes were also some of my first graphic readings, and Jondalar is totally the proto-alphahole. Somewhere between this book and Gone With the Wind (which I read at age nine, what WAS my mother thinking?) my sexuality was irrevocably skewed.

    Oh, Rhett! Oh, Jondalar! (bet that’s the first time those two alphaholes have been invoked within a single paragraph).

  3. Eleri Stone says:

    So funny! This was my first sorta-romance too. My mother actually gave it to me when I was about 11 or 12. She didn’t read it, apparently thought it was a bland historical fiction novel and passed it along to me. (My husband is 6+ft tall and blondish but I will NEVER admit to a connection.)

  4. I love Jondalar! I agree that the abomination comment was cruel but I wouldn’t call him an alphahole. I didn’t see him as arrogant, dominating or sexist. Emo, yes. Maybe I need to reread? I don’t even remember him being grabby with Ayla. I do remember him doing his “duty” to deflower a lot of underage cavebabes. Oh Jondalar.

  5. Lisa Hutson says:

    I dont believe you say how old you were when reading these. Girl Scout camp, I know. Anyway…wanna know what I get from this….all of ”those” people that say this kind of reading leads to unhealthy sexual behavior, too young, too much, etc. They say young girls should not read such books. And yet, you didnt ”give it up” until college. I love that. I also love that the Girl Scout leader knew plenty about that book. hehe
    Thanks for sharing, Ruthie.

    • Ruthie Knox says:

      I think I was around ten. And while I applaud the sentiment, Lisa, I probably would’ve given it up sooner if anybody had any interest in it. Still, I don’t think my reading choices had anything to do with my sexual behavior. I was–and remain–perfectly capable of telling the difference between life and fiction.

  6. Emily Greenwood says:

    Soo funny, Ruthie! I remember seeing those Cave Bear books around all the time, but they looked so boring to me–I think someone told me the characters didn’t speak much, and so I couldn’t imagine what the heck they were doing all time. And now I know :-)

    • Ruthie Knox says:

      Now you know! Though really, the balance is about 5% pleasures, 10% action, 85% boring landscape description. Except in Clan of the Cave Bear, which is actually quite good.

  7. Tatiana says:

    I remember Jondalar and Ayla fondly, even though I discovered them in my twenties. I agree with you that he may have been the first alphahole :-))

    I hate to bi nit-picky, but the series has ended fairly recently – the last book “The Land of Painted Caves” came out last November, and I am sorry to say, has been a monumental disappointment to me and many many other fans, if reviews are to be believed.

    Thanks for reminding me of Jondalar :-)

  8. OMG so true! I think these were my first sexy times in a book too and my mom and I were both reading them. I think it was right when I finished high school because I named my first kitty I had on my own Ayla. It’s been so long since I read these I didn’t remember him that way only that he was HOT! I wonder what I’d think on a reread… I remember just loving this series…

  9. Read them. Loved them. Lived them. Well, all except that last one. (Gingers, yes; blondes, no). But yes, I was obsessed with these books. I think I still have my old copies somewhere….

  10. willaful says:

    I’ve never read this kind of book. (No doubt why I only read romance and don’t write it.) Thanks for excerpting and illustrating all the Good Parts so I don’t have to.

    • Oh, and she didn’t even delve into (sorry, had to) the whole thing with how Jondalar is more or less the Official Traveling Virgin Deflowerer™ of his clan. Because of the hugeness and mightiness (yet insanely honed control) of his schlong.

      Which is what all men really want. A girl who has been pre-deflowered, with guaranteed orgasm, by a dude with an enormous wang who really knows how to use it. Well, at least the first half of it or so.

  11. A Voracious Reader says:

    I loved this! I was nodding my head and thinking to myself, ‘Why didn’t I see that?!’ LOL I read the CotCB when it came out and I was 14. I agree that CotCB was the best book of the series, but I did enjoy TVoH and TMH. The rest were eh, though I do have a fondness in my heart for the series and for Jondalar. In fact, Ayla reminds me a lot of Anita Blake which despite the problems in that series is still a favorite of mine. I’m glad I love some really good series or I’d start to develop a complex about my taste in books.

  12. Erin Satie says:

    I read the Clan of the Cave Bear books back in sixth grade. There were four out at the time. And then I re-read them over and over again for years. I still think the word “pleasure” sounds dirty and kind of snicker to myself whenever I say it.

    On the plus side: I had two majors in college but one of them was anthropology, and I blame that ENTIRELY on the Clan of the Cave Bear books. I took a course on human evolution for a requirement and couldn’t stop – I think because all those hours spent reading caveman sex had programmed me to find the topic fascinating.