We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Fire in the Stone

Prehistoric Fiction from Charles Darwin to Jean M. Auel

Nicholas Ruddick

Publication Year: 2009

The genre of prehistoric fiction contains a surprisingly large and diverse group of fictional works by American, British, and French writers from the late nineteenth century to the present that describe prehistoric humans. Nicholas Ruddick explains why prehistoric fiction could not come into being until after the acceptance of Charles Darwin's theories, and argues that many early prehistoric fiction works are still worth reading even though the science upon which they are based is now outdated. Exploring the history and evolution of the genre, Ruddick shows how prehistoric fiction can offer fascinating insights into the possible origins of human nature, sexuality, racial distinctions, language, religion, and art. The book includes discussions of well-known prehistoric fiction by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, J.-H. Rosny Aine, Jack London, William Golding, Arthur C. Clarke, and Jean M. Auel and reminds us of some unjustly forgotten landmarks of prehistoric fiction. It also briefly covers such topics as the recent boom in prehistoric romance, notable prehistoric fiction for children and young adults, and the most entertaining movies featuring prehistoric humans. The book includes illustrations that trace the changing popular images of cave men and women over the past 150 years.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: Early Classics of Science Fiction


pdf iconDownload PDF (233.8 KB)
pp. i-vii


pdf iconDownload PDF (83.0 KB)
pp. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (94.6 KB)
pp. xi-xii

At the beginning of H. G. Wells’s story “The Grisly Folk” (1921) the narrator, contemplating the scanty remains of prehistoric human beings in a museum case, borrows the words of the prophet Ezekiel to ask, “Can these bones live?” (607). By the end of the story, the long dead relics do seem to have come back to life. The narrator, acting as ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (74.1 KB)
pp. xv-xvi

I originally planned this book to show how the enlarged temporality opened up by the Darwinian revolution acted upon the imagination of the later nineteenth century and in the process brought the genre of science fiction into being. The first half was to have been on the fiction of our prehuman origins, the second on the fiction of our ...

read more

Notes on References

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.3 KB)
pp. xvii

In the main text and endnotes, the abbreviation “q.v.” following a name refers to the entry headed by that name in the Works Cited section. It is used chiefly to refer to whole works or to identify unpaginated sources such as Websites. If unfamiliar foreign words or phrases...

read more

Introduction: The Fiction of Hominization

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.8 KB)
pp. 1-13

Prehistoric fiction will here be taken to consist of novels and stories about prehistoric human beings.1 For reasons soon to be made clear, none of these works is more than 150 years old. Most are set, however, a very long time ago during human prehistory; that is, during the period between the emergence of the first hominids and the invention ...


read more

1. From Boitard’s Paris before Man to London’s Before Adam

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.8 MB)
pp. 17-47

The central issue of the first French pf was the existence of the “fossil man” so categorically denied by Cuvier.1 Paris avant les hommes (Paris before man) (1861) by Pierre Boitard (1789–1859) was a posthumously published work by a writer who died in the annus mirabilis. Though no literary masterpiece, “the first Darwinian narrative” ...

read more

2. From Rosny’s First Artist to del Rey’s Last Neanderthal

pdf iconDownload PDF (417.8 KB)
pp. 48-68

The most important figure in French pf is J.-H. Rosny aîné (Rosny the elder; 1856–1940), who was also a leading figure in the development of French sf. Rosny is little known in the English-speaking world, though there is a strong argument for considering him more accomplished than Jules Verne at deriving aesthetically successful fictional ...

read more

3. From Fisher’s “Testament of Man” to Auel’s “Earth’s Children”

pdf iconDownload PDF (525.0 KB)
pp. 69-99

In September 1940 four French teenaged boys, searching for a dog that had trapped itself in a hole on a hillside in the upper V


read more

4. Nature and Human Nature

pdf iconDownload PDF (317.9 KB)
pp. 103-124

Many of those great literary works that succeed in offering profound insights into human nature, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603–4), Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866), or Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1890), do so very indirectly. Such works provide elaborate psychological portraits of protagonists whose difference from the average ...

read more

5. Sex and Gender

pdf iconDownload PDF (644.1 KB)
pp. 125-151

The biblical account of human origin, while vague about many other aspects of the divine creation, is unequivocal about how there came to be two human sexes and what the difference between them signifies. A male God first created from the dust of the earth a male human being in his image to tend Eden. Later, as an afterthought, he created ...

read more

6. Race or the Human Race

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.7 KB)
pp. 152-172

No nineteenth-century thinker was more committed to demolishing the prejudices generated by the scriptural account of human origins nor more eloquent in his appeal to educated people to subscribe to the Darwinian “New Reformation” than T. H. Huxley. It was Huxley who in Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature concluded that there was no ...

read more

7. A Cultural Triad: Language, Religion, Art

pdf iconDownload PDF (195.7 KB)
pp. 173-197

In Huxley’s view, Victorian man’s humiliation at his discovery of his cousinship to the lower animals might be partly assuaged by the realization that he is a member of a uniquely gifted species: “He alone possesses the marvelous endowment of intelligible and rational speech, whereby . . . he has slowly accumulated and organized the experience ...

read more

Coda: Baxter’s Evolution and Post-Hominization

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.5 KB)
pp. 198-205

Our highly adaptable species has, to adapt Darwin’s preferred terminology, descended with many modifications, some of them possibly unprecedented in Nature. If we are to survive into futurity, then further modifications must surely occur. What they will be is unforeseeable, but it is safe to say that if we endure, it will likely be in a posthuman ...

A Prehistoric Chronology

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.7 KB)
pp. 207-212


pdf iconDownload PDF (151.6 KB)
pp. 213-229

Works Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (150.2 KB)
pp. 231-245

Illustration Credits

pdf iconDownload PDF (74.4 KB)
pp. 247-248


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 249-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780819569721
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819569004

Page Count: 292
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Early Classics of Science Fiction