Victor Forbin
Les Fiancées du Soleil
(1923) 1925
preliminary material and opening page...




Edited with introduction, notes,
Exercises and vocabulary


Head of Department of Ancient and Modern Languages
Central High School, Philadelphia, Pa.

New York
Henry Holt and Company

Copyright 1925


Henry Holt and Company

April, 1925


Henry Fairfield Osborn

Un Éléve,


THIS extraordinary book has attracted much attention in the scientific world from scholars whose field of research lies in ancient geologic time and concerns the dawn of the human race. It is rare that a charming work of fiction is, at the same time, absolutely accurate scientifically. Letters have poured in upon the author from prominent savants, both American and English, urging that the book be made accessible to the young, whose knowledge of the progress of mankind in the arts of civilization is, to say the least, hazy, and to whom the study of formal paleontology would prove as dry as the bones with which the science deals. This delightful novel clothes these bones with vivid life.

Some excisions have been made from the full text, but nothing is omitted that mars in the slightest degree the smooth flow of the story. The notes are brief; the vocabulary full and complete, designed as a real working vocabulary and consequently taking the place of more extended notes. The exercises are based upon the subject matter and are planned to drill the pupil particularly in syntax and idiom.

M. Forbin has graciously delegated to the present editor the pleasant task — or rather privilege — of preparing the book for American schools and colleges.

I desire to express my thanks to my colleague, Dr. Oswald Robert Kuehne, for his skilled and careful assistance in the reading of the proofs.

B. W. M.

Sept. 1924




En Guise de Prologue
Le Depart des Chasseurs
Dans le Village des Troglodytes
A la Piste des Mammouths
Sous le Coup de la Loi
Les Confidences du Crapaud à l'Églantine
La Danse sacrée sous les grands Chênes
Dans la Caverne où parlent les Dieux
Le Peuple, souverain Juge
Quand les Dieux se vengent
Sous la Chanson du Rouge-gorge
L'Ascension de l'Homme-Dieu . . . .
Les Revenants au Fond des Bois
La Race implore . . . La Race maudit
Le Réveil de 1'Homme-Dieu
L'Espérance a ses Ivresses
Entre l'Amour et la Race . .



VICTOR FORBIN was born in Paris, October 1, 1864. He is one of those writers who have sprung late in life into a sudden and brilliant popularity.

Literature is a distillation of the experiences of life: and rarely has a man lived a richer and more crowded life than M. Forbin. He was the fourth of a family of twelve children; "the only one," he tells, "that my dear father and mother could afford to send to college." His good fortune was short-lived, however; for though he was a brilliant student he was soon compelled to leave college and work for a living, giving his nights to writing poetry and stories. It is a curiously interesting fact that most of the successful modern novelists of France began their literary apprenticeship by writing poetry. Those great masters of fiction, Anatole France, Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant, Paul Bourget and many others first attempted to express themselves in verse. At twenty young Forbin became discouraged, and resolved to try his luck "in some dangerous country," in the hope of soon earning a competence and of returning to literature and to France. He passed several years in Colombia working with a gold mining company. He lived among wild Indians. He was successively a Colonel in a Latin-American army, a professor of chemistry and painting in a South American college, an editor-in-chief in another country — drifting ever.

Several times he believed himself on the point of getting sufficient capital to return to France and live his literary dream. Each time he was ruined by a revolution. The last time it was at Port-au-Prince, where he had a tremendous success starring in his own play; a drama in which he attempted to educate the Haytians against the danger of too frequent civil wars — a bit of altruism foredoomed to failure, on the face of it. He passed two years in the United States, studying. He was living in New York at the outbreak of the Spanish war, and served in the American army. He then returned to Paris, where he married and was blessed with five children. "I had to work very hard to raise them decently," he says naïvely.

Success now came rapidly, and he soon became "a kind of king in magazinedom." Then came the world-war; and again he was ruined financially. Finally; two years ago, his eldest sons being graduated from college, he allowed himself to write a little for his own pleasure, in addition to his staff work for the great Parisian periodical, l'Illustration. The result was his frst novel, Les Fiancées du Soleil (1923).

M. Forbin is an accomplished linguist, speaking and writing a number of languages. He learned. English by himself with the aid of old American magazines discovered in a deserted hut in the mountains of Ecuador; and the degree of his success may be appreciated from the beauty and accuracy of his correspondence in English. He writes to his friends each in his own tongue.

It was during his period of study in America that he came under the influence, intellectual and scientific, of Henry Fairfield Osborn, probably the greatest of living paleontologists. An intense interest in human paleontology colors all M. Forbin's fiction, and Les Fiancées du Soleil (The Sun-Brides) is dedicated to his distinguished. preceptor.

This extraordinary bit of fiction deals with the period of Cro-Magnon man, who has left for our amazed admiration the beautifully accurate wall drawings and carvings of the Dordogne arid other caverns. The walls of cliff and of cave constituted the only flattened surfaces that the primitive artist knew, and he used them freely. "Primitive art," says Royal Cortissoz, "accentuates the wall and decorates it with colors and rhythms of lines." The rhythm of the Cro-Magnon's lines fell into the shapes of the great beasts of the early Quaternary Age, now extinct in western Europe; the aurochs, the cave bear, the mammoth, a huge hairy elephant with enormous and gracefully recurved tusks. The reindeer then ranged far to the South, and wild horses roamed the land. All are spiritedly depicted in the wall drawings.

The Cro-Magnon race was vastly superior in physical and mental development to their predecessors, men of the Neanderthal type — the Groindis of M. Forbin's romance — whom they probably enslaved and certainly engulfed and destroyed. Of these Cro-Magnon men Dr. Osborn writes: "Preceding our own race by from ten to twenty thousand years was that of the art-loving Cro-Magnons, the post-glacial inhabitants of all western Europe. The intelligence and the artistic and spiritual qualities of the Cro-Magnon race are most surprising. With a body like our own and a brain at least as large as ours, superior individuals of this race would. have been capable of becoming senior wranglers at any of our modern universities . . . The Cro-Magnons came to Europe from Asia, appearing first as a wave of immigration, a rising tide that spread westward from an ancestral home on the Asiatic continent."

Western Europe in those ancient days must have been a highly interesting land for a race of hunters. The great ice sheet was shrinking away to the northward, and the climate was therefore much colder than at present. Following the retreat of the ice came vast herds of reindeer, giant elk, huge mammoths, aurochs, bisons, horses; and preying on these, lions, tigers, bears, wolves, hyenas. The men were nomads, mainly cave-dwellers, with rudimentary social life and religious ideas. They possessed no domestic animals or cultivated plants. They used only rudely dressed weapons and implements of stone. But they were endowed with a strong artistic feeling which expressed itself in drawings, carvings and decorations testifying to remarkable skill. In such a setting M. Forbin has cast the characters of his romance.

Les Fiancées du Soleil is at once a novel of vivid action, of stirring adventure, of tender sentiment and of absolute scientific accuracy. Every act performed by the men and women of the hero race is such an act as a race at the Cro-Magnon stage of evolution did undoubtedly perform. Of the tribal customs described, we of course know nothing except by inference. But M. Forbin, fine anthropologist that he is, has an actual parallel among living savage tribes for every custom portrayed. The weapons and utensils of the Cro-Magnon period are well known to us from the cave deposits.*

In construction of plot and in character drawing the utmost literary skill is displayed. The men and women of the story live and breathe. The splendid bravery and loyalty of Kouah, the tender mother-love of Talamara, the vengeful resentment, haughtiness and repentance of Minati, are unsurpassed in fiction. In this drama of another world, played on so strange a stage, the selection of appropriate proper names is a serious problem. This problem M. Forbin has beautifully solved. His place names he adapted from the ancient Celtic forms which passed, through the medium of Latin, into the modern names. The choice of names of persons is singularly happy. Avoiding any attempt at representing hoary antiquity by crude monosyllabic names — such as the meaningless "Ab" of Stanley Waterloo — M. Forbin has devised a double source for them. Some he has formed by composition from Sanskrit roots. These are beautifully significant, describing in a word the character of the persons who bear them. The French equivalents given for these names are, however, wholly fanciful and not translations of the names themselves, but they are exactly such appellatives as are found among the American Indians of the present day. Some of the cries, also, and half-articulate patois of the Groindis consist of significant Sanskrit roots joined together with intentional crudity, but inherently expressive.

The language is present-day French at its purest, simple and direct. It is not loaded down with the mass of difficult idioms, bordering closely upon argot (slang), which cumber so much of the ultra-modern French fiction, idioms which defy analysis and are almost unintelligible to one who is not, from long residence, skilled in the swift give-and-take of the boulevards of Paris. It offers itself admirably as the model for composition and conversation upon the subject matter. The diction is singularly rich; though there are but three or four words, notwithstanding the unusual theme, which are not to be found in the average school dictionary of French.

Two other romances by M. Forbin will, it is to be hoped, soon appear, both dealing with the development of life and man. They are as follows; Le Secret de la Vie, the action of which is placed on a desert island near the Venezuelan coast, and La Chanson du Puits, with the action laid in France. Still another is in preparation, as yet untitled, dealing with primitive man and having its scene laid in the Arctic.

* Those who care to pursue the subject farther than fictional treatment permits are referred to the great work of Marcellin Boule, Fossil Men. (English translation by J.E. and J. Ritchie.)



La France est lé Berceau de l'Art: c'est` dans nos cavernes de la Dordogne que les archéologues ont découvert les plus vieilles fresques et les plus vieilles sculptures.

La race qui élabora ces chefs-d'oeuvre est désormais identifiée, grâce à ses squelettes fossiles; on la désigne du nom de Crô-Magnon. Comment trouva-t-elle le temps de créer l'Art, au milieu du rude combat qu'elle dut livrer aux animaux monstrueux qui hantaient alors notre pays, et aux races, plus simiesques qu'humaines, qui l'avaient précédée dans l'Occident de l'Europe? L'arc, qu'elle inventa, fut probablement pour elle l'Armé dé la Victoire.

Il est impie, anti-scientifique, absurde, de supposer; comme on l'a fait, que ces Français de l'Age de là Pierre Taillée étaient dés brutes, adonnées au cannibalisme, dépourvues du don de la parole. Les travaux de l'abbé Henri Breuil, de Marcellin Boule, d'Henri Fairfield Osborn, et d'autres savants, prouvent que ces lointains ancêtres avaient déjà terminé leur évolution anatomique quand lés migrations les fixèrent dans nos vallées.

Et comment pourrait-on refuser pareil don à des artistes qui savaient buriner sur les parois de leurs cavernes ou sur les morceaux d'ardoise, et avec un exactitude merveilleuse, la silhouette des animaux, ou même représenter, en de curieux essais de perspective, des troupeaux de rennes, de chevaux ou de mammouths? Ces dessins furent exécutés de mémoire: preuve que ces hommes savaient, réfléchir et méditer.

Leur attribuer des habitudes cannibales est un propos imbécile: l'homme ne devient anthropophage que par manque de viande, et le gibier pullulait dans leur pays. En outre, ils avaient inventé l'harpon barbelé, et capturaient facilement le poisson, comme on le voit sur certaines de leurs gravures.

Cette race supérieure fut en contact avec des races très primitives, dont l'évolution avait été arrêtée par la dernière Période Glaciaire. Ces races, désignées sous différents noms (Néanderthal, etc.), nous sont connues par leurs ossements fossiles et leurs armes de pierre, et jamais on ne vit contrastes aussi frappants entre races fixés dans le même pays, si 1'on compare les splendides formes du Crô-Magnon à ces nains presque simiesques qu'il finit par exterminer.

Ces êtres aux mandibules resserrées et aux dents massives, qui ne laissaient pas de jeu à la langue, ne pouvaient exprimer leurs idées, ou plutôt leurs besoins, qu'à l'aide d'un langage rudimentaire. Mauvais coureurs (comme le prouve leur anatomie), insuffisamment armés, cantonnés dans les régions arides où les nouveaux venus les avaient repoussés, ils manquaient souvent de viande, et l'on peut en conclure qu'ils recouraient, volontiers au cannibalisme.

Les plus abjects parmi ces sauvages disparurent de notre territoire par voie d'extermination. D'autres, mieux évolues, émigrèrent vers les régions polaires: les Esquimaux sont leurs descendants.

J'ai dédié ce récit à l'un des plus illustres d'entre les savants du monde entier: à mon maître et ami Henri Fairfield Osborn, président de l'American Museum et de la New York Zoölogical Society.




Le front ceint d'une peau de serpent, emblème de sa charge, le prêtre achevait de distribuer les amulettes aux chasseurs de mammouths; et c'étaient des géants triés parmi les géants. A tour de rôle, et non sans avoir rajusté la peau de bison agrafée à l'épaule par un bâtonnet d'os ou d'ivoire, ils inclinaient respectueusement leur tête chevelue en recevant la dent d'ours ou de lion perforée, dont, une face était gravée de figures magiques, l'enfilaient sur le crin de cheval qu'ils tenaient prêt, et la pendaient à leur cou.

Le soleil — pâle soleil des derniers jours d'hiver — tardait à se dégager des brumes qui s'entassaient dans les vallées, et n'éclairait encore que les silhouettes des collines. Massés devant les cavernes qu'obstruaient partiellement des quartiers de roche, vieillards, femmes et enfants grelottaient sous les peaux de renne qui les laissaient a demi nus. Mais leurs yeux brillaient de joie, car il y aurait bientôt de la viande à foison, après les mauvais jeûnes du long hiver.

Youlo, le grand et beau guerrier, accouru en retard à la distribution des charmes de chasse, venait d'accrocher la dent d'ours sous sa barbe blonde. Pivotant lestement sur son talon nu, il porta ses regards vers l'une des cavernes, éloignée d'une trentaine de pas, et; dans un brusque besoin de se remuer et d'agir, après le calme de la cérémonie, fit sur place un bond prodigieux, poussa un hurlement sonore — youlou-ou-ou-ou — en imitation de l'appel des loups, et s'avança, en gambadant, vers la caverne.

Une jeune fille, plus coquettement et plus chaudement vêtue que ses compagnes, avec la peau de daim qui lui cachait les jambes sous le manteau de renne, s'était détachée du groupe. Et il la salua de loin, des éclats de sa voix tonitruante:

— Lilaçété, petite colombe!

A quelques pas de la caverne, adossé au tronc d'un arbre mort, un jeune homme à la face presque imberbe; que Youlo dépassait de toute sa tête, suivait d'un regard vague les allées et venues des chasseurs. Et; feignant de ne point l'avoir aperçu; le grand et beau guerrier se laissa choir sur lui, en une dernière gambade.

— Brute! protesta le jeune homme, que le heurt formidable arrachait à sa rêverie...

Thanks to Jean Lafleur for providing this material!