Online Study Guide: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart - Book Summary|
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THE CRYSTAL CAVE: FREE STUDY NOTES / PLOT SYNOPSIS
It’s significant that Merlin understands Camlach’s fear of him when we, the readers, do not. Again, it may be Merlin’s Sight or just some mature intuition, but he knows that he is a threat to Camlach’s right to the throne.
It makes the reader question: What is the order of succession? If Niniane is the eldest, does she inherit before Camlach? Should Merlin’s father return, would he be able to drive Camlach away? These are important questions to ponder, but ones which the author doesn’t answer.
The song Olwen sings about the wild goose and the hunter with the golden
net may be foreshadowing of events to come. It hearkens to the idea that
Merlin may be on a “wild goose” chase in search of his own future, always
pursued by enemies who fear him.
Merlin begins to use his Sight and his travels in the hypocaust to help him fight back against those who bullied him: he overhears Dinias talking about spying on Alun and a tryst with a servant girl. When Dinias waylays him again, Merlin blackmails him with the information. Dinias, believing it to be black magic, steers clear of Merlin after that.
Merlin also uses his cunning to keep Camlach at bay by pretending to be interested in the priesthood and learning to read and write. Merlin receives a tutor, a Greek from Massilia named Demetrius. His mother also calms Camlach’s fears by continuing to visit St. Peter’s and insisting she would become a nun when her father would let her go.
About a year later, Merlin leaves Demetrius sleeping and goes off on
horseback into the hills. He passes shepherds and other peasants tending
their farms and animals and wanders an unfamiliar path, feeling that he
is alone and free. As the older narrator, he reflects that at that moment
he had not perfected his Sight and so, he didn’t know what way-star was
guiding him up this path. When he comes to a fork in the path, he doesn’t
know which to take until suddenly a falcon - a merlin - flies low in front
of him from left to right. He follows it as perhaps a sign. While looking
for water, he comes across a cave where a stream flows and as he bends
to drink, he sees in the grass a small carved figure of a wooden god.
It is the same god he had seen under the oak at Tyr Myrddin, now sitting
at the entrance of a cave. He decides to enter.
As Merlin grows, he realizes he must use the talents at his disposal, mostly his wits and the Sight, to protect himself. This emphasizes that, even with the Sight, he is all too human as well. His mother, too, understands as well how to stay just out of danger.
It is important to note that Merlin never feels free until he’s alone. Perhaps he understands the chains - dislike and fear of him - he carries, because he is different than the other children.
He knows he is being guided because of the falcon and the wooden god along
the way. Someone or something wants him to find the cave.
New names added in this chapter: Demetrius, Merlin’s Greek tutor and
also a slave.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Crystal Cave".
. 09 May 2017