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Online Study Guide: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart - Book Summary

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THE CRYSTAL CAVE: LITERARY CRITICISM / ONLINE NOTES

BOOK I - The Dove

CHAPTER 5

Summary

Merlin enters the cave filled with excitement: it has always been the depths of the forest or the depths of the earth that brought him pleasure. The cave is a vast chamber with its top lost in the shadows. Suddenly, he thinks he sees someone, but comes to the realization that there was no one there except the bats he had disturbed from their lodging. They pour past him out of the cave. Then, he stretches out his arm and meets metal instead of rock and realizes the creature he thought he saw was his own reflection in a huge mirror. He studies himself in it and is pleased with what he sees.

Merlin feels no fear there for many reasons, but mostly because he feels he is the King’s grandson and therefore, able to care for himself. He finds flint, iron and a tinderbox as well as a sheep’s skull and the skins of bats nailed to a box. Someone else lives there.

When the man who resides there returns, Merlin becomes the ring-dove and hides in a gap in the rock that opens onto another cave. When the man lights the candle, the flame is so intense that it seems to fill the globe where Merlin lays with flame. He thinks he is in a globe of diamonds creating pictures of rainbows and rivers and bursting stars and the shape like a crimson dragon. Slowly the man moves toward him in his hiding place and bids him come out.

Notes

Merlin’s lack of fear is further indication of a child growing into a man and realizing his strengths. Even when the man calls him out, he shows no fear and doesn’t even consider disobeying. He is unusual in how he views his world.


The pictures that fly before Merlin’s eyes in the globe where he hides are foreshadowing of the power of the crystal cave. Later, whenever he has a dream or is overcome by the Sight, he frequently imagines himself or his vision within a crystal globe. Obviously, the vision of the crimson dragon is one which foreshadows the rise of Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon.


CHAPTER 6

Summary

The man who lives in the cave is dressed like a hermit with gray hair and a beard. Merlin jumps past him to escape, but when the man laughs, he stops short to look more closely. He has the characteristics of a hard-working, good man, so Merlin turns back when asked.

The man tells Merlin that he knew the boy would come some day and that he knew someone was there that day by the bats and maybe some other way, (he, too, has the Sight). His name is Galapas and he says he belongs to no man or no woman. Merlin wonders if he is a holy man, men who wandered around teaching their own version of the gods or of god. Merlin was never sure if there were many or only one. But Galapas tells him that he had to leave the wooden god outside his “due,” because it is never good to neglect the gods of any place. In the end, they are all one.

Galapas explains that he is a teacher who has come to the cave to study. He has been studying how the bats live. He shows Merlin his books, specifically one that shows the skeleton of a bat. That began his first lesson with Galapas.

Merlin asks to come again, but cautions Galapas that he never knows when he can get free. Galapas assures him that he knows when he will come. Merlin then begins to come to the cave for lessons from Galapas once or twice a week. No one misses him and Cerdic and Demetrius never tell that he is gone. He learns about Galapas’ travels, practical things, the beasts and the birds, basic health care, and a few spells, like charming warts. Galapas explains how to read a map and shows him Britain up to Hadrian’s Wall. He even teaches him astronomy and helps him make a harp to play music. Finally, when Merlin turns twelve, Galapas speaks of the crystal cave.

Notes

Once again, Merlin meets up with someone who seems to know so much and have so much to teach. Merlin himself will always believe he is being guided by the gods. It’s as if the gods have sent Galapas to help prepare Merlin for his fate. He, too, has the Sight and begins to help Merlin discover the world and some of the power he possesses. Galapas is the way-star that was guiding Merlin to the cave.

New names in this chapter: Galapas, a Seer and Teacher who mysteriously appears when Merlin needs more understanding of his abilities than Demetrius or any other tutor can give him.


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