Online Study Guide: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart - Book Summary|
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THE CRYSTAL CAVE: FREE BOOK REVIEW / LITERARY ANALYSIS
Galapas hurries him to return to his home, giving him a final command:
other things than looking for Merlin are happening at home and by whatever
means he needs to use, Merlin must go with the king.
It’s obvious from this chapter that Galapas is a means by which Merlin will learn the truth about and impact of his power: he keeps the mirror covered and never mentions the crystal cave, because he knows, until that day, it was not time for Merlin to experience it again; he never tells Merlin directly that he must keep Galapas and the cave secret, but Merlin knows from his experiences with Galapas that this man is there to protect him from Camlach’s plans; and he guides Merlin into his next major decision to go wherever the king is going, a decision that seems absolutely necessary.
Merlin’s vision will be remembered later in the novel when Vortigern
cannot get the walls of the fortress he tries to build to stand: Merlin
knows there is a mine beneath and so uses this knowledge to save his own
Merlin arrives at the castle where he discovers that his grandfather is planning a trip to Segontium to see the High King, Vortigern. He wonders if this might be the war they had long awaited: Vortigern had been the regent for the young king Constantius who had died suddenly and mysteriously. Constantius’ two younger brothers, Ambrosius and Uther, had fled to Less Britain and the protection of King Budec, their cousin, until they could determine whether the death was foul play. Vortigern then claimed the throne for himself. Rumors then abounded about Ambrosius and Uther planning war against Vortigern, but so far, after 20 years, nothing had happened. Vortigern had made the mistake of accepting the help of Saxon mercenaries and marrying a Saxon Queen, who is blamed for allowing the Saxons to roam the British countryside. Now the Saxons have more power than Vortigern. Cerdic tells Merlin that the Saxons must be faced down and that they’ll probably be at war by spring. That’s why his grandfather is going to Segontium: to ally himself with the High King. Merlin goes immediately to his grandfather and asks permission to ride with him. He convinces his grandfather to allow him to go, because he speaks so many languages and because his grandfather is impressed that he would “have the guts to beard the old dog in his den.” He decides to take Cerdic as his servant.
Once he leaves his grandfather’s rooms, he feels absolutely sick to
his stomach and nearly vomits from fear. But he remembers what Galapas
had told him: “The gods only go with you if you put yourself in their
path. And that takes courage.” This thought gives him the strength to
This is an important chapter for two reasons: first, we learn the facts behind
Vortigern’s rise to the throne as High King and that the Saxons are really
an invading force running their country. Second, we learn the outcome
of one of Galapas’ greatest lessons: “God helps those who help themselves.”
Merlin’s courage in facing his grandfather and meeting his destiny took
all the courage he had, but he did it. This continues to show how Merlin
is growing and maturing into the man who will one day be an advisor to
New names in this chapter: Constantius, the young king who died under
mysterious circumstances, brother to Ambrosius and Uther; Ambrosius and
Uther, brothers of Constantius who fled to Less Britain after their brother’s
death; King Budec, king of Less Britain, or Brittany; and Segontium, the
town in South Wales where Vortigern is gathering allies.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Crystal Cave".
. 09 May 2017