Online Study Guide: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart - Book Summary|
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THE CRYSTAL CAVE: BOOK SUMMARY NOTES
When Merlin arrives at his father’s quarters, he meets Uther coming out. He had gone straight to Ambrosius even before cleaning up. Merlin tells Ambrosius everything in a subtle way in order to protect Cadal and to reveal the truth about Belasius. He tells him everything about the human sacrifice and that he didn’t know it was illegal until it was over.
While they are talking, a messenger arrives from King Budec. Merlin stares at the flames reflecting off Ambrosius’ face and falls into a vision. When Ambrosius asks him what he saw in the fire, Merlin tells him about a young man with a dragon brooch on his shoulder and a girl on a brown pony, the same vision which opens this novel. Ambrosius then is finally convinced that Merlin has the Sight. They then talk about the truth that Ambrosius is Merlin’s father. Merlin wants to know why Ambrosius left his mother. Ambrosius tells him how he gone into his homeland with the help of Gorlois of Cornwall who hated Vortigern. He was sent north where he spied on Vortigern and his men. He was heading south again towards Cornwall when he and his men were set upon by Vortigern’s men. His two companions were killed and he was left for dead. When he woke up, Merlin’s mother was standing over him. She took him to the crystal cave to hide, because no one knew of its existence. Eventually, as she cared for him, they fell in love and conceived Merlin. He wanted her to leave with him, but she insisted she could not leave Maridunum, because it “was one thing to do what she had done, but quite another to go across the seas with a man who was her father’s enemy.” Ambrosius returned to Less Britain and never knew she had borne a child. Later, he sent messages, which were unanswered, begging her to come, but when he heard she was betrothed - a lie - he gave up and let it be.
When Ambrosius asks Merlin if he hates him for the life he left him to, Merlin truthfully answers that of all the men he could have chosen for a father, he would have chosen him. Because what boy “would not have chosen the King of All Britain for a father.” Ambrosius knows the god has spoken again through his son. He tells Merlin that “he will never make a king or even a prince as the world sees it, but that he will be such a man that, if a king had him beside him, he could rule the world.” This is why he had sent him to Belasius to learn whatever he could to help him understand his god. Ambrosius also tells Merlin that his second name is the Welsh form of Ambrosius and that Niniane, Merlin’s mother, had named her son after his father. Merlin is amazed, because Ambrosius means Prince of Light and everyone had thought he was the Prince of Darkness.
Ambrosius persuades Merlin to look into the fire and tell him what he
sees, but Merlin is unable to command a vision. Only his god can do that
for now. That night he dreams again of the crystal cave and sees what
he thinks is his mother and father meeting once more where they fell in
love. But the face of the woman is not his mother and the face of the
man is old and is his own.
This chapter is a touching one as we see two men meet as father and son for
the first time. They are unsure of each other at first, but eventually
the love and respect for each other comes out. Ambrosius still wants to
have Merlin by his side for another reason: he knows he can help make
him a great king. But Merlin is still unable to command the Sight. He
only knows that his father will be King of All Britain. He leaves his
father, however, having bonded finally with the man he has sought all
his life. It is ironic that Merlin’s name means Prince of Light when all
of his life he has been known as the Prince of Darkness. More foreshadowing
ends the chapter with Merlin’s dream: a woman coming out of the crystal
cave when he is old, a woman named Vivian who will later be the catalyst
for the sleep in limbo he fears.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Crystal Cave".
. 11 May 2008