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

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THE CRYSTAL CAVE: TEACHING GUIDE / LITERATURE NOTES

BOOK III - The Wolf

CHAPTER 3

Summary

As Merlin comes around the crag of the hill to the lawn before the opening of the cave, he knows something is wrong just by the fact that he can no longer hear the trickle of the spring. Without even going into the cave, he knows that Galapas is not there and never will be again. All of Galapas’ possessions have been looted and burned, the spring has been filled in and the cave is empty except for the bronze mirror which wouldn’t have burned and must have been too heavy to loot. The entrance to the crystal cave has been spared only because it had been rendered invisible. Merlin looks inside the crystal cave and sees only his harp, but no visions.

Outside, Merlin finds Galapas’ body, having been picked clean by the carrion birds, a “waygoing” that he sees as seemly. Cadal comes forward and helps Merlin bury the body by building the hill over it with stones and sods which to Merlin will allow Galapas’ hill to “take him in.” Merlin is reminded of the last time he had gone this way, when he was weeping over Cerdic’s death and had no knowledge of whether he would ever see Galapas again. Galapas had told him he would see him, he promised, and now to Merlin, the promise has come true.

Notes


Once again, Merlin faces a loss in his life, something he has had to get used to. The loss of Galapas, however, is even dearer than not having had his father as a child or not having had friends to support him. This is the man who taught more than any other and acted more of a father figure than even Ambrosius. It is significant that his Merlin wants his body to become one with the hill. This is symbolic for Merlin’s understanding of Galapas as man who was one with nature and the world around him.


CHAPTER 4

Summary

As he and Cadal eat, Merlin decides that his next step is to see his mother. He also wonders who could have done all that to Galapas and Cadal rightly infers the deed to Vortigern’s men. Cadal asks Merlin if he has any message from Ambrosius to his mother. Merlin replies that Ambrosius left it up to him, Merlin, to decide how much to tell her. Merlin is concerned that she may have switched her loyalties, given that the nunnery still stands while the rest of Maridunum has been ravaged by war. However, he also knows his mother can tell him who to seek out for information now that Galapas is dead.

When they arrive at St. Peter’s, Merlin is told that he must wait to see Niniane after prayers are over. She’ll meet him on the river walk at the gate in the wall there an hour after moonrise. They decide to wait in his grandfather’s old home across the way, until they hear the bell for the end of prayers, as Merlin doesn’t want to chance being recognized in the town. As they are trying to pick the lock, Dinias, his cousin and the bully who had made his life miserable as a child, comes around the corner. He has taken the title of prince in the time since they last met, but he doesn’t look like a prince with his clothes old and frayed. Dinias is suspicious of Merlin and his loyalties and wants to know why he has returned. Merlin easily leaves out his true mission and tells his old nemesis that he is there to see his mother. Dinias reveals that rumors abound about Cornwall, where he thinks Merlin has been living, including that Gorlois has spent the winter snuggled in with a young girl of twenty who makes “Helen of Troy look like a market woman.” Merlin also learns that Dinias had fought with Vortimer and Camlach and that Gorlois has now left for the north to meet Vortigern. They decide to have dinner together at a place Dinias believes is safe from Vortigern’s spies. He remarks that Maridunum is crawling with Vortigern’s men. Dinias doesn’t know who they’re looking for, but remarks that a story is going around about it. Before he can reveal what that story is, they are interrupted by a beggar with a blind eye and a hideous scar that looked as if it came from a sword cut.

Notes

It is significant that Vortigern’s men probably killed Galapas as Merlin will soon learn that these men are all over Maridunum following up on rumors about someone and that someone will turn out to be Merlin himself. We learn this later when Merlin meets up with Dinias who mentions the rumors. Also, Merlin seems oblivious to the blind beggar with the scar from a sword cut, a fact about which he should have been more wary.

Dinias mentions a rumor about Gorlois of Cornwall and the young woman of twenty who has been with him all winter. This foreshadows the woman who will enchant Uther with her beauty and eventually become Arthur’s mother.


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