2003 edition

The Crystal Cave is an Arthurian fantasy novel by Mary Stewart, first published in 1970. It is generally regarded as the first book in Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy but is, in fact, the first of five novels she wrote novel dealing with Arthurian legend. The cover (shown) is from the 2003 Eos edition by HarperCollins.

Plot BackgroundEdit

Mary Stewart, by her own admission, created her story using Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) as the source-work. As she stated, Geoffrey "produced a long, racy hotch-potch of history"... "arranging his facts to suit his story". She added that his name was considered "to serious historians – mud".

Plot Summary Edit

This novel chronicles the time of Merlin from age six to early adulthood. Merlin is actually 'Myrddin' (pronounced Merthin), the illegitimate son of Ambrosius Aurelianus and Niniane, a Welsh princess. As a child, Merlin who experiences clairvoyant visions is trained and assisted by the hermit, Galapas, who teaches him to use both his psychic abilities and his natural assets. Merlin later travels to Brittany where he assists Ambrosius who has plans to invade Britain, defeat Vortigern and become High King. He also meets Uther, the brother of Ambrosius. Merlin returns to Britain and after discovering that Galapas has been killed, he is then captured by Vortigern. Vortigern is having difficulty building a fortress at Dinas Emrys because the walls continually collapse. His mystical advisers declare that he needs to spill the blood of a fatherless child and sprinkle this over the foundations in order to succeed. Believing Merlin has no father, Vortigern intends to sacrifice him. However, Merlin realises the site is unstable due to water-filled underground caves. By foretelling instead that dragons at the bottom of the underground pool are the root of the problems, he convinces Vortigern to abandon the site and becomes his prophet. Following this, Vortigern is defeated by Ambrosius. Merlin then organises the transport of the king-stone from the stone circle in Killare to Stonehenge, rebuilding the great monument with his knowledge of engineering. He foresees the death of Ambrosius after a comet appears in the sky and Uther is then crowned King Uther Pendragon. Uther then becomes smitten with Ygraine, the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. Gorlois dies in battle while Merlin is assisting Uther. Stealthily, Merlin helps Uther, disguised as Gorlois, to enter secretly into Tintagel castle for a night of passion with Ygraine - knowing that their union will result in the birth of Arthur.

Main Characters Edit

Merlin (Myrddin)

Ambrosius Aurelianus

Uther Pendragon

Galapas - a hermit and teacher

Lady Niniane - Merlin's mother

Camlach - Merlin's uncle


Cerdic – a slave befriended by Merlin

Cadal - servant of Ambrosius

Belasius – pagan priest and tutor


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