2003 edition

The Hollow Hills is an Arthurian fantasy novel by Mary Stewart, first published in 1973. Following on from The Crystal Cave (1970), it is generally regarded as the second book in Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy. However, it is, in fact, the second of five novels she wrote novel dealing with Arthurian legend. The cover (shown) is from the 2003 Eos edition by HarperCollins.

Plot BackgroundEdit

As with its predecessor - The Crystal Cave (1970), Mary Stewart based her story on the imaginative Arthurian 'history' written down by Geoffrey of Monmouth. She states that Merlin was a composite figure structured almost entirely out of song and legend. Her suspicion was that this 'magician' may have been based on an actual "man of power" with natural gifts that seemed miraculous to others in those early dark-age times.

Plot Summary Edit

This second novel in the Merlin trilogy spans the time from Arthur’s conception to his crowning as king. Mary Stewart places Merlin as Arthur's cousin, Merlin's father being Ambrosius Aurelianus, the brother of Uther. The young Merlin, at age 22, has assisted Uther to liaise with Ygraine at Tintagel Castle using deception and disguise. Ygraine was (unlike the legend) totally aware that she was making love to Uther, not Gorlois – Duke of Cornwall. She was also aware that the child she bore later was Uther's son. After assisting with the event at Tintagel, Merlin 'disappears' to stay away from any trouble that could develop. When Arthur is born, Uther wants the child to be kept concealed until he later may father a legitimate son. Merlin arranges for Arthur to be initially cared for by his nurse, Moravik, and later by Count Ector in the north of Britain. He then journeys to Europe. In Constantinople, he is informed that the great and powerful sword once owned by Macsen Wledig (Magnus Maximus) was returned to Britain after his death. Merlin, guided by a prophetic dream, decides to search for this sword and finds it hidden alongside a Greek drinking vessel in a deserted temple. Again, to avoid attention, Merlin 'disappears' for a time, hiding in a shrine and providing counsel and healing to those in need, living off the donations from others. In time, Merlin becomes a tutor to Arthur, Arthur's foster brother Cei and also to Bedwyr. Arthur at last comes across the sword of Macsen Wledig while out riding. The sword had been concealed within a cave on an island in the middle of a lake. He takes this sword, naming it Caliburn and places it in the altar of a chapel in the Wild Forest. After this he is victorious in a battle against the invading Saxons. When it is revealed that he is the son of Uther Pendragon, he is then challenged for the right to become High King. Arthur returns to the chapel and witnessed by various nobles, he draws forth the fabled sword of power, thereby establishing that he is the rightful king.

Main Characters Edit


Uther Pendragon


Ralf – Ygraine's page

Cador – Gorlois' son


Ector - Arthur' foster father; Cei's father




King Lot

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