The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Merlin trilogy tells the King Arthur story from the viewpoint of Merlin, Arthur’s protector, teacher, and adviser. The Crystal Cave focuses on Merlin’s childhood and youth as he struggles to find his father and develop the gift of the Sight, the ability to see visions of events elsewhere or in the future. The novel begins by introducing Merlin as the illegitimate son of Niniane, daughter of a Welsh king. She has refused to tell anyone the name of the man who fathered her child.

Merlin is an outsider at his grandfather’s court because of his birth and strange ways; he is not interested in the war games that preoccupy the other boys and instead studies healing and magic with Galapas, a local wise man. When Merlin’s grandfather dies, the boy flees from his uncle Camlach, who sees Merlin as a threat and wishes to kill him. Through a series of coincidences he attributes to the god who guides him, Merlin discovers that his father is Ambrosius, the exiled rightful king of Britain. Merlin uses his gift of prophecy to help his father regain his throne, which then passes to his uncle Uther when Ambrosius dies. Foreseeing that Uther’s first son will be the king Britain needs to shield it against Saxon invasion, Merlin agrees to help when King Uther falls in love with Ygraine, wife of his chief ally Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. Disguising Uther as Gorlois, Merlin takes him to Ygraine so that Arthur will be conceived during their passion that night. Gorlois dies in a separate attack that same night, and Uther rejects Merlin afterward for his failure to foresee that Uther would be able marry Ygraine honorably one day later.

The Hollow Hills is the story of Merlin’s guardianship of his young cousin Arthur. Still at odds with Uther over the events at Tintagel, Merlin makes peace with...

(The entire section is 746 words.)