People or events that appear very briefly in life may have dramatic effects on the lives of people they touch upon. Basketball coaches from the junior high school level often influence their athletes to take up playing basketball in their high school career. Dying friends often compel people to conduct research and dedicate their lives to the study of medicine. Galapas’ short stint with Merlin turns Merlin’s life around in the novel, The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart.
From the beginning, Galapas was an influential figure in young Merlin’s life. Galapas is an old man with a mysterious past. He possesses great knowledge of the arts, sciences, and magic. Merlin first met him when he was wandering the countryside with his horse, Aster. Galapas soon becomes his teacher and mentor, in spite of Merlin’s already having a conventional tutor. In time, he shares all of his knowledge and wisdom with Merlin. “He taught me practical things, too; how to gather herbs and dry them to keep, how to use them for medicines, . . . poisons. He made me study the beasts and birds, . . . and-with the dead deer-I learnt about the organs and bones of the body. . . The map Galapas showed me was a copy from a book by Ptolemy of Alexandria.” (The Crystal Cave, Pgs. 59-60) Galapas also helps Merlin to put the meanings of his periodic visions of the future and of events far away into action. “‘Go? But if I go back, they’ll kill me, or shut me up. . . Won’t they?’. . . ‘You can no more be hidden now, than your merlin could go back into its egg.” (The Crystal Cave, Pg. 100)
At the end of Merlin’s adventures with Ambrosius, his father and Emperor, he returns to the Crystal Cave to seek out Galapas. Nearby the cave, in a patch of grass, Galapas’ bones are scattered about in the dirt. Merlin lays his bones down to rest in the proper fashion and begins to occupy the cave; just like Galapas used to. Merlin studies and meditates in the Crystal Cave with his servant, Cadal. “My books had come form Less Britain; the great chest was backed against the wall of the cave, where Galapas’ box had been. . . I was wearing my oldest clothes, a tunic with grass stains that not even Cadal could remove, and my mantle was burred and pulled by thorns and brambles. My sandals were of canvas like a slave’s. . . Compared even with the plainly dressed young men. . . I must look like a beggar.” (The Crystal Cave, Pgs. 396, 400) He becomes older, grizzled looking, and wiser in the cave and soon becomes a mirror image of Galapas. Thus, Galapas still has a great impact on Merlin’s life even after his death.
Therefore, Galapas’ short time with young Merlin took at firm grasp on his life and helped shape it even beyond the grave. At an early age, Merlin is introduced to the fine arts and sciences and magic. Later in life, Merlin returns to find Galapas, but in turn finds Galapas in himself and becomes a facsimile of Galapas. Galapas is truly a stepping stone in the advancement of Merlin’s personality.