The Hollow Hills, by Mary Stewart
Like “The Crystal Cave,” this book is very enjoyable. I was struck by its resemblance to the Biblical story of Moses. In Exodus, the Egyptian Pharaoh becomes intimidated by the populous of the Israelites. Therefore, he issued a law that all Hebrew babies were to be murdered. One Levite family refused to let their child die. For the first three months of the child’s life, the parents were able to hide it. Hiding the child became impractical after some time, and therefore they wrapped and placed the child in a basket. The basket was placed in the river reeds where the Egyptian princess found it. The child, Moses, was saved from death and raised in the Pharaoh’s palace. Moses matures into a man, and he was God’s tool to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. God uses Moses to free His people from bondage.
The story of Arthur and Britain is analogous. When Arthur is born to Uther, the child’s life is in danger. Uther’s kingdom does not wholly believe that Arthur is the legitimate heir to the throne. Therefore, the petty kingdoms and others in Uther’s castle would surely kill the child. To save the boy’s life from certain murder, Uther and Ygraine agree that Merlin should raise their son in secrecy. As soon as Arthur is born, Merlin brings the boy out of the King’s and Queen’s care. Arthur was raised in an unassuming inn during the first few years of this life, and then moved to Ector’s care. By removing Arthur from his parents, Arthur was able to receive a childhood that he could have not had otherwise. Arthur eventually returns to Uther, when he is 14 years old, and is crowned as High King. Arthur, Merlin, Uther, and Ygraine are all tools to accomplish the will of God. Merlin himself says this bluntly. God’s ultimate plan here is to use Arthur to save Britain from the Saxons.
Moses and Arthur are both powerful characters, tools for God’s greater plan to save a nation. Both characters faced mortal danger as helpless babes. They were voluntarily separated from their parents at birth to ensure their safety.
It’s very exciting to learn about Arthurian legend, and it is even more enjoyable to re-read Bible stories. There is something special about stories. Stories are not always filled with factual events, but there’s something about certain stories that cause them to survive for generations. People are attracted to stories, like those in the Bible and those about King Arthur. So much to say on stories. Suffice now to say that stories help us remember significant historical events. My brother, Danny, recommended a book full of stories about the Vietnam War titled, “The Things They Carried.” This book is supposed to question whether stories need to actually be true for them to be impactful, and whether some amount of exaggeration and embellishment is acceptable. It’s an interesting thought, and I have this book added to my reading list.
The main events in Stewart’s book are that Arthur claims his sword, Caliburn. In modern literature, it’s called Excalibur. Arthur unknowingly sleeps with his half-sister, Morgause, who will eventually bear Mordred. At age 14, Arthur is announced as King Uther’s son and claims the crown after Uther’s death. Arthur’s sword was in the middle of a lake, on a small island. The sword itself sat untouched for so long that a case like rock hardened around it. Arthur claimed the sword from its encasement. Arthur only found the sword, because he was chasing a white stag. No other person ever went to the island, because it was believed to be an enchanted island. Mary Stewart’s story of how Arthur claimed his sword differs from the variant described by Thomas Malory in “Le Morte d’Arthur” and T.H. White’s “The Sword in the Stone.” I enjoy the sword in the stone story. It resembles so much. What is the sword’s significance? General Google searches claim that the sword symbolizes only that Arthur accepts his responsibility to be King. But I think that it symbolizes so much more. I think that Arthur was only brought to the sword because he followed the white stag, where the white stag was a sign from God. Arthur was willing to go on an adventure and tackle a challenge by venturing onto a forbidden island, based on the pursuit a white stag. He was following God’s sign. The white stag showed to Arthur God’s plan, and Arthur accepted and followed God’s will. As a result of obeying God’s signs, Arthur gains power and fame. To this day, Arthur remains as a well-known hero. He obeyed the will of God and his legacy still lives as a result of his obedience. That’s what the sword represents to me. Obey God.
This book concludes with Arthur’s crowing as High King. By drawing the sword in front of a crowd, Arthur declared his kingship and verified his authority in front of all the petty kings. All accept him as their destined leader, even King Lot, who desired the power for himself. Arthur was only 15 years old when he became High King. Arthurs’ kingship occurred during the 5th century (400 – 500 AD). It is certain that Arthur was an actual historical figure. Many references confirm this. However, we know nothing about this childhood, thus it is fun to create stories about it. We also know very little historically about the magician, Merlin. Like Arthur, it is certain that Merlin existed, and it is accepted that he was an influential advisor to the King. He possessed a great deal of power, although we do not know exactly what power he had. Hence the common stories attribute magical powers to Merlin.
One final thought. It’s obvious that bloodlines are important. Even as a child, Arthur stood out as an excellent soldier and talented child. He quickly surpassed his friend, Bedwyr, who was two years older. Undoubtedly, genetics are important. It is also obvious that the sexual lusts of men are difficult to control and that these lusts, uncontrolled, can cause many problems. Incest and lust are responsible for the conception of Mordred. Mordred, the child of Morgause and Arthur, symbolizes the consequences of sexual sin.