The Odyssey by Homer
In the land of the troglodyte Cyclops, Oysseus and 12 of his men visit the cave of the giant Polyphemus to ask him for food. But he makes them prisoners in his lair, which is sealed by a giant rock. Each day he eats a couple of them. How will they escape?
The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
Mammon invites Sir Guyon back to his home, “an huge cave, hewne out of rocky clift, / From whose rough vaut the ragged breaches hong, / Embost with massy gold of glorious gift”. The cave is stacked with coffers, the dark and dirty abode of one dedicated to amassing wealth. Guyon virtuously rejects all that he is offered and escapes.
“Endymion” by John Keats
Keats loved any grot in the “deep-delvèd earth”. Tormented by amorous emotions, Endymion finds brief respite in the Cave of Quietude. “Happy Gloom! Dark Paradise!” We all need some time in a cave. “There anguish does not sting; nor pleasure pall.”
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Tom goes with Becky Thatcher on a picnic to McDougal’s Cave, but they get lost underground. They happen on local rogue Injun Joe, who is using the cave as a hideout. Injun Joe perishes in the bowels of the earth, while Tom and Huckleberry Finn find a hoard of gold.
A Passage to India by EM Forster
No one has ever been inside the celebrated Marabar Caves near Chandrapore, until Dr Aziz takes old Mrs Moore and young Miss Quested on a tour. Miss Quested is discombobulated by the caves’ distinctive echo, and something bad happens to her. She accuses Aziz of assaulting her, but something weirder has happened down in the darkness – we never know quite what.
Evil under the Sun by Agatha Christie
The beautiful Arlena is murdered on the island where Poirot is on holiday. Near the body is the Pixy’s Cave, where investigators find heroin. The drugs are a red herring, but the cave is the key to the killing. The victim has been persuaded by the murderer to hide in the cave until the time is right to kill her.
Moonfleet by J Meade Faulkner
In the village of Moonfleet, John Trenchard joins up with friends who are smugglers. Wounded and on the run from the excisemen, he hides in a sea cave invisible from the land, where “when the wind blows fresh, each roller smites the cliff like a thunder-clap, till even the living rock trembles again”.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
In the Egyptian desert, Almásy and his fellow explorers find a cave decorated with ancient paintings of swimmers. Almásy’s affair with Katharine Clifton is discovered by her husband, Geoffrey, who tries to kill them by crashing his plane. Almásy carries his badly injured lover into the cave, where she will die when he is unable to get help in time.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
In Garner’s children’s classic, Susan discovers that a family heirloom is the Weirdstone, whose magical powers attract all manner of evil beings. With her brother Colin she is guided by the wizard Cadellin Silverbrow into the caves of Fundindelve, beneath Alderley Edge in Cheshire. In the Cave of the Sleepers they see King Arthur and 140 knights, snoozing until they must awake to fight the powers of darkness.
Quarantine by Jim Crace
Crace’s novel re-imagines Jesus’s 40 days and nights in the wilderness. In the Judean desert, ascetics and religious zealots live in caves and commune with their gods. The strangest is the Galilean, who finds the most inaccessible cave, where we experience his religious ecstasy. “He called on god to join him in the cave with all the noises that his lips could make.”