Chapter 31: On Sparrow Hills
The Led Zeppelin song The Battle of Evermore
includes the line ‘The ring wraiths ride in black’. This chapter reminded me of that sombre evocation of the Nazgul from The Lord of the Rings
, the dark riders sent forth as emissaries to expand the power of Mordor.
Like the Nazgul, Woland, Koroviev and Behemoth sit astride black horses on Sparrow Hills (for a time called Lenin Hills), southwest of Moscow, preparing to depart with the Master and Margarita. The evening sun reflects the windows of the city and the onion domes of the Novodevichy Monastery, which Soviet readers would know had been transformed in 1922 into a Museum of Women’s Emancipation
This short chapter then concludes with a rather mysterious whistling contest between the cat and Faggot (Koroviev). The powerful whistle of Behemoth blows hats off on the river, but is described as mediocre by Faggot, whose whistle is inaudible, but is so powerful that it throws Margarita and her horse twenty yards, strips the bark from an oak tree, splits the ground, boils the river and kills a jackdaw in mid flight. The purpose seems to be to illustrate the immense magical power of these demonic forces. Finally Woland calls time like the blast of a trumpet, and the steeds leap into the air, leaving Moscow far behind to be swallowed by the earth.