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Chapter 31: On Sparrow Hills 
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Post 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.


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Post Re: Chapter 31: On Sparrow Hills
I wonder if the whistling contest was some sort of inside reference. Many people use whistling when out in the hills. A bit like yodeling, which here in Switzerland was supposed to have been developed because it would be too arduous to walk across a mountain valley or gorge and one could convey a message with high-pitched calling instead.

But what message is being conveyed? "It's time." The ongoing calculation of advantage and advancement needs to stop now. The work is done. Your mark on the world is whatever it has been, and now the set of references and meanings shift to something totally other. That's my proposal, at any rate.

So the cat's already exaggerated blast, something more than human, is outdone by an order of magnitude by one of our demon warriors, who is not being at all playful or illustrative.

The phrase "wrestling with our demons" is meant to refer to the inner "voices" who make this pitch or that to torment us with what might have been or what should not be or what can no longer be tolerated. Bulgakov has a clearer picture of the demonic power possible when the emotions of an age are captured by some dire fear or some passionate resistance, or just some evil urge to wield power. Most people do not ever want to hear that whistle blast.



Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:33 am
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