The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita

Horses Symbol Icon

Equestrian imagery crops up intermittently throughout the book and, like moonlight, horses do not represent one thing at all times. Margarita is given a golden horseshoe by Woland in reward for her services at Satan’s Ball, his way of saying that she need not fear the devil or evil anymore. Towards the end of the book, when the master and Margarita ride away on horseback from their earthly lives. In both these instances, horse imagery is linked to an idea of freedom, firstly from “evil” and secondly from earthly suffering.  While heroes are often depicted on horseback—especially in commemorative statues—the horses in the final scene seem to be more a representative of Woland’s power, rather than signaling a triumph that is particularly the master’s own. Horseback is just presented as the way that Woland and his entourage—in short, demons—transition between the earthly world and the more ethereal, abstract plains of eternity. In that case, they represent a kind of freedom for Woland and his ambassadors of “evil,” too.

In both the final scene and with the aforementioned horseshoe, Bulgakov grounds his symbolism in a finely-wrought network of allusion. A “lucky” horseshoe bringing protection to its owner perhaps originates with the story of St. Dunstan who, so the story goes, had to re-shoe the Devil’s horse—helping the devil, just as Margarita has to do. The horseshoe, then, takes on an identity as a talismanic object or memento, a physical representation of the spiritual pact between mortal and Satan. With regard to the allusion built into the book’s final scenes, these reference the horsemen of the apocalypse who appear in the biblical Book of Revelation, signaling that the story is drawing to a close.

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Horses Symbol Timeline in The Master and Margarita

The timeline below shows where the symbol Horses appears in The Master and Margarita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 24. The Extraction of the Master
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
Woland gives Margarita a memento: “a small golden horseshoe studded with diamonds.” Woland wishes Margarita and the master happiness and bids them goodbye. They... (full context)
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...Margarita is about to get in to the car, she realizes that she’s lost the horseshoe. The narrator explains the loss by recounting events that have happened just moments before. These... (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...witnessed Woland leave with his entourage, alongside the master and Margarita. Annushka found the jeweled horseshoe on the floor and stole it. (full context)
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...Margarita and the master to wait for a moment. He finds Annushka and snatches the horseshoe back, but also gives her two hundred roubles. Azazello returns the horseshoe to Margarita. Woland... (full context)
Chapter 27. The End of Apartment no. 50
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...of the fifth-floor window at her apartment block. She also tells them about the jeweled horseshoe and insists that she was paid roubles—not dollars—for giving it back. She is released.  (full context)
Chapter 30. It’s Time! It’s Time!
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
...is no need—he knows it by heart. Azazello sets fire to the apartment. Three black horses await the group outside. (full context)
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
Art and Authenticity Theme Icon
The master, Margarita, and Azazello soar over Moscow on horseback as the storm gets going. The master shouts to Azazello that he wants to “bid... (full context)
Chapter 31. On Sparrow Hills
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...and Azazello join up with Woland, Koroviev, and Behemoth, who are also sitting on black horses. (full context)
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
Just for fun, Behemoth whistles, making the horses rear up and birds spring from the trees below. On a riverboat, several passengers lose... (full context)