The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita


Mikhail Bulgakov

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Woland’s Black Poodle Walking Stick Symbol Analysis

Woland’s Black Poodle Walking Stick Symbol Icon

Woland’s walking stick is embellished with the ornate figure of a black poodle. This is one of many gestures by Bulgakov to Goethe’s Faust, in which the devil appears to the titular character as a black poodle and, like The Master and Margarita, Goethe’s work is centered on a human making a pact with the devil. Because Bulgakov quotes Faust in the epigraph, the reader expects the novel to relate to Goethe’s work, and the walking stick represents the first allusion in the main text.

Though the walking stick can be seen as a symbol of Woland’s identity as the devil, Bulgakov is careful not to reveal that specific identity until the right moment—Woland is not shown to be Satan until chapter 13. Yet when Woland first appears, interrupting a discussion between Ivan Homeless and Berlioz, the walking stick is one of the first things to arouse Berlioz’s—and by extension, the reader’s—suspicions. Because the walking stick is an unusual accessory for someone to be carrying in the Soviet Union, it marks Woland out instantly as an external visitor; as even the reader doesn’t know who Woland is at this point, the walking stick symbolizes both the possibility of his Satanic identity and the depth of his character’s mystery.

Subtly, the stick also represents Woland’s eternal nature, in drawing a link between Goethe’s story centuries before and Bulgakov’s in the 20th. Finally, the walking stick hints at the fall of Satan from heaven, in which, so the story goes, he is said to have sustained the injury. Accordingly, the walking stick also stands in for Woland’s physical (and moral) asymmetry, marking him out as fundamentally “foreign” not just to the people he walks among on earth but also to the heavenly sphere from which he originates.

Woland’s Black Poodle Walking Stick Quotes in The Master and Margarita

The The Master and Margarita quotes below all refer to the symbol of Woland’s Black Poodle Walking Stick. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Courage and Cowardice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Random House edition of The Master and Margarita published in 1965.
Chapter 1 Quotes

First of all, the man described did not limp on any leg, and was neither short nor enormous, but simply tall. As for his teeth, he had platinum crowns on the left side and gold on the right. He was wearing an expensive grey suit and imported shoes of a matching colour. His grey beret was cocked rakishly over one ear; under his arm he carried a stick with a black knob shaped like a poodle’s head. He looked to be a little over forty. Mouth somehow twisted. Clean-shaven. Dark-haired. Right eye black, left – for some reason – green. Dark eyebrows, but one higher than the other. In short, a foreigner.

Related Characters: Woland
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
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Woland’s Black Poodle Walking Stick Symbol Timeline in The Master and Margarita

The timeline below shows where the symbol Woland’s Black Poodle Walking Stick appears in The Master and Margarita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1. Never Talk with Strangers
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
The Danger and Absurdity of Soviet Society Theme Icon
A foreign-looking man, wearing an expensive suit, a beret, and carrying a stick “with a black knob shaped like a poodle’s head ,” sits down on the next bench down from Berlioz and Ivan. As Berlioz continues... (full context)
Chapter 23. The Great Ball at Satan’s
The Ambiguity of Good and Evil Theme Icon
...her in blood and rose oil and Behemoth rubs her feet; Koroviev hangs an “ oval-framed picture of a black poodle ” around her neck. She puts on golden-clasped slippers and diamond crown. Koroviev advises her... (full context)