Behemoth is the giant cat, extremely evil and fond of firearms, who finds demonic pleasure in challenging people and putting everything in a blaze with a primus stove. He executes the most violent punishments, cuts off heads and is unbeatable with a browning in his hands. And when he gets accidentally hit by a bullit, he just needs a sip of gasoline to regain his strength.
In the biblical Book Job 40:10-19 is a description of a huge monster, in Hebrew called Behemoth. Bible translators didn't know which way to go with this word for a long time because they didn't know any beast with «a tail like a cedar and an enormous power in his abdominal muscles and loins». Some chose for an elephant, others for an hippopotamus but they all knew that neither of these could be accurate. That's why English translators leave the word Behemoth as it is. бегемот [begemot] is also Russian for hippopotamus. And the pretty Anna Richardovna, the secretary of Prosha Prochor Petrovich, described Behemoth as «a tomcat, black, a colossus as an hippopotamus».
In circles of devil experts, Behemoth is also seen as the devil of the desires of the stomach. It could explain why he's so interested in the food at the currency store Torgsin in chapter 28.
According to Bulgakov's second wife Lyubov Evgenevna Belozerskaya (1895-1987), the prototype for Behemoth was their own pet Flyushka, a big grey cat.
When the demons are transformed again to their original form Behemoth changes into a slim youth, a demon-page, and «the best jester the world has ever seen». This transformation can be inspired by the character Till Eulenspiegel. This symphonic poem made by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and based on the novel of the Belgian writer Charles de Coster (1827-1879) was very popular in Russia.
Your guide through the novel
In this section are explained, per chapter, all typical notions, names of people and places, quotations and expressions from the novel with a description of the political, social, economical and cultural context.