Fritz : The Story
Fritz is an interesting story about a suprarational incident experienced by Sankhar, the narrator of the story and his friend Jayanto. Fritz throws up a lot of questions that remain unanswered right till the end of the story. Revolving around the themes of friendship and the idea of the supernatural, the story demonstrates Ray’s penchant for suspense and mystery.
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Fritz : Summary
The narrator and his friend Jayanto had put up at a bungalow in Bundi, Rajasthan where the latter had once stayed as a six-year old kid. Because the narrator was a teacher and Jayanto worked in the editorial department of a newspaper, the trip took a long time in coming as it could materialize only when both were free. Jayanto’s insistence and Rabindranath Tagore’s poem The Fort of Bundi both played a great role in deciding the destination for their trip.
Upon their arrival, the two couldn’t help but marvel at antique quaintness of the town, reminiscent of the old Rajputana. The place seemed to belong to the past and the only reminders of modern life were the cobbled streets and some electric poles. The circuit house belonged to the British Era and was rather splendid with its sloping tiled roof, high ceilings, a veranda and a huge garden haunted by a variety of birds.
The narrator was quick to notice that Jayanto had turned quiet after arriving at Bundi and attributed his quietness and to his childhood memories . Upon inquiry, Jayanto claimed his silence was a result of a change in perception he felt as he entered the place: of how the seemingly grand chair to his child-self seemed a tiny one, now that he was an adult. While walking around the courtyard, Jayanto suddenly exclaimed “Deodar” and narrated how his uncle had gifted him a little Swiss doll named Fritz , how he was obsessively attached to it, of how he had been unfortunately destroyed by some stray dogs and how he had buried it under the deodar tree in the veranda.
The man who had sold it to his uncle had once jocularly remarked :
‘He’s called Fritz. You must call him by this name . He won’t respond to any other.’
At night, the narrator was disturbed by a slight noise and was awakened to find Jayanto sitting up, terribly agitated. Jayanto told him that something had woken him up. However, the narrator inferred that his friend had a bad dream and went to sleep. Some mysterious marks had been formed in the quilt Jayanto had used but neither could say for sure how it was formed and the narrator was too sleepy to think about it any further. The next morning he saw that Jayanto had not slept at all. They left for the Bundi fort at nine in the morning and Jayanto came to his normal self. However, by the time they returned to the bungalow, Jayanto’s agitation returned as well and with great reluctance, he told the narrator the it was Fritz who had entered the room that night and that the mysterious marks on the quilt were Fritz’ footprints. The narrator was naturally startled by this remark and decided that he could not allow his friend to go insane in this manner. Determined to resolve the issue once and for all, he called for a gardener and paid him five rupees to dig up the spot under the Deodar tree where Fritz had supposedly been buried. After a long digging, the find scared the living daylights out of the curious folks :
“There lay at our feet, covered in dust, lying flat on its back, a twelve -inch-long, pure white, perfect little human skeleton.”
Fritz : Analysis
Satyajit Ray’s penchant for the the mysterious is artfully demonstrated by this intriguing tale revolving around a doll called Fritz. Detective fiction has always been Rays’ forte. It is through his pen that the Doyensian world of Feluda came into being. A great degree of his terrific success as a writer rests on his detective stories which deal with the mysterious and the supernatural.
His knack for retaining suspense is brillianty demonstrated in this story which hooks the reader right till the end. And even when the story ends, the suspense continues, leaving the reader baffled by what s/he’s just read. Fritz is one story where the reader is left with more questions after reading the story than when s/he began reading it. Some of these questions will be taken up later in the course of the analysis.
As mentioned earlier, this story deals with themes of friendship , the superstitious and the supernatural. The story also deals with matters of the mind: reason , memory, and repression. Because memory forms a huge part of the story, it is only natural that the characters should constantly refer to the past and this results in a series of flashbacks. However, the transitions are carried out in such a smooth manner that it almost never disrupts the flow of the story but instead helps to maintain the tension.
A glimpse of Ray’s skill as a masterful filmmaker can be seen in this story. The switch from the conversation taking place between the narrator and Jayanto to the description of Bundi, the narrator’s childhood and back to the present is seamlessly sustained. Ray’s skill as a screenwriter turns to be of great use in his writings and his ability to depict a particular scene in short swift strokes is commendable. Notice the clarity of image formed by using two swift sentences in the first few paragraphs :
The bearer came in with tea and biscuits on a tray. I poured.
When did you come last?
Establishing the setting of the story is of utmost importance in works dealing with the supernatural and Ray does it in deft strokes. The description of Bundi is achieved with great economy and a sense of foreboding looms large over the circuit house and the town of a bygone era. This setting also helps in establishing the tone of the story and creates the right mood to present an incident which cannot be easily explained away by logic.
The story is also demonstrative of how friendship can be sustained between two people who are poles apart from each other in terms of their nature. Jayanto and the narrator are quite unlike each other. As stated by the narrator, Jayanto is quite on the emotional side. The narrator (Sankhar) on the other hand, is a man of reason and frequently demonstrates this side of his in the course of the story. He can come up with quick, logical solutions to tackle a problem :
If a doll has been buried somewhere thirty years ago and if one knew the exact spot, it might be possible to dig the ground there. No doubt most of it would have been destroyed, but it was likely that we’d find just a few things, especially if they were made of metal, such as the buckle of a belt or brass buttons on a jacket.
Jayanto seemed to like my Idea at first. But, after a little while, he said, ‘Who will do the digging? Where will you find a spade.
I laughed, ‘Since there is a garden, there is bound to be a gardener. And that would mean there is a spade.
Despite differing from each other in various ways, the two men get along very well. The narrator’s patient handling of Jayanto’s moods , his efforts at understanding his friends’s problems and his resolve to help his friend in every possible manner brings out the theme of friendship and fellow feeling between the two men.
The story also revolves around the idea of memory and soundness in relying on it. As Jayanto says, “Memory is a strange business…”.
Jayanto has a change of perspective when he sits on the familiar old chairs which he used to do as a kid :
‘You know, Shankar, it is really quite strange. The first time I came here I used to sit cross-legged on these chairs. It seemed as though I was sitting on a throne. Now the chairs seem both small in size and very ordinary. The drawing-room here used to seem absolutely enormous. If I hadn’t returned, those memories would have remained stuck in my mind forever.’
Should the nature of memory be viewed with suspicion or deference? Are there distorted memories and if yes, to what extent are our memories distorted? The answer to this question is of great significance in making sense of the mystery the story is shrouded in.
Though it is difficult to explain away the mystery of Fritz, one may nevertheless look at the different aspects of the narrative to come up with interesting questions. And it is in these questions that the answer to this mystery may be found, for some questions are answers as well.
This is where our analysis ends for their is no definite explanation about the mystery of Friz. We’re sorry to disappoint you if you were looking for a final, satisfying conclusion about the nature of Fritz and the mystery of the skeleton.
But Hang On! If you are interested in conspiracy theories, check out the article given below.
Fritz : About the author
Satyajit Ray was an Indian filmmaker, writer, composer, visual artist and author who is known for his outstanding contribution to Indian and World Cinema. Born to a wealthy family in Calcutta, Ray’s father and grandfather were both Bengali writers of considerable repute. Ray’s family were the adherents of Brahmo Samaj ( a reformed Hindu sect founded by the thinker Raja Ram Mohan Roy) whose progressive attitudes towards society and culture was to be seen later in his films. He went to Rabindranath Tagore’s Vishwa Bharati University which brought him close to rural Bengal. There, he also came to appreciate the nuances and aesthetics of various Eastern art forms.
His first movie Pather Panchali garnered both critical and commercial acclaim. The movie was influential in launching Indian cinema to the world , as a result of which it won the 1950 Cannes Film Festival award. Pather Panchali was to be the first film among the “Appu Trilogy“. His important works include Charulata, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Agantuk,Jalsaghar and Aparajito among others.
Ray’s movies have been known for their humanism and deep, emphatic understanding of the human condition. His literary contribution to Bengali literature (especially children’s literature) has been a great one. His short stories and detective fiction have great readership among teens and he has successfully created iconic characters like Feluda the detective and the intriguing scientist Professor Shanku.
Satyajit Ray was also an adept illustrator and made several illustrations for various magazines. He even has two type faces Ray Roman and Ray Bizzare to his credit. He went on to receive a number of national and international awards which include the 1992 Oscar Lifetime Achievement Award and Bharat Ratna. He also received an honorary degree from Oxford.
Ray died on 23rd April 1992.