Who killed Fritz?
Towards the end of the short story Fritz by Satyajit Ray, we find the narrator and his friend baffled at the sight that lies in front of them. The strange events in Bundi and Jayanto’s ravings about his doll lead the duo to dig up the place where Jayanto had buried his doll decades ago. The dig does reveal a find but it is not at all what they’ve been expecting. Instead of seeing the parts of long-buried doll, a twelve-inch long human skeleton stares at them…
The first question to ask is whose skeleton is this ? Has Jayanto located the exact spot where the had ‘buried ‘ Fritz ? Is it the same deodar tree? We have seen Jayanto’s memory misleading him in the beginning of the story. Moreover, if he can be misled by his memory about the proportions of a chair, isn’t there every possibility that he can be misled about the location of tree as well?
If the answer is yes, we may safely conclude that it is simply a case of coincidence. Someone could have buried the skeleton and the men could have mistakenly dug up the same spot. Two wrongs do sometimes make a right.
But mostly, they don’t.
This leads us to another possibility.
The second question to ask is what if they were spot-on on digging up the right spot ? The question then becomes this : Who was Fritz? Or rather, what was Fritz? This is where it gets interesting. We know that Fritz is a doll, or rather we can say that he is a doll. What we do not know is what is inside the doll. We cannot say that there’s nothing inside the doll because he does not completely come apart after being attacked by the dogs:
I looked around and found quite soon that a couple of stray dogs were having a nice tug-of-war with Fritz. Although he didn’t actually come apart, his face was battered beyond recognition and his clothes were torn. In other words, Fritz did not exist for me anymore. He was dead.
We know that his uncle gifted him this doll. Remember that man who sold it to his uncle?
The man who sold him had jokingly said to Jayanto’s uncle, ‘He’s called Fritz. You must call him by this name . He won’t respond to any other.’
Perhaps the man didn’t say it jokingly. Perhaps he knew what he was doing and was attempting to mask it with a reverse psychology lifehack. Geez.
What about the uncle? Is he a good guy, or is he a shrewd murderer who has dolled up (quite literally) the skeleton of a (an illegitimate?) child following a Swiss affair? Isn’t a doll the least suspicious thing to hide a body in? Woah. Creepy Uncle.
Well, what about the cook? Which cook you say? Beware the red-eyed Dilawar:
Jayanto said, ‘The cook they had in those days was called Dilawar. He had a scar in his left cheek and his eyes were ways red. But he was an excellent cook .
And most importantly, what about Jayanto himself? Is he hiding something? His behavior has been quite an unnatural one. He even tries to hide the entire story about Fritz in the beginning before it starts haunting him :
But why did you suddenly think of a tree?
Jayanto stared at the trunk of the tree, frowning. Then he shook his head slowly and said, ‘ I can’t remember that now. Something had brought me near the tree. I had done something here. A European.
‘No, I can’t recall anything at all. Memory is a strange business
Now is it, Jayanto?
Let’s look at him once again :
One moment he placed them near the window, then on his lap and, immediately afterwards, began biting his nails. Jayanto was quiet by nature and this restlessness in him worried me.
Initially, he doesn’t even accept Sankhar’s (that’s the speaker) idea of digging Fritz up :
Jayanto did not accept the idea immediately, nor did I say anything further. He went and had his bath after a little bit of persuasion. At lunch, he ate nothing except a couple of chapatis with meat curry, although I knew he was quite fond of his food.
Why so serious?
Finally, his reaction right at the moment before the digging starts is damming :
Jayanto’s face did not register even the slightest trace of amusement. It was the month of October and not at all warm in Bundi. Yet the corner of his shirt was soaked in sweat was staring at the ground on unblinkingly.
So, is this The Conjuring of Jayanto’s?
Tell us if you’ve solved the mystery.