The Storyline / Plot Summary
The Short story ‘Fritz’ written by Satyajit Ray published in his book ‘Collected Short Stories’ is about a Swiss doll named Fritz.
Jayanto, the protagonist, works in the editorial section of a newspaper and Shankar, the narrator is a school teacher. Both of them are great friends and have finally managed to get some time to go on a trip together. They decide to go to Bundi; a village in Rajasthan where Jayanto had been before in his childhood with his parents.
They stay at the Circuit house (a kind of guest house) where Jayanto had stayed before in his childhood due to his father’s frequent work trips there. Upon reaching, Shankar realises that Jayanto is in somewhat pensive mood and queries about it. Jayanto says that the old memories are rushing into his mind. Shankar thinks that being the overemotional guy Jayanto is, he’s being nostalgic, so he doesn’t say anything in that matter.
They go for sightseeing in the compound and suddenly Jayanto remembers that there was a tall deodar tree there. He searches for it and finds it at the end of the compound. He looks at the trunk searchingly and says here he had met a European but doesn’t exactly remember who it was or how they had met.
They return to the Circuit house where Dilwar, the cook, has prepared their dinner. Meanwhile Jayanto seems to remember the old memory of the European. He tells Shankar the tale about Fritz which Shankar hears amusedly. It was a one-foot tall Swiss doll brought from Switzerland by his uncle for him. He says he was very much attached to the doll and was devastated when two stray dogs had mutilated it. He had buried the doll’s remnants under the very same deodar tree.
Shankar is quite tired so he goes to bed but wakes up abruptly in the middle of the night and finds Jayanto sitting on his bed, looking perplexed. Upon asking the reason, Jayanto says that something had walked over his chest when he was asleep. Shankar assures that it could have been his dream but Jayanto shows him his pillow. Faint marks were there pointing to the fact that an animal had walked over it. Shankar does a thorough search of the place but doesn’t find any small animal like mice or rats. Shankar feels that his friend is just exaggerating but tells him soothing words nevertheless. After this they both go to sleep.
The following day, during their visit to an old fort on the hills, Jayanto remains quite lost in thoughts. After returning, Shankar queries about it persistently. Jayanto says that Fritz, the doll, had come back alive and it was the doll last night who had walked over his chest leaving his footprints. Shankar, now annoyed with Jayanto’s irrational fears, suggests to dig up the doll’s grave and see for himself that the doll isn’t back.
Jayanto agrees; together they have the gardener dig the place where Fritz had been buried. To their horror, they find a pure white 12-inch skeleton, exactly the same size as Fritz. They both are confused and scared to see this. Naturally, weird thoughts and assumptions pop into their mind. The story ends here on a cliffhanger.
Fritz: A Commentary on the story
The story ‘Fritz’ is narrated in first person from Sankar’s perspective and that provides a realistic depth into Jayanto’s point of view, unclouded by Jayanto’s irrational fears and beliefs.
The passages are maybe a bit long and quite descriptive about the ancient craftsman style, the current venue, about Jayanto’s childhood memories and experiences. The story includes a lot of flashbacks; half of the whole story is told in those flashbacks but the timing to reveal those past memories and moments is so perfect that the readers won’t have trouble with the transitions.
The characters are well-portrayed. Jayanto is a light-hearted person and maybe at times irrational as well, whereas Shankar is a smart, rational man who believes only in what his eyes see. Hence, he was annoyed at Jayanto’s assumption that Fritz was back. It’d be right to say that he was quite fearless as well because even when Jayanto was reluctant to dig the grave, he was sure about what he wanted and how to get it done.
The story is set in Bundi, Rajasthan. You will get an idea of the place even if you haven’t visited it, thanks to the author’s powerful vocabulary.
The main themes are friendship, lost friends, memories, childhood, superstitions, fear and conflict. The word ‘superstition’ can be replaced by supernatural or paranormal according to the reader’s belief depending on what they want to believe or think.
Throughout the story, there’s a constant feel of foreboding, Jayanto isn’t his usual self. He’s rather worried and pensive about something. The past it seems is controlling him; he hasn’t let go of his horrible yet sad memory of Fritz being torn by those street dogs.
From the beginning it’s full of mystery, promises of adrenaline rush, foreboding and at times even horror. And it’s enough to get anyone hooked up with the story. Then there’s the ending; the author has left it in a cliffhanger, leaving the readers to wonder and assume how it was possible, and about Fritz; was he human? Was he really back to meet his friend? You’re free to assume and cook up your own version. The author is popular for the shocking elements and endings in his stories and he has done an incredible job in this one as well.