ISC Echoes Fritz : horror through an inanimate object


Fritz by Satyajit Ray

Question: “Horror through inanimate objects is the staple diet of many writers”, Satyajit Ray being one of them. Analyse the statement with reference to story ‘Fritz’.

Answer:  Satyajit Ray was not only one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century, but also a well known writer and illustrator. He made a significant contribution to children’s literature in Bengali, and wrote several detective stories. Many of his stories centred on the thriller, horror, macabre and paranormal genres and ‘Fritz’ is one such story.

        Ray has build up suspense, horror and mystery in the story which finally lead to an unusual end of the story. He has made the environment of horror in the following incidents –

  • He gave the  story an entirely strange beginning in ‘Fritz’ where the protagonist Jayanto was fascinated with the idea of visiting Bundi,which he had visited as a child, thirty one years ago. As Shankar says ” Most people go to Jaipur, Udaipur or Chittor  when they go to Rajasthan; but Jayanto kept talking about going to Bundi. “
  •       The moment they arrived Bundi, Jayanto appeared to be quiet, distressed and emotional as some of his old memories had returned. As Shankar narrates – ” It is easy enough to feel a little depressed when visiting a place one may have seen as a child.”
             At first he could only recall his visit to the place with his parents. But his memories began returning one by one and  suddenly he went into flashback mode and remembered            everything. 

         He was suddenly reminded of a Swiss doll that his uncle had gifted him. The narrator described it as “a twelve – inch – long  figure of an old man, dressed in traditional Swiss style. Apparently, it was very life-like.” It wore a smile on his face and a little Swiss cap with a little yellow feather on his head. Its clothes were quite perfect having all the little details – belt, buttons, pockets, collars, socks and even little buckles on the shoes. 

       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.” 

           The doll was very close to little Jayanto as he said, “Once I had Fritz, I forgot all my other toys. I played only with him.” He used to talk to Fritz endlessly, Fritz often appeared to be smiling to him.

       Then Jayanto recalled how his loving doll was torn apart by two stray dogs and how he burried  it under the deodar tree in the lawn. 
  • After telling the story about Fritz, Jayanto became more restless. He woke up at night and told Shankar ” Something walked over my chest. That’s what woke me”.  
                Then Shankar suggested him that it might be any cat or rat, and he searched for the animal inside their room. But Jayanto showed him ” tiny, brown circular marks” on the cover of his quilt. Shankar being a rational man did not believe in Jayanto’s story and dismissed it as a bad dream. But next day, Jayanto told Shankar that it was Fritz who had come back to life and visited him the previous night. It seemed that Jayanto believed in Supernatural elements and that is why Shankar felt that it would be futile to talk to a man obsessed with such an absurd idea. 

  • It seemed that Jayanto was haunted by the memories of Fritz. To help Jayanto get rid of such weird notion, Shankar suggested that they should get the earth below the deodar tree dug up to find anything related with Fritz. 
  •  The horror element of the story comes to forefront in the climax scene when on digging up  the ground under the deodar tree, they found something which horrified them both. In narrator’s own words, ” There lay at our feet, covered in dust ,lying flat on its back, a twelve – inch – long, pure white, perfect little human skeleton. ” 
               The author has left the story open – ended for the readers to conclude whether Fritz was a ghost or some kind of a supernatural being, who died an unnatural death or a figment of Jayanto’s imagination. Thus, Ray’s Fritz succeeded in filling the readers with horror through an inanimate Swiss doll.


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