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Book Review: Fairy Glen Palace by Ruskin Bond

Fairy Glen Palace by Ruskin Bond is a short story about a ruined, haunted palace called Fairy Glen. The story takes place when Ruskin, in 1961, goes to live in Fosterganj, a small village around the hill station Mussoorie. One evening while coming down from Rajpur, Ruskin is caught in a storm. When it starts raining, Ruskin sees a ruined palace in the dark forest. Its front gate is rusted and it seems as that no one lives there since ages. Beside a gate, he finds a sentry cabin. He goes inside but the roof is leaking. Over the sentry box, Ruskin sees something weird: a bird sized between a raven and ostrich. The way bird screeched, it sent shivers down his spine. Soon, a boy comes inside the sentry cabin and asks him about his identity. Ruskin says that he lives in Fosterganj as a writer. The boy confirms that he has seen him there – Fosterganj is such a small place.

The boy takes him, by holding his hand, inside the palace from the back side. The architecture of the palace befuddles Ruskin. He thinks that it must have been a difficult task maintaining this palace. The boy knocks on the window of a small room; a tall woman opens the door. She has a deep scar on her face and looks around in fifties, but still she is beautiful. Their room is without electricity. The boy says that she is his mother.

The boy’s rough and well-built small hands indicate that he is beyond his age. He says himself Bhim (nicknamed Lucky). When Ruskin asks him about his age, he goes expressionless for some time and then redirects the question to his mother. After some hesitation, she asserts him to be a twelve-year old boy. As they converse, it comes out that the Maharaja of the palace was a notorious man. He got killed in an accident in the jungle. The heirs of the palace are fighting to claim it and they live far away. The boy says that the Maharaja was his grandfather, they, being relatives, are taking care of this about-to-collapse palace.

After tea and dinner in candlelight, Ruskin wishes to go back to his place Fosterganj, but it is raining cats and dogs outside. Moreover, the fear of a man-eater leopard is still lurking fresh in his mind. He insists Ruskin to stay back for night. The boy soon takes him to one of the darkest rooms of the palace through a dark passageway. He takes out the quilt from the cupboard and leaves an extra candle along with one matchbox. The room is leaking – but still it is the driest room in the entire palace. Straight to the bed there is a big French window. From behind the clouds, there comes sufficient moonlight to have the view of outside. As he tried to sleep, he wakes up upon hearing a dreadful scream…it seems of a human. Well, he ignores at first time. He tries to sleep. The scream follows again, he gets up, lights the candle, and draws the curtain on the window. In his wrist watch the time is 2 a.m. He, then, opens up the box bed and sees a skeleton in it, dressed in royal clothes with an expensive ring on its finger. He goes to open the room, well it’s locked from outside. It’s locked deliberately. Then, he remembers the passageway from the toilet, taking the candle in his hand he comes out of that ruined and haunted palace.

Around four in the morning, he reaches his room, at Fosterganj. He narrates the incident to his landlord Hasan, the landlord scolds him of going there as that palace has a bad name and his Maharaja was killed by a tiger while hunting.

Coming cross dark woods and haunted monuments and palaces and hills is not a rarity in hills. Thus, Ruskin Bond books are full of these kinds of adventures and stories, but every time you read a story, the climax and ending will not forget to leave you surprised. One cannot get bored of Ruskin’s ghost stories – that’s for sure.

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