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Book Review: The Black Dog by Ruskin Bond

The Black Dog by Ruskin Bond is a short story which talks about superstitions about animals. This story has been covered in the book ‘Death Under the Deodars’. The narrator is Ruskin and the story is staged against the hills and forests of Mussoorie. Ruskin is a famous writer, at least in the hills of Mussoorie. He lives in Kempty village. Often he hikes to the hotel Royal, a walk of around five kilometers, to converse with Miss Ripley-Bean and Mr. Lobo.

Miss Ripley-Bean lives in one of the rooms of the hotel because once this hotel belonged to her father. And Mr. Lobo is a pianist in the hotel. People at the hotel say that animals with dark colour, especially of black colour cast omen on humans. However, Miss Ripley-Bean is of the opinions that if the person’s soul is pure and undefiled, then these animals also play as a guard.

On two occasions when Ruskin came and went to Kempty village at night, much to his surprise he found that a black dog of good height, usually taller than street dogs, was chasing him. The dog neither barked nor sniffed at him. Ruskin thought of it as a normal street dog, but he was sure that he had never seen that dog earlier. On both the occasions, when Ruskin reached the entrance and turned to look back, the dog was nowhere to be found and even after that he never saw that dog neither in his village nor in Mussoorie.

It is a mystery that he could never find about that dog. One evening when he is attending a huge party, he comes across the Jail warden of the Saharanpur jail. He informs Ruskin that a few months ago two thieves, now they are in jail, were planning to rob him. Ruskin reacts that he hardly has any money, which they could grab off. The Jailer says that you are famous and it means having money. But in reality, those thieves did not attack Ruskin because of that tall dog. They were afraid of it. Later, Miss Ripley-Bean confronts Ruskin and says that the black dog acted as a guardian for him.

Not all animals cast ill omen on human beings, especially if someone is good at heart. And these kinds of stories of ghosts and animals are quite common in the hills. It was a lovely story, a fascinating read. Children will love it.


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