top of page

What's Your Favorite Short Story?

My absolute favorite is by Frank Stockton called "The Lady or The Tiger?" I first read it when I was about 21 years old in an English class in college. I still have the original book I bought for that class with several other stories that I've enjoyed many times.

The story is about a barbarian king who carried out justice for crimes committed via his arena where there was an audience to watch a great spectacle unfold. As a form of barbarian court justice, the king would force the accused to stand in the arena while the towns people watched and cheered and he would be instructed to open one of two doors.

Behind one door stood a beautiful woman and if the accused should open that door, then he would immediately be married off to the woman then and there, as a reward for his innocence.

Behind the other door stood a fierce tiger, and if the accused opened that door he would be eaten alive in front of everyone, as punishment for his guilt.

Then the turning point...there was a common man in the town who fell in love with the king's daughter. When the king found this out, he had the man arrested and he was to stand before the two doors in the arena. The young man knew his barbarian girlfriend would find out which door held the lady or the tiger and that she would do what she could to inform him and save his life.

Yet her barbarian nature was as her father's and she was kept up at night by the jealousy and fears of him marrying the beautiful woman that would be behind one door, a woman she knew from the town, a woman she hated. But at the same time she couldn't help but wonder how horrific it would be to watch her lover die and in such a terrible way if he opened the door that held the tiger.

When the day arrived the young man was confident his lover would save him and without the king noticing she motioned toward one of the doors. She had made the decision after a lot of mental anguish about the outcome of both scenarios. Without hesitation he proceeded to the door she'd motioned to and opened it.

This is where the story ends. We as readers are left to decide which came out of the door, the lady or the tiger?

Ugh, how dare he?

I have wondered about the ending every time I read the story. We all have that beautiful delicate side we portray to the world and yet inside there is a dark place, a place so dark that it is not always visible unless we are pushed to a certain point. This woman is going to lose her man anyway. Imagine her having to walk around town and see him married to someone else, his happiness forever burying her pain and anger.

But then if she had seen him killed in such a way, the man she loved, how could she deal with that forever?

Sometimes we have difficult choices to make and we don't always want the world to know our reasons behind why we choose certain things, why we pick one career over another, or one love interest over another. Steal or don't steal, cheat or don't cheat, lie or don't lie. To some, the choices are straightforward, but that is only for those on the outside looking in. Only those of us in those difficult situations can truly know why we are led to certain choices.

Notice I didn't say why we make certain choices, but instead are led to them. There are things that are beyond our control. There are times that what we want to do vastly differs from what we have to do.

I actually pity the barbarian princess, being forced into such a decision that is not as straightforward as someone on the outside looking in would think. It angers me that her father would create a situation for her where her own punishment is to watch the outcome and live with whatever happens.

This story teaches me to not be so hard on myself when I make choices in my life that might not be what others might want for me. There is a path everyone takes in life and sometimes the path has no u-turns or any kinds of turns whatsoever. Sometimes we are planted on a certain path and must just make the best of it. When we finally reach that bend in the road we don't necessarily choose right or left because it's a nice day for a walk in either direction. There's a past full of reasons to lead us one way or anther and many times we can't see any way out of a difficult path without choosing a more difficult exit.

This story teaches me to give myself a break because I am only in control of my own choices, not always what put me in the position to make them.

Thanks for reading!

Talk soon,


6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I could still see the scuff marks on the floor where the hospital bed had been wheeled away. The rubber parts of the wheels were no match for the wooden floor and yet try as I might, the dark spots on

Janine examined her reflection in the full-length mirror. Nordstrom's was having a holiday sale, so this was the perfect time to buy a dress for the funeral, that is if she was still going. Her friend

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page