• Annotated Full Text
  • Publication Date: 1882
  • Flesch-Kincaid Level: 12
  • Approx. Reading Time: 14 minutes
Short Fiction

The Lady, or the Tiger?

Frank Stockton’s 1882 short story The Lady, or the Tiger? is a whimsical fairy tale about the dangers of choice and consequence. It involves a faithful suitor, a jealous princess, and a vengeful king. After the king learns of the love affair between the princess and the suitor, a man of lower birth, the king throws the young man into his arena—a great colosseum where he punishes the kingdom’s criminals. The criminal on trial must open one of the two doors in the arena: behind one is a tiger, who will devour him; behind the other is a beautiful maiden, to whom he will be married. For the trial of the lover, however, the king has chosen a lady of whom the princess is extremely jealous. Stockton places the princess at the center of her lover’s fate: Will she send him to his death or to a life married to a woman she hates? After discovering which door holds the tiger and which holds the lady, the princess directs her lover to one of the doors. Stockton ends the narrative before revealing what was behind the chosen door, placing the fate of the young man on the imagination of the reader, not the princess.

  • Annotated Full Text
  • Publication Date: 1882
  • Flesch-Kincaid Level: 12
  • Approx. Reading Time: 14 minutes