Short Story Review: The Lady or the Tiger? (1882)

The Lady or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton

This was the king’s semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady; he opened either he pleased, without having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be devoured or married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one door, and on some out of the other.

Oh, wow, okay. I absolutely loved the prose. I’ve never even heard of this before it popped up on my feed today, but apparently it’s a classic short story from the 1880s. How groovy! I definitely recommend giving this a read.

The Lady or the Tiger? follows the tale of a barbaric king after he learns his daughter has a secret lover and so subjects him to a trial by chance. If he picks one door, he gets eaten by a tiger; if he picks the other door, he has to marry a woman who is not his daughter. The story is framed in a talking-to-the-reader kind of way, with a philosophical twist (kind of reminds me of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, actually). The prose is just so lush that it draws you right in.

Read it online here.