I once read “The Lady, or the Tiger?” for a class, and we were asked to ponder the possibilities. A king’s daughter is caught with her common-class lover, and as punishment he is thrown into an arena with two doors. Behind one door is a lady, and behind the other is a tiger; whichever door he opens is his fate. Meanwhile, the king’s daughter takes steps to find out which door will hide the lady and which will hide the tiger, and on her lover’s fateful day in the arena, she signals to him to choose the door on the right.
Given the background, the character motivations, and the circumstances, how do you think the story ends?
Well, the teacher had each of us write our own ending to the tale, and as indecisive as I was, I couldn’t bear to choose either one. The lady, or the tiger? About half the class picked the first while the other half picked the second, and they all wrote eloquently on the whys and wherefores of the choice they made.
Myself, I was racked with indecision. I didn’t like either ending, and I simply couldn’t justify choosing one over the other. Both endings were too sad, and I was of the mind that a tale that ended sadly was an unsatisfying one. Had I been the king’s daughter, I would have called in sick and avoided the event at the arena altogether.
But that wasn’t part of the assignment. The assignment was to write about what awaited the lover when he opened the door on the right. So I wrote.
In my ending, the door holds neither the lady nor the tiger. In fact, there is nothing and no one at all behind the door. Upon seeing this, the crowd looks accusingly at the king’s daughter, knowing that only she could be behind such sabotage, and with the audience distracted, the lover escapes through the open door and disappears. When his absence is discovered, the people are outraged. They send some men into the arena to go after the lover, all to no avail. Meanwhile, in the confusion of the chase, the king’s daughter also makes her exit. In fact, she and her lover later escape the city and live happily ever after.
The ending was completely atypical in the class, and my teacher loved it. He might have thought that I was thinking outside the box or being completely creative and original, but the truth is that I’m incapable of making a decision, and I will do almost anything to avoid having to make such a tough choice. To this day, I still cannot decide between the lady or the tiger. Every now and then I come back to this story and re-evaluate my response; I try to choose one or the other, and I can’t. I simply can’t.
As the narrator would say, “The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered, and it is not for me to presume to set myself up as the one person able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door,–the lady, or the tiger?”
Oh, to be decisive! May I pick door number three instead?Share this post: