Friday, 1 March 2013

The Lady Or the Tiger

When I look back to English class in high school, a couple stories stick out to me. I don't know why, and interestingly, it didn't happen for say...math class. But, one of my favorites was Frank Stockton's The Lady or the Tiger. I absolutely love it.   It has beautiful, compelling language and imagery.  I love the moral dilemma created by the story and the fact that it takes a great deal of thought to work out a "happy" ending. Another reason I love it, is because the story doesn't end, which inevitably makes students fume, but it's an excellent way to have students work on an assignment that I think challenges creativity. I usually get a wide variance of answers, ranging from blood and death, to happiness and weddings. Anyway, I just recently gave this assignment to my grade 10/11 class, and they demanded that I too, answer the question posed by the story, Which is it, the Lady or the Tiger? 

THE LADY OR THE TIGER - by Frank Stockton is avaliable to be read online.  The following, is MY ending to the story. 

Without delay, the Princess raised her hand and indicated the door to the right.  Just as the knowledge of which door held the tiger and which held the lady, had given the Princess the key to her future, further thought and self-discussion had indicated to her what she needed to do.  Though the Princess’ father was semi-barbaric, her mother had been as sweet as a flower, budding in warm sunshine.  For the favor of her Father, the Princess had often been told that in spirit as well as looks she favored her father, but as she grew older the Princess knew deep down that she favored her Mother in sweetness but also in cunning.  For what other kind of woman would be strongly matched to a Semi-barbaric King, and able to win his heart? The Princess watched as her lover, showing his full trust in her, that if she willed it, he would be torn apart at the claws of a wild beast with forgiveness in his eyes, and reached for the door on the right.  
The crowd gasped in one collective breath as the door slowly, steadily opened. It was then that her lover laid eyes on his new bride.  As the crowd around her burst into cheering and celebratory applause, the Princess shrank back, hiding the real tears in her eyes from the satisfaction of her Father.  She would be again, his sweet but broken-hearted daughter, contrite to his every wish and command. Before she could race away from the arena, from the image of her pleasantly surprised lover, being wedded to his new bride, her father caught her hand.  With one look she understood his heart. It said, You are mine forever, I did this because I love you. It occurred to the Princess that such love was not really love, but it was the only way that the King understood love to be. The Princess squeezed his hand, and raised her face to kiss his cheek.  She knew that her Father believed that true love was not true, for her own Mother had vanished one day, leaving her small daughter all alone.  That was unfathomable, even for a man of his own semi-barbaric nature.
So, it happened that time passed, and though the Princess thought often of her lover, and wondered if he still loved her with the same fervency as she loved him.  Her broken heart began to mend, and heal, and her mind and heart push the young lover aside.  She did marry, and blessed the kingdom with a fine son, to follow her in the paths of royalty.  
By and by, as it happens with all of us who draw mortal breath, her father died and was laid to rest in the arms of his ancestors.  Soon after, the now dear King was followed by the Princess’ husband to the underworld.   Though the Princess missed him, her heart was awakened again for her lover.  Messages were sent throughout the kingdom, in search of the man who’s life she had loved and saved.  Eventually he was found, not as far off as she would have thought, and brought before the throne of the once Princess and now Queen.  
           He removed his hat as a sign of respect, and as he bowed his head.  She could see the lines of silver tracing up to his temples, as he pressed his hat to his chest.  Holding his hand, timidly and to one side, a pretty little girl, the picture of her Father.  He explained to her that not long after his wedding, his wife had left this world to bring him his daughter, and he had been living in view of the palace, and the Princess ever since.  The Princess welcomed him again into her heart, and home and eventually they were married.  It was said, by all the people of the kingdom, that barbarism no longer resided in the heart of the royalty.  For, the Princess had learned that love, faced by the greatest sacrifice, was always returned, and time made right.  One day, on a walk in the garden, he told her,
"Love kept me near to you, kept me living and breathing for you, sacrificing for you, waiting for you." And the Princess knew it was true.

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