The Lady or the Tiger?: Alternate Ending

The Lady or the Tiger?: Alternate Ending

A Story by Maureen V. Hanover

Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights of anguished deliberation. She had known she would be asked, she had decided what she would answer, and, without the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.

Unbeknownst to her, there was not only one pair of eyes trained on her - those belonging to her lover - but two; belonging to the brutal and atrocious king himself, who, upon watching the princess's subtle decision, squirmed and writhed with inward glee and euphoria. For it was he who had conjectured at his daughter’s course of action, knowing her mind and hearing her cries in her sleep at night, fretting on what she should do. It is true he had been known to be semi-barbaric, but he was not at all callow when it came to affairs of the human heart.

Without questioning, and putting all of his trust into her, the princess’s lover proceeded to the great door in which she had indicated. A collective gasp rose up and out of the arena from the awestruck onlookers as he placed his hands on the bar holding shut the daunting door. Waiting to witness, as he lifted the bar, which would come out of the door to decide his fate.

But the king knew his daughter was to make herself knowledgeable by the the secrets of the doors, and so, the lady that had been behind the right, at the last moment, had been sent away; in her place assigning an even greater, savage, potent, and fantastical creature than the tiger which laid behind the left. A new creature, like none they had ever seen before.

The lover of the princess slowly lifted the bar and opened up the giant door to meet his fate, half expecting to hear the bells chiming bright and merry, and meeting the resplendent lady with partial regret. Because surely his love would not send him to the jowls of the tiger; wish him to die such an abominable fate? But there were none. Instead, he was greeted with a full blast of heavy smoke pouring persistently from the door. Inside was a great earsplitting and thunderous bellowing, and the ground beneath rumbled as the creature came barrelling out past him, thrashing wildly about...the audience gazed on in confusion.

The fantastical beast which barrelled out from the door was a starved, beaten, irritated, and heaving rhinoceros. Its thick armour-like skin hung from the creature’s frame, alarmingly and absurdly sparse. Yet the skin, built so dense and heavy, had brutal gashes and welts from its abusers. The magnificent and terrifying keratin horns were surreal - the first distinct and imposing, and the second eroded and polished down to a stump - both smothered in blood from the hapless beast’s whipped facade. The iron bars that caged the rhinoceros’s face into a harness left no room for free movement and comfort. Nothing like the smoke in the room where it was imprisoned so irritated the beast, and the delicate and sensitive feet were speared with wood and glass, leaving a trail of blood behind in her wake.

The barbaric princess frantically scrambled to her feet; bewildered, outraged, livid, and dismayed. She was perplexed. She had not chosen this fate for her lover! She had painstakingly made herself aware of which she would choose. Where was the lady? Where were the bells, and the priest! And why, if not the lady or the tiger,  was there a new creature, never before acquainted, behind that door?

The poor, helplessly blind animal ran circles in the arena, pained and frightened senseless by the roaring crowd of onlookers. The princess shrieked in ire as her lover stood motionless at the open door. The rhinoceros was creating quite the uproar, stirring the bloodstained sand with her hooves in sheer panic. Yet the lover of the princess strived to remain calm. He had seen how poorly off the cow¹ had been, seen the wounded and sensitive feet, the heavy bridle, the small, black eyes, nearly crusted over with blood. If he had any chance of survival, it was to remain motionless and not attract the animal’s attention, as poor-sighted as all rhinoceri are. Thus, he never stirred.

But yet, the princess, being as barbaric and hot-blooded as she was, could not restrain herself from her fury. She fumed watching the king’s delight in seeing his transaction play out as he had so deceptively planned. And so dejected and compromised was she at feeling the singe of her father’s betrayal, she struck out and shoved him over the edge of the balcony on which they sat, sending the king plummeting down into the arena.

The crowd grew silent as they realized that it was none other than their king who had been shoved into the arena, and had gotten the attention of the godforsaken beast inside. The princess, held in restraint by the guards, watched with her own pleasured enjoyment, as the startled and terrified rhinoceros plunged and charged in the king’s direction, with her knife-like horn and gleaming iron bridle, finally gored and impaled the true object of the princess’s own abhorrence.

The guards let down the restraint on the princess. What was to happen now? She was the heir. Now she was their ruler. But the show was not over yet. With full disgust and annoyance, the rhinoceros flung the broken body of the former monarch onto the ground. And there she stood, cowering in the corner of the arena, opposite the doors, unsure of what to do.

Then was when the patient lover of the princess began to advance, but he did not advance aggressively. With the utmost caution, he drew forward, making clicks and sounds to aware the beast of his presence. When he was no more than 10 paces�™ away, the beast huffed a little back at him. It was the cow’s turn to advance. The lover looked up into the eyes of the princess, and seeing that she was distressed at the distance between them, motioned to reassure her. He stood in peculiarly close proximity to the beast, and as she drew her head near, he reached out his hand. As the crowd gaped in awe, the lover stroked the cow’s bruised muzzle, her calloused cheek, her soft ears, and carefully rubbed the side her great horn. Taking her willingness as a sign, he took hold of the iron bridle, her prehensile lip³ tousling his hair, and gently lead her across the arena and back into the enclosure of the door (no longer smoking), closing it behind him.

The crowd cheered, for of all the king’s scheduled events in this arena, none had ever been quite so exciting and enjoyable. None had used any other reward or danger than that of a lady and that of a tiger. And seeing that the lover of the princess had not fled, but confronted and defeated seemingly death itself, that was it’s own reward. Being there was no more king to declare any more of those arena events, the princess was free to do as she pleased, and not long after were the princess and her lover happily married into a perfect union, her father looking down and seething, no doubt! The tiger was returned to its whereabouts, the lady that was supposed to be behind the door in the first place, was front and center at the wedding, gushing in pride for the couple. The rhinoceros, under command of the king, was to be treated as she had never been before - she was pampered and coddled, her feet treated daily and taken by the king himself, rocks in her enclosure to grind against and taper her horn to her heart’s content*, and nursed back to full health, bringing out a spoiled yet sweet personality of her own - the favoured pet of the royal family.

And now we are left to analyze why these events played out as they did. First, the queen’s decision was to give her lover off to the lady, though she despised her with every fiber of her being, she simply could not give her lover off to the tiger and die, because she loved him so. And second, the old king had known his daughter’s nature, and so being he had tricked them both, no matter what she chose, her lover would be sent off to a sure death, which the old king wanted more than anything else. *Third, you must understand a few things about this species, a rhinoceros. They have awful eyesight, and particularly sensitive feet. Smoke enrages them beyond extent (also due to sensitivity in the nose), and the old king did these things, along with abuse and starvation, to add an increased danger level. Of course, he could have used another tiger, but that would not be nearly as exciting or amusing as watching him getting impaled and gored to death by a new creature. And fourth, the new king, the queen’s lover, was wise in his decision to let the rhinoceros come to him. He had earned her trust and showed her kindness, and she would not hurt him. She had impaled the old king, not because he had abused her, because he had not, only indirectly. It was her keepers who abused her, under command of the king. Of course, a rhinoceros, as simple-minded and ignorant as they are, would not understand this. She had impaled him purely because the movement had startled her, and she charged as a defense. She is no more to blame for the old king’s death than our queen.

So this is how we are to conclude this tale, the one that takes us through many doors of the human - and beastly - heart while it is in peril and facing calamity. This is how we are to decide the rationality of a decision and determine what is most valuable.

¹ cow: the name for a female rhinoceros.

�™ one pace is the equivalent to 5 Roman feet, only a bit shorter than our feet today. The lover would have been standing at around 50 feet, roughly 15 meters away from the rhinoceros, which is accurate for how far a rhinoceros can see, being that they cannot distinguish between a man or a tree even as close as 20 meters.

³ the fact that the rhinoceros is described as having a ‘prehensile lip’ (and that it has 2 horns)  is indicative of it being a black rhinoceros - white rhinoceri have wide mouths, while it is the black rhinoceri that have prehensile lips; they have no difference in color.

* it is true that a rhinoceros’s nose is particularly sensitive, and so are their feet. The skin around a rhinoceros’s face and belly is particularly soft as well. Their eyesight is very poor so they rely on their hearing even more. A rhinoceros’s horn is not attached to its skull, but purely made of keratin, the same material as your fingernails, and it never stops growing. The shape of a rhinoceros’s horn comes down purely to individual preference, and they can rub it down to however they please. Behaviorally speaking, female rhinoceri tend to like their horns tall and sharp, while males tend to rub them down to be short and round, although there are a few exceptions to this, as with any stereotype. I speak from both research, personal experience, and things I have come to learn from experts.

I have tried to make all accounts of the rhinoceros as informationally accurate as possible. The reason she was included as a twist in this story was because we were getting so caught up in the princess’s decision alone, and we were so focused on two main possibilities, that we forgot to look from a wider scope and consider all the possibilities. We forgot to see how the other characters would react and what they understand about each other. The king was introduced first for a reason, and so we cannot forget to look at the ordeal from his perspective. We must try to understand and look at things from every possible angle.

© 2018 Maureen V. Hanover

Author's Note

Maureen V. Hanover
Alternate ending for The Lady or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton.

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Added on June 6, 2018
Last Updated on June 6, 2018


Maureen V. Hanover
Maureen V. Hanover


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