The Lady or the Tiger?

Many, many years ago there was a king in a far country. He was famous, he was strong and he was very clever. But in his country he had many wrongdoers. The King was unhappy about this but how can you stop people from doing wrong? It is not easy. He thought about this difficult question for a long time but he could not find the answer.

Suddenly, one day, he had a good idea. He spoke to his people and told them to build a big stadium in the centre of the city.

‘It must be very big and very beautiful,’ he told them.

So the people worked hard for many months.

One day, the building was finished. The stadium was ready. Inside it, there were places for five thousand people. Everyone was very excited about this beautiful new building. Some wanted to watch games in the stadium. Others wanted to have dancing and singing. But what did the King want? No one knew.

The day of the opening came. Everyone ran to the stadium to get a place inside. The people got more excited when the King arrived. They were all quiet, waiting. First, he took his place. Then, he stood up and spoke.

‘My people, my friends,’ he said. ‘Firstly I want to thank all the workers for their good work. We now have a beautiful stadium and it is very well built. Secondly, I know that many of you want to see games and dancing here. But this stadium is going to be different. It is not going to be a place for having a good time. It is going to be a place for wrongdoers. If one of you does something wrong, we are going to bring him to this place. There he must stand in the middle of this stadium in front of us all.

‘Now, do you all see those two doors, coloured blue, at the far end of the stadium? They look the same, perhaps. But they are not. Behind one door, I am going to put a dangerous animal, a tiger. Behind the other door, there is going to be a beautiful lady. The wrongdoer must choose one of these doors. If he opens the wrong door, he finds the tiger. It jumps out and kills him. If he opens the other door, he finds the beautiful young woman. She is to be his wife. They must marry immediately, right here in the stadium before our eyes. After that, they can live happily with us as husband and wife. So each wrongdoer must choose very carefully. Before he chooses, he — and we — cannot know if he is going to live or die. As soon as he opens one of those two doors, we all know immediately. That is my idea. So tell me, my friends, is it a good idea or is it not?’

‘It is good, O King, it is very good,’ the people answered. But they were quiet. They were afraid.

‘Thank you,’ said the King. ‘Now go home. Come to the stadium again at the same time next week. Then you can watch the first wrongdoer make his choice. Every week from now on, a different man is going to choose: to live, if he is lucky, or to die, if he is not.’

From that day, the people came every week to the stadium to watch a different wrongdoer. Sometimes, he opened the right blue door and the beautiful lady came out. Then there was singing and dancing. Everyone threw flowers down to the lucky people and went home happily. But at other times, the wrongdoer opened the wrong door. Immediately, a big tiger ran out into the stadium and jumped on the unlucky man. In a few minutes, the tiger killed him in front of all the watching people. When he lay dead in the centre of the stadium, the people went home sadly. They took their flowers with them. It is interesting that in a short time the number of wrongdoers in the country got much smaller. No one wanted to stand in the middle of the stadium and make that difficult choice.

Now, there is another important person in this story. The King had only one child, a daughter. She was very beautiful. She had green eyes and long red hair and she moved as quickly as a cat. She too was strong and clever — as strong and clever as her father. She did not smile often. But when she smiled, people were happy. When she was angry, everyone was afraid. They knew that at those times she was a very dangerous young woman. Her picture was in every home. Men, women and children followed her when she went walking in the streets of the city. They waited to see her famous smile and sometimes they were lucky.

One day, she was out walking in a city park when she saw a young man. He was a gardener and the park was where he worked. He was very good-looking. He was tall and strong. He had dark blue-black hair and a- dark moustache. When he laughed, you could see his beautiful white teeth. The King’s daughter stopped and looked at him closely. She thought that he was the most beautiful man in the world. She began to talk with him and liked him more and more. The young man could not understand. Why did the King’s daughter want to talk to him? He was not important. He was only the King’s gardener. But he could not take his eyes off her. As soon as he looked into her big green eyes and saw her smile, he was in love. But he knew that this love was very dangerous. He was not a rich man, not from a rich family. He could never marry the daughter of the King.


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