The Lady Or The Tiger? Mystery Revealed

By Anthony Buccino

Frank Stockton’s last word on The Lady, or The Tiger?

The Nutley author left directions that the envelope be opened 112 years after his April 20, 1902, death, and that its contents will reveal the long sought ending as to whether or not it was the lady or the tiger...

APRIL 1, 2014 (NUTLEY, N.J.)  -- The Nutley Library has recently revealed the discovery of an envelope left in its care more than 100 years ago by local author Frank R. Stockton, inside which the writer is said to reveal the end to one of his most famous and vexing short stories, “The Lady or The Tiger?

Nutley Author Frank R. Stockton, Courtesy: Project_Gutenberg_eText_13356The short story, published in 1882, is about a man sentenced to an unusual punishment for having a romance with a king’s beloved daughter, according to Wikipedia.

Honored author Stockton, it was also explained, gained fame when his puzzle story, “The Lady or the Tiger?” became world famous and started a vogue in literature.

Written originally to amuse a group of friends, the narrative left its hero required to open one of two doors, behind one of which was a beautiful woman and behind the other a man-eating tiger.

Debates on the ultimate outcome raged all the way to India and similar stories appeared everywhere for years, although Stockton never did answer his question.

According to an outer envelope, the Nutley author left directions that the envelope be opened 112 years after his April 20, 1902, death, and that its contents will reveal the long sought ending as to whether or not it was the lady or the tiger - settling the controversy once and for all.

From about 1860 to about 1890, Frank Stockton lived with his family on Walnut Street in Nutley. The town at that time was home to many artists and editors, and was visited by Mark Twain who is said to have first tasted ice cream.

About this time he took a position on Hearth and Home, and in 1873 became associate editor of St. Nicholas.

“Rudder Grange” was at first a story which he wrote for Scribner’s. Its cordial reception let him to enlarge it to the present delightful volume. This was the first book he wrote for “grown-ups,” although the elders had long been reading his children’s tales with delight.

In 1942, the Frank Stockton room, New Jersey’s first library department exclusively for junior high school students was opened in the Nutley Public Library. A scene from his work “Rudder Grange” by Ivan Stoppe, a New York artist, is hung in the north end of the room.

“The Lady and the Tiger,” written, so it has been said, for an evening party at Mr. Boardman’s in Nutley, has been translated into many languages, and one day in India a group of Hindus were heard gravely discussing the probable fate of the hero.

Stockton came to Nutley because of his friendship for Mr. William H. Boardman, who is the boarder in “Rudder Grange.”

The following is a description by Mrs. Stockton, the delightful Euphemia of his tales. “The first place in which we set up our household goods was at Nutley, N.J. Our dwelling there was a pretty little cottage where we had a garden, some chickens and a cow. This was our home during his editorial days, and here ‘Rudder Grange’ was written.”

Here also he wrote a number of his other stories. One called “Our Archery Club” was written from experiences in the Nutley Archery Club. Stockton’s archery equipment cost something like $103.10. When he took this story to the publishers he asked to a penny what his outfit had cost him, no more, no less.

Mr. Boardman recalled how on a certain Sunday morning he was awakened by hearing his name called. Looking out he saw Mr. Stockton crossing the street from his home carrying under his arm a black hen.

He proceeded to tell Mr. Boardman how they had broken the spare room washbowl and not caring to spend money for a new one, he offered this guaranteed setting-hen for a washbowl. A long dickering and discussion of terms followed resulting eventually in the transfer of the articles. Euphemia’s elaborate chicken-raising may be remembered.

To the account in “Rudder Grange,” it should be added that the Stocktons named their chickens after writers, and still called them by their names when they reached the table.

The principal works of Stockton are Rudder Grange, The Rudder Granges Abroad, The Lady or the Tiger, The Late Mrs. Null, The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, The Dusantes, The Hundredth Man, Personally Conducted, The Merry Changer, The Squirrel Inn, The Watchman’s Wife, Pomona’s Travels.

Frank Stockton was inducted into the Nutley Hall of Fame in 2003, along with Annie Oakley and Martha Stewart.

As for the mysterious envelope purported to answer the long-asked question, current writer-in-residence, Anthony Buccino explains that he has been called upon by the library board and members of the Nutley Hall of Fame and given the honor to open the envelope, read the content and eat it, thus ensuring 100 more years of uncertainty.

The reveal was postponed from Feb. 30 this year due to a large snowjob. The envelope ceremony will be held in front of the fireplace on the second floor of the Free Nutley Public Library ... as one more event celebrating the building’s 100th anniversary.

Sources include:

History of Nutley by Elizabeth Stow Brown, The Woman’s Public School Auxiliary, 1907

Nutley Hall of Fame


Please beware of April fools pranks such as the one you’ve just read. Thanks.

Parody first published by the Old Nutley blog.

© 2011 by Anthony Buccino

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