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The Interlopers by Saki: Summary, Characters & Setting

Instructor: David Raudenbush
A generations-old feud fuels the anger of life-long rivals in the short story ''The Interloper'' by Saki. The story describes the final showdown between the adversaries during a deadly windstorm in the Carpathian Mountains.

A Dark and Stormy Night

Somewhere in the ancient, dark forest lurks your greatest enemy. Tonight, you are both predator and prey. As you stalk your enemy, he stalks you. The tree branches are like the bare bones of an old skeleton rattling in a fierce, cold wind. Tonight, a feud that has lasted generations will end violently, and permanently.

That's the dramatic set up for the short story The Interlopers by the British writer H.H. Munro, who wrote under the pen name Saki. Through a couple of ironic twists, the story explores the foolishness in carrying hatred to the extreme and reveals how powerless we are against the forces of nature.

The author Saki
Saki

The Feud

The Interlopers takes place in a stretch of forested land somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe. The land belongs to the von Gradwitz family, but that hasn't always been the case. The grandfather of the current von Gradwitz heir once won the deed to the lands from a neighboring family in a lawsuit. It's night, and fierce winter winds shake the trees.

As the story opens, Ulrich von Gradwitz and his foresters patrol the land hoping to nab the 'tireless game-snatcher and raider' Georg Znaeym, whose ancestors lost the ground in the lawsuit. Von Gradwitz and Znaeym, we learn, have been bitter enemies since childhood, carrying on the generations-old feud. Znaeym frequently trespasses on the land and poaches von Gradwitz game. Ulrich wants nothing less than to catch his nemesis in the act and kill him there.

Ulrich strays away from his crew of foresters and immediately crosses paths with Georg. Before either man can pull a trigger, a gust of wind more violent than their hatred snaps off the trunk of a beech tree and drops the mass on top of the lifelong adversaries. The first ironic twist of the story occurs as the forest that has been the source of contention pins von Gradwitz and Znaeym leaving them alive but immobile. Even under the crushing weight of the tree trunk, the adversaries continue their feud.

'Only as you will have met your death poaching my lands, I don't think I can decently send any message of condolence to your family,' Ulrich tells his enemy.

Georg snarls in reply, 'We fight this quarrel to the death, you and I and our foresters, with no cursed interlopers to come between us. Death and damnation to you, Ulrich von Gradwitz.'

However, soon both men realize the futility of carrying on with their hatred under such perilous circumstances. Ulrich manages to free his hand and reach a flask of wine. The two former enemies reconcile their differences and share a drink.

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