How does Ulrich change his attitude toward his rival, and why do you suppose this happens in "The Interlopers"? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After being pinned beneath the huge branches of the beech tree, Ulrich begins to reconsider his enmity toward Georg Znaeym as he is faced with the possibility of death.

On a bitter winter night with a cruel wind blowing, Ulrich von Gradwitz decides to hunt for his enemy, so he gathers his men and ventures out in order to search for the "prowling thieves" he suspects are hunting in the contested strip of forest over which the two families have feuded for generations. Ulrich breaks away from his men, hoping to happen upon his enemy with no one to witness him.

Ulrich comes around a huge beech tree and abruptly faces his enemy. In this moment of sudden recognition, Nature interferes, breaking branches with a violence that sends the branches crashing upon the two men, pinning them beneath the tree's weight.

Imprisoned and bloodied by the branches, the two foes can do nothing to each other. They initially curse and threaten each other with retaliation when their men catch up to them; however, after some time in which they have struggled uselessly, Ulrich is able to pull out his wine flask:

The wine was warming and reviving to the wounded man, and he looked across with something like a throb of pity to where his enemy lay, just keeping the groans of pain and weariness from crossing his lips. 

Apparently, when he finds himself in such a life-or-death situation pinioned with his enemy, Ulrich rethinks the importance of this hatred, and he decides he should live in peace rather than enmity. Feeling pity for Georg, Ulrich offers him some of his wine. Then, as he considers things further, he asks Georg to be his friend.

Realizing that he and Georg are facing a life-and-death situation, Ulrich weighs the importance of life against the significance of a feud, and he finds that their lives and welfare are more important than their families' grudge.