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The Interlopers

by Saki

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In what time period does "The Interlopers" take place?

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Because of the setting in which H.H. Munro’s short story “The Interlopers” takes place, it is extremely difficult to estimate the period in which it occurs. Munro, writing under his pen name Saki, set his story in the Carpathian Mountains in the Balkans—a vast stretch of land incorporating (over time) parts of Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, and Poland. The names of his characters in “The Interlopers” are of little help in isolating a specific geographic locale. It is a challenge complicated by a legacy of human movements throughout recent history and the propensity for the precise locations of international borders to change over time depending upon prevailing geopolitical realities (i.e., who won the last war and, subsequently, imposed the terms of the peace). It is sufficient to say, therefore, that the setting of Munro’s story could be anywhere along the Carpathian Mountain range. This geographical uncertainty is directly connected to the question of time and era. “The Interlopers” takes place in forested mountains and involves characters moving on foot, the significance of which is an absence of clues as to alternative modes of transportation (e.g., horseback, truck), but also occurs in a setting in which cultures and levels of technology could very well lag behind those of other more cosmopolitan locales (i.e., cities). In other words, the nearest major urban area could be significantly more technologically and socially advanced than the rural region, in which agrarian economics is dominant.

Finally, the notion of a feud between two clans, tribes, or families leaves the reader with little insight about the time in which “The Interlopers” takes place. The most famous such feud in US history was between the Hatfields and the McCoys, which peaked during the late nineteenth century but continued into the twentieth century. Europe’s much older histories and cultures, however, could muddy any effort at extrapolating from the American experience. The potential time frame is far broader.

In the end, perhaps, the best estimate as to the period in which “The Interlopers” takes place could be the author’s own life span. H.H. Munro died young as a result of his service in World War I (he was killed by a German sniper). He lived, then, from 1870 to 1916. That period of time, including the latter years leading up to his wartime military service, could fit the narrative Munro employed in his story. This time seems about as appropriate as any period contemplated, particularly for the isolated rural mountainous setting the author chose.

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This a good question. Like many short stories, the time period is not given. And there is little in the work to pinpoint one. What we, therefore, need to do is to piece things together from what evidence is given. 

First, the setting is on the eastern edge of the Carpathian Mountains, which borders the Czech Republic and Romania. The two main figures in the story are Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym, and they are noblemen. They also like to hunt. They also have retainers who go out with them. This suggest that the story takes place in a time where these things - hunting for fun, retainers, and personal vendettas in which the local police do not get involved - were typical of wealthy people.

Perhaps the greatest clue comes from the fact that author lived from 1870 - 1916. So, a reasonable guess states that we are dealing with the early 1800s to early 1900s. This fits the author and the setting. 

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The famous short story "The Interlopers" by Hector Hugh Munroe, whose pen name was Saki, tells of two men hunting in the eastern Carpathian Mountains. It's a touching story of two men that are neighbors but hereditary enemies who, after a tree branch falls on them both, decide to forsake their enmity and become friends. The cruel irony is that they are then set upon by wolves.

In the story, the location is clearly given as "a forest of mixed growth somewhere on the eastern spurs of the Carpathians," and the author describes the action as taking place on "one winter night," which identifies the season. Other than that, no other indications of time or historical period are given. The background is a feud between families that has been taking place over generations. If we assume that the story's events are contemporaneous with the life of its author, however, we can guess at the period of history. Saki was born in 1870 and died in 1916. He began his writing career near the close of the nineteenth century, and he began publishing short stories in magazines under his now-famous pen name in the early 1900s. The first appearance of "The Interlopers" was in the posthumous collection The Toys of Peace in 1919. From this timeline, the events in "The Interlopers" are probably meant to take place in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

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The Interlopers is a story by Hector Hugh Munro (Saki).  It was part of a collection of short stories (The Toys of Peace, and Other Papers ) that was published in 1919 after Saki's death.  While the physical setting of the story is indicated, the time period is not.  

There are several clues that enable us to speculate that the time period of the book is the early Twentieth Century. First, the fact that both characters have rifles is an indication.  Also, most of the short stories in the collection are set in pre-war Europe.  A third hint about the time period is the fact that we do know that the author lived between 1870 to 1916.  

This time period was before the Great War.  It was a period of industrialism and militarism in Europe.  England was the most powerful industrial power, but Germany was also moving in that direction.  Many of the European countries had acquired empires in Africa and Asia.  The historical period is referred to as the Industrial Age or the Age of Oil.  

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