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.