A moral of this fable could be? ("The Interlopers")

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to "The Interlopers," there have been a number of literary works which have included feuds between families: Romeo and Juliet with the Montagues and the Capulets, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, the Tewksburys, a family of sheepherders, and the cattle-raising Grahams, and, of course, the legendary Hatfields and the McCoys. With all of the animosity attached to such feuds, the outcomes for them have been deadly in all cases. Indeed, such hatred never leads to anything but tragic consequences.

  • One of the morals of this story by Saki in which there is the feud between Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym is that hatred often has dire and lasting consequences.

Von Gradwitz has been so consumed with hatred that he spends countless hours and manpower patrolling his land against his mortal enemy. He has filled his heart with hatred and lost sight of what is really valuable: friendship and love. In the end, the hatred of the two men costs them their lives as Georg and his men move stealthily in the night onto Ulrich's land while Ulrich patrols.

  • Another moral is, perhaps, more far-reaching; that is, it is more universally true for all men. Whenever hatred fills a man's heart, he loses sight of what is truly valuable and, in so doing, often loses opportunities to become a better and more fulfilled person. 

Once Georg and Ulrich are trapped under the branches of the tree felled by the lightning, they each have nothing but time to sit with their own thoughts. Initially, they exchange curses for each other, but after some time, their thoughts become more internal and existential.

An idea was slowly forming and growing in his brain, an idea that gained strength every time that he looked across at the man who was fighting so grimly against pain and exhaustion. In the pain and languor that Ulrich himself was feeling the old fierce hatred seemed to be dying down.

Finally, Ulrich offers his flask to his old enemy, and then he offers his friendship. "Neighbour, if you will help me to bury the old quarrel I – I will ask you to be my friend.”

  • A third moral is that sometimes a man must face death before he sees lucidly. 

Faced with death, a man's thoughts focus on elemental questions and petty issues fade. Both Ulrich and Georg realize that they have more to gain in being friends than in being enemies. Georg responds to Ulrich's offer of friendship with a happy speculation:

"How the whole region would stare and gabble if we rode into the market square together. No one living can remember seeing a Znaeym and a von Gradwitz talking to one another in friendship. And what peace there would be among the forester folk if we ended our feud to-night."

  • A fourth moral is that one should not postpone opportunities for self-improvement and such values as friendship.

Unfortunately, it has taken their brush with death before Ulrich and George reconcile.