The Interlopers Questions and Answers
by Saki

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What did Saki (H.H. Munro) want readers to understand after reading this story "The Interlopers"?

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One could certainly conclude that the lesson H.H. Munro, under the pseudonym “Saki", wished to convey to readers of his short story "The Interlopers" was the folly of hatred toward one’s fellow man. This is a very short story about two men, patriarchs of feuding clans, whose mutual antipathy can only be described as pathological. A generations-old dispute over ownership of a piece of inconsequential land has survived and festered so that Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym each view the other’s destruction as their respective raison d’etre. Munro described the situation as follows:

  “The forest lands of Gradwitz were of wide extent and well stocked with game; the narrow strip of precipitous woodland that lay on its outskirt was not remarkable for the game it harboured or the shooting it afforded, but it was the most jealously guarded of all its owner’s territorial possessions. A famous law suit, in the days of his grandfather, had wrested it from the illegal possession of a neighbouring family of petty landowners; the dispossessed party had never acquiesced in the judgment of the Courts, and a long series of poaching affrays and similar scandals had embittered the relationships between the families for three generations. The neighbour feud had grown into a personal one since Ulrich had come to be head of his family; if there was a man in the world whom he detested and wished ill to it was Georg Znaeym, the inheritor of the quarrel and the tireless game-snatcher and raider of the disputed border-forest. The feud might, perhaps, have died down or been compromised if the personal ill-will of the two men had not stood in the way; as boys they had thirsted for one another’s blood . . .”

That’s pretty intense stuff for two neighbors. As readers discover, however, the two enemies manage to shed their mutual antagonism while trapped under a fallen tree—the possible divine retribution that some have read into Munro’s story. They become friends after Ulrich shares his wine flask with Georg and the two put aside their differences only to realize that they will, indeed, die together when an approaching pack of wolves arrives. What Munro likely intended, then, was for the reader to see in his characters’ dilemma the fruitlessness of harboring grievances over events that predate even them. They have lived with hatred in their souls and will both die horrible deaths solely because they allowed a dispute over land that dates back to their forefathers to divide them. In short, Ulrich and Georg have wasted their lives over a “narrow strip of precipitous woodland". Munro seems to be asking if it was worth it. The answer, of course, is no.

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