illustration of a wolf standing in the forest looking toward a fallen tree that has pinned a man underneath

The Interlopers

by Saki

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The Interlopers Summary

The Interlopers” is a short story about a feud between neighboring landowners Ulrich von Gradwitz and Georg Znaeym.

  • Ulrich and Georg are engaged in a feud that dates all the way back to their grandfathers, who had a nasty dispute over a piece of land between their properties.

  • One stormy night, both men decide that they will defend their claim to the land with force. Upon meeting, the two become pinned under a tree.

  • Both men have a sudden change of heart and agree to a complete reconciliation. They call out to their respective parties, but the sound attracts wolves.


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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 814

“The Interlopers” takes place during a stormy night in a forest in Central Europe, “on the eastern spurs” of the Carpathian Mountains. This is part of the estate of Ulrich von Gradwitz, who is standing in the forest, as though waiting for some game to shoot. However, he is not stalking an animal but another man. Although Gradwitz has a large estate, on which game is plentiful, he guards this particular narrow and unremarkable strip of land with greater care than any other part of his holdings. Following a legal dispute in the time of his grandfather, the Gradwitz family reasserted their claim to the land after a neighboring family had taken possession. The Znaeyms, their neighbors, had refused to accept the judgment of the court, and there has been a feud between the two families ever since. As a result, Gradwitz hates Georg Znaeym and is always trying to catch him hunting—or, as Gradwitz sees it, poaching—on the land. The two have hated each other since boyhood, lending further fuel to the longstanding feud in the form of personal animosity.

Gradwitz is accompanied by a band of foresters, but he has broken away from them to see whether he can find Znaeym. He particularly wants to catch his enemy alone so that he can face him with no witnesses. His wish is granted when he steps around the trunk of a large beech tree to find George Znaeym glaring at him, rifle in hand.

Neither man knows what to do. They are both sufficiently civilized to feel some compunction about shooting another man in cold blood, and they hesitate. As they are standing there, the storm suddenly surges, and the beech tree above them cracks and crashes down on them, pinning them both to the ground. Neither is seriously injured, but it is clear that they will not be able to move until someone comes to release them.

Znaeym laughs at Gradwitz, saying that it is a great joke and a form of poetic justice for Gradwitz to be trapped in the forest he stole. Gradwitz replies that he is on his own land and that when his foresters come to rescue them, Znaeym will be treated as a poacher. Znaeym responds that he is attended by men of his own and that they will be on the scene first. When they arrive, they will release Znaeym and roll the trunk over onto Gradwitz, crushing him so that his own men will eventually find nothing but a dead body. Gradwitz replies that this is a useful hint as to how his men should treat Znaeym when they arrive in a few minutes. Both agree that they and their men will fight to the death “with no cursed interlopers” to come between them. However, both Gradwitz and Znaeym know that it is a matter of mere chance whose men arrive first and that it may be a long time before they are found by either party.

With some difficulty, Gradwitz manages to use his one partially free hand to take his wine flask out of his coat pocket. He drinks and feels somewhat revived. He suddenly pities his enemy, who has nothing to drink. On an impulse, he asks Znaeym if he could reach the flask if Gradwitz were to throw it to him. Znaeym replies that there is blood caked around his eyes, nearly blinding him. In any case, he would not drink with an enemy.

After further thought, Gradwitz says that Znaeym can do as he likes if his men arrive first. However, if Gradwitz’s men come before...

(This entire section contains 814 words.)

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them, he will tell them to help Znaeym first. He sees that they have been fools to quarrel over this strip of land, and he asks Znaeym to be his friend. Znaeym is silent for a long time. Then he agrees, talking of how they will celebrate feast days together and how amazed people in the region will be to learn of their friendship.

The two men both continue to hope that their men will arrive first, but now it is so that they can each make a magnanimous gesture of freeing the other. They join together in shouting for help, but they hear nothing except the wind. Then Gradwitz is delighted to see some figures approaching through the forest. Both men shout again, and this time they are certain the men must have heard, as they start running toward the fallen tree. Znaeym says that they must be Gradwitz’s men, since there are nine or ten of them, and he only brought seven with him. However, Gradwitz suddenly seems struck with fear and says that the figures are not his men. Znaeym strains his eyes and asks who the approaching figures can be if they are not either party of foresters. Gradwitz answers him in a single word: “Wolves.”