The Interlopers

the interlopersThe British writer H. H. Munro, also known by the pen-name Saki, is well-known for surprise endings. This story has perhaps the shortest surprise ending of all. It is just a single word, and doesn’t come until the last line of the story. Two families have been fighting for years over the use of a poor piece of forest land. The heads of the families find themselves facing a difficult situation together. This helps them see how silly they have been, and they promise to be friends for life. But just as they are looking forward to a future without fighting, some unexpected visitors spoil it all.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Pre-Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. In the first paragraph we are told that the game Ulrich was looking for was not from the forest. Here the word means animals that are hunted.

Who or What are The Interlopers?

An interesting question is just who or what are the “Interlopers” referred to in the title of the story.

Georg uses the term to describe two different groups of characters. First he talks about people who are trying to stop the fighting between the two families:

We fight this out to the death, you and I and our foresters, with no cursed interlopers to come between us.

Later he refers to other people who would try to stop them if they wanted to make peace:

And if we choose to make peace among our people there is none other to , no interlopers from outside.

It could be said that these human interlopers are mirrored in the story by two interlopers from nature. First, the falling tree comes between the two men and stops them fighting to the death. Then the wolves arrive, seemingly preventing the families from making a lasting peace.

I like to think that there may also be another set of interlopers: Ulrich and Georg themselves. They the natural order of things by bringing their feud into the forest. Munro uses to give the storm and the forest an almost human quality:

the whistling and ing of the wind and the restless beating of the branches… a of the storm… the ing of the wind… where the trees can’t even stand in a breath of wind… with the wind ing in s through the naked branches and whistling round the tree trunks…

Could it be that the death of the two men is nature’s way of ing them for being interlopers?

Or could there be a deeper meaning in the story? It is likely that the story was written between 1914 and 1916 during the period that Munro served in the British army in World War One. Although officially too old at 43, he had ed for service and was sent to France where he fought and wrote between battles.

the toys of peace bookIt has been suggested that The Interlopers is an about the war. Two families (groups of countries) are fighting over a number of unimportant issues. There are outsiders who try to stop the war, and others who oppose them. The men doing fighting on both sides, who in other s could have become good friends, suffer and die together. We will never know the answer to this question because Munro was killed during the war. The Interlopers was first published three years after his death in a book called The Toys of Peace and Other Papers, available in various e-book forms from Project Gutenberg here, and as an audiobook from LibriVox here.


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branch(n: branch pl branches) An arm-like part of a tree that grows out from the central part. 2000

creature(n: creature pl creatures) A living being; an animal of any type, especially a non-human. 4000

curse(v: curse, curses, cursed, cursing) 1. To wish or say magic words so that trouble or bad luck may fall upon someone or something. 2. To use bad or violent language; to swear.
(n: curse pl curses) Something or someone believed to bring trouble or bad luck. 4000

deer(n: deer pl deer) A wild, fast running grass-eating animal with four long, thin legs and branched horns (called antlers) if male. Often found in a group called a herd. 5000

faint(v: faint, faints, fainted, fainting) To feel weak or tired and suddenly fall down and become unconscious.
(adj: faint, fainter, faintest) 1. Feeling weak or tired, as if you are going to fall down. 2. Not clearly seen, heard, tasted, felt, etc. 3000

generation(n: generation pl generations) 1. All the people of approximately the same age or living at the same time. We need to take better care of the environment for future generations. 2. All of the people that are at the same stage of descent from a common ancestor. Mother and daughters represent two generations. 3. The average length of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their children, generally accepted as around 25-30 years. 2000

guest(n: guest pl guests) 1. A visitor who stays in a hotel etc. We have accommodation for 500 guests. 2. A person that you have invited to your house or to a particular event that you are paying for. We are having guests for dinner.
(adj: guest) Describes something kept specially for a guest.
guest bedroom/towels, etc. 3000

harm(n: harm, noncount) Physical or mental damage or injury; something that causes someone or something to be hurt, broken, made less valuable, successful, etc.
(v: harm, harms, harmed, harming) To cause harm.
(adj: harmful) Causing or able to cause harm.
(adj: harmless) Not harmful. 2000

hell(n: Hell, singular) The place where, according to some religions, the devil lives and evil people go after they die.
(n: hell; noncount) A very difficult or unpleasant situation or experience. I left the job because the boss made my life hell. 1000

injure(v: injure, injured, injured, injuring) To harm or damage someone or something.
(n: injury pl injuries) Damage to a person's or animal's body in an accident or attack. The motorcyclist received terrible injuries in the crash. 2000

interloper(n: interloper pl interlopers) A person who is not wanted or welcome by the other people in a situation or place. I tried to help my neighbors, but they regarded me as an interloper. 13000

justice(n: justice, noncount) The quality of being fair or just; fairness or rightness in the treatment of other people. 2000

murder(n: murder pl murders) The crime of deliberately killing a person. 2000

pain(n: pain pl pains) The physical feeling caused by sickness, injury, or mental or emotional hurt. He felt a sharp pain in his back. It caused him pain to talk about his wife's death.)
(adj: painful; painless) Causing pain. A painful injury.; Without pain. Painless childbirth. 2000

pray(v: pray, prays, prayed, praying) 1. To speak to God or someone or something that has special powers in order to express thanks or ask for something. 2. To hope or wish very much for something to happen.
(n: prayer; pl prayers) The words spoken to God when you give thanks or ask for something. 2000

silence(n: silence, noncount) 1. [A period of time] when there is no sound. The teacher asked for silence in the room. I find it hard to sleep unless there is complete silence. (ความเงียบ)
(adj: silent) Used to describe someone or something that is not making noise. (เงียบ)
(adv: silently) In a silent way. (อย่างเงียบ ๆ) 3000

steep(adj: steep, steeper, steepest) [of a mountain, hill, stairs etc] Almost straight up and down; rising or falling very sharply. (สูงชัน) 3000

thief(n: thief pl thieves) Someone who takes (something) from the owner in a way that is wrong or against the law; a robber. The thief got away with all my money. (ขโมย) 3000

(n: trunk pl trunks) 1. The thick main stem of a tree from which the branches grow. (ลำต้น) 2. A large strong box that can be locked and used for holding clothes or other things, especially when traveling. (หีบใส่ของ) 3. The long nose of an elephant. (งวงช้าง) 4000

tree trunk wardrobe trunk elephant trunk

wolf(n: wolf pl wolves) A wild animal of the dog family, usually found hunting in groups called packs. (สุนัขป่า) 3000

game(n: game pl games) A physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure. A card game. Party games.
(n: game, noncount) Animals that are hunted. Wild game. 1000

external(adj: external) Located, seen, or used on the outside or surface of something; of, for, from, or on, the outside. 3000.
In literature, an 'external conflict' is a struggle a struggle between a character and an outside force such as nature or another character.

quarrel(n: quarrel pl quarrels) An angry disagreement or argument. I've had a quarrel with my girl-friend and she is not speaking to me right now. 6000

interfere(v: interfere, interferes, interfered, interfering) To become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted. I'm sick and tired of the way he's always interfering in my life. Don't interfere in other people's business! 3000

disturb(v: disturb, disturbs, disturbed, disturbing) 1. To stop (someone) from working, sleeping, etc.; to interrupt or bother someone or something. 2. To worry or upset someone; to trouble emotionally or mentally. 3000

(n: personification, noncount) In literature, giving human-like qualities to animals, objects or ideas. Lightning danced across the sky. Time flies and waits for no one. 11000

skirl(n: skirl pl skirls) A high-pitched crying sound, like that of bagpipes.

fierce(adj: fierce, fiercer, fiercest) 1. Very violent and likely to fight. A fierce dog/warrior. 2. Very violent or powerful. A fierce battle/storm. 3. Very strong or intense; having or showing a lot of strong emotion. A fierce argument. 3000

shriek(n: shriek pl shrieks) A loud, high-pitched cry or sound; a scream. She gave a shriek as she felt someone grab her arm. Shrieks of laughter. (เสียงกรีดร้อง) 7000

weary(adj: weary, wearier, weariest) 1. Not having enough strength, energy, or freshness because of a need for rest or sleep; tired. The miners were weary after a long night at work. 2. Bored or annoyed by something because you have seen it, heard it, done it, etc., many times or for a long time. I am weary of his jokes. (ซึ่งเหนื่อยอ่อน) 6000

screech(n: screech pl screeches) 1. A loud and very high cry that usually expresses great pain, anger, or fear. With a loud screech, she smashed the plate against the wall. 2. A loud and very high sound. The car stopped with a screech of brakes. (เสียงดังที่กรีดร้องออกมา) 8000

upright(adj: upright) 1. Standing straight up; erect or vertical. He placed the books upright in the bookcase. She stood upright. A row of upright posts. (ที่ตั้งขึ้น) 2. [of a person] Always behaving in an honest way; having high moral standards. An upright, honourable man. (ซื่อสัตย์) 5000

(v: tear, tears, tore, torn, tearing) 1. To separate (something) into parts with a sudden or hard pulling action; to put a hole in a piece of clothing, paper, etc., usually by cutting it on something sharp. (ฉีกออก) 2. To go or move very quickly; to rush. He went tearing down the street on his bicycle. (เคลื่อนที่หรือกระทำอย่างเร่งรีบ)
(n: tear pl tears) A drop of liquid that comes from your eyes, especially when you cry; a teardrop. (น้ำตา) 2000

tear paper teardrop

fitful(adj: fitful) Happening only for short periods; not continuous or regular. He had a few fitful hours of sleep. 14000

gust(n: gust pl gusts) A sudden strong wind. Today's weather will be windy, with gusts of up to 40 miles per hour. 8000

punish(v: punish, punishes, punished, punishing) To make someone suffer for a crime or for something done that is wrong.
(n: punishment pl punishments) The act or way of making someone suffer for a crime or for something done that is wrong. 3000

volunteer(n: volunteer pl volunteers) 1. Someone who does something (such as join the military) without being forced to. When the war started, he was one of the first to volunteer. 2. A person who does work without getting paid to do it. The school was built by volunteers. (ใจสมัคร) 2000

(n: allegory pl allegories) In literature, a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation. The book 'Animal Farm' by George Orwell is an allegory that uses animals on a farm to describe the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian Communist Revolution before World War Two. 11000

(n: circumstance pl circumstances) A condition or fact that affects a situation or event. I can't imagine a circumstance in/under which I would do that.
(n: circumstances, plural) 1. The way something happens; the specific details of an event. The circumstances of his death were unusual. 2. The conditions in which someone lives. Their circumstances changed after she lost her job. 2000

A short (10 minute) video adaption of the story produced by Boulevard Avenue Films. Of the two videos presented here, this one remains closer to the original setting and dialogue. For me, the story loses something with the strong American accents and careful pronunciation of the actors. However, because of this, non-native speakers of English may find this story easier to understood than the 2008 video. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.
A short (9 minute) video adaption of the story produced by Fueld Films. This video changes the setting to the American “wild west”, and because of this the characters seem more natural than in the 2007 video. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.

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