Curses and redemption


Elya Yelnats and the broken promise

The curse of the Yelnats famlily is a key point in Louis Sachar’s novel Holes. In Stanley Yelnat's family, there is the "family joke" (Part 1, 5%), namely, whenever something goes wrong, Stanley's great-great-grandfather is blamed for it. The only thing known in the family lore is that this great-great-grandfather once stole a pig from an old woman, who then brought disaster on his whole family (Part 1, 5%). No one in the family actually believes in a real curse. Nevertheless, Stanley and his parents take pleasure in blaming the "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" (Part 1, 5%) for their bad luck. Misfortune has haunted the entire family for generations.

In Chapter 7, the reader learns that Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, has indeed invited the wrath of an old woman, though not because he stole a pig from her, but because he broke a promise to her. In order to be allowed to marry the daughter of a farmer, Elya had to deliver a fatter pig than his competitor to her father. Since he was penniless, he asked his old friend Madame Zeroni for help.

The helpful Madame Zeroni gave him a piglet, which he was to carry every day up to a peak where there was an uphill stream. If he sang a special song to it while doing so, his piglet would grow fatter than any of his competitor's pigs (. The only thing Madame Zeroni expects from Elya in return is that he would also carry her up the mountain after his wedding, singing the exact same song to her. If he did not, "he and his descendants would be doomed for all of eternity" (Part 1, 24%).

When Elya Yelnats spontaneously decided against marrying the farmer's daughter, he forgot about Madame Zeroni and the promise made to her. He decided to emigrate to America. It was only on the crossing that he remembered Madame Zeroni. Elya, however, thought the curse was "a lot of nonsense" (Part 1, 21%). He was sorry, however, that he could not fulfill Madame Zeroni's wish to drink from the stream once more before her death.

Although Elya did not initially believe in the curse, soon after his arrival in the U.S. he had to realize that "bad luck seemed to follow him" and he always "seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time" (Part 1, 39%). When his streak of bad luck just would...

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