While a fifteen-year old boy growing up in Latvia, he had fallen in love with and wanted to marry Myra Menke, the daughter of a wealthy landlord. However, he was unable to compete with a fellow suitor, Igor Barkov, who had offered his largest pig. To get help, he had gone to his friend, Madame Zeroni who, despite warning him that the girl he hoped to marry was spoiled and empty-headed, gave him one of her pigs and, and a way to make it grow larger - he had to carry it up a nearby mountain every day and sing a song to it as it drank from the stream there. However, he missed the last day, and the pig ended up only as big as the pig Igor offered, and when Elya suggested that Myra choose, he is shocked and disgusted that she is as empty-headed as Madame Zeroni had warned, when she had to resort to number games in order to choose between Elya and Igor, despite the fact that Igor was old enough to be her father and quite crude. As a result, he had gotten on a boat to America—in the process, forgetting to fulfil his promise to Madame Zeroni. As a result, his family and all their descendants were cursed to have bad luck. However, he was able to translate the song that Madame Zeroni had given him, and it was retained by the family for many years. He had a son he named Stanley Yelnats, the name "Stanley" is just "Yelnats" spelled backwards. Stanley's family always blames him for things that go wrong and they say it was because of their "no-good, dirty-rotten, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather."