Madame Zeroni is an elderly Egyptian woman who lives on the outskirts of Elya Yelnats’ Latvian village. When Elya comes to her for help with winning Myra’s hand in marriage, Madame Zeroni advises him against it, telling Elya that Myra is not intelligent or useful enough to make a good partner and that he should consider immigrating to America as her own son did. But when Elya doesn’t listen, she takes pity on him – Madame Zeroni cares for Elya and wants him to be happy. She provides him with a ritual that will help his baby pig – Myra’s future dowry – grow fat and healthy. But Madame Zeroni has one small condition: after Elya has presented the pig as a dowry, he must carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain near the village so that she can drink from the mountain stream before she dies. If he fails to do so, his descendants will be doomed. After changing his mind about Myra, Elya leaves Latvia for America, forgetting his promise. Thus, the curse on the Yelnats family begins. However, despite Elya’s mistake, the fact that he abandons his original foolish plan in favor of eventually following Madame Zeroni’s advice is a testament to her wisdom and the value of her counsel.

Madame Zeroni is an honest and kind woman, but she also will not provide time, advice, and friendship to others if they cannot return the gesture. She is straightforward with Elya about the lasting consequences of abandoning her. However, Madame Zeroni’s curse is not truly eternal, as she originally claims – the Yelnats family has the chance to right their wrongs and earn the Zeroni family’s forgiveness. When Stanley fulfills his great-great-grandfather’s promise, he not only releases his family from centuries of bad luck, but he also repays the Zeroni family several times over by striking up an unbreakable bond with Zero and helping him reunite with his mother. Madame Zeroni’s story cements the importance of keeping promises and teaches the restorative power of fulfilling your responsibilities to others.