In the present, Madame Zeroni is described as a "Gypsy woman;" in reality, Madame Zeroni was Egyptian. In mid-1800s Latvia, she was an elderly woman and was good friends with Elya Yelnats. When Elya approached her, sad that he was going to be unable to marry Myra Menke, Madame Zeroni initially cautioned that Myra wasn't worth the trouble. However, against her better judgment, she gave Elya a runty piglet and instructed him to carry the piglet up the nearby mountain every day. There, the piglet was supposed to drink from the stream as Elya sang a special song to the pig. This was supposed to make the pig bigger than Igor's pig, who was Elya's rival for Myra’s hand. On the final day, Elya was to carry Madame Zeroni up the hill (she has only one foot and couldn't climb herself) and sing her the song while she drank from the stream. Madame Zeroni told Elya that if he failed at any of this, his family would be cursed for eternity. Elya did indeed fail to follow through and began to wonder if the curse was real when he arrived in America. Though he asked people often if they knew of anyone named Zeroni, he never found any relatives of hers. In the present, Zero is Madame Zeroni's great-great-great grandson.