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    Palindrome Name 
  • The main character's name is Stanley Yelnats, and his last name is supposedly from his Latvian side of the family. But, the Latvian alphabet has no "Y"s. They use "J"s instead. So the whole first name is his last name backwards thing wouldn't really work if it's actually Latvian. (From a troper with Latvian heritage and a sister named Livija {Liv-ee-yuh.})
    • A lot of immigrants' names got mangled when they entered the states. A "J" getting changed to a "Y" would be no big deal.
    • Stanle Jelnats could get mangled to Stanley Yelnats pretty easily, and still remain palindromic.
    • And besides, the first Stanley Yelnats was born in the US wasn't he? The Yelnat ancestor who immigrated wasn't named Stanley (Elya I think his name was. I'm not quite sure, it was something like that.).
    • Yep, that's right: Stanley Yelnats was born in the USA and was named by his mother (Sarah Miller, an American) who noticed and liked the palindrome thing. Presumably, Elya Yelnats (Stanley Yelnats IV's great-great-grandfather) Anglicised the spelling of his name upon immigrating, changing the J's to Y's.

    Breaking the curse 
  • Consider. The curse of bad luck states that it would be cured by having Madame Zeroni carried up the mountain (in LATVIA, or the original country of origin for Stanley's family) so that she could drink from the water while being sung to. I was under the impression that the spring was somehow magical, but that could just be something I imagined of my own accord. In any case, the curse is cured when Stanley carries Zero up the mountain, lets him drink from the spring, and sings the song to him, right? Only that took place in AMERICA, nowhere near where Madame Zeroni lived. So, is it that the actual location doesn't matter as much as the symbolism itself?
    • Yes, it was just symbolism. The only reason Elya Yelnats and the pig were getting bigger and stronger was that the pig was getting feed and presumably unsoiled water, and Elya was carrying a pig up and down a mountain once a day of size increasing slowly enough not to notice. My guess was that Madame Zeroni was guessing the girl was shallow enough and her father opportunistic enough to go for the guy with the big muscles whether his pig was bigger or not, and got PO'd that he left without paying before putting what may have been an actual curse on him.
    • It could also have been what the trip to the spring symbolized. According to Madame Zeroni, drinking from the spring would make her stronger (possibly the water was more pure or healthier at that spring) and it was implied that she would die soon. Thus, by forgetting his promise, Elya inadvertently shortened her life. When Stanley had Zero drink from the spring, he carried him up there and gave him water to save Zero from dying. In other words, he was giving him the chance to live longer that Madame Zeroni had been denied. So because Stanley had done that, the curse was lifted (or a shorter answer could be that the curse decided to not be picky since Stanley was saving the descendant of the caster).
    • Besides, Madame Zeroni said that the spring on the mountain had water that ran uphill. On God's Thumb, Stanley and Zero (once they're better) wonder about the nature of the spring, and think that the thumb is a natural water reservoir because that's the only explanation, considering "water doesn't run uphill." If we presume that the water at this spring did run uphill, Stanley and Zero just never noticed it, then that means the two springs both had water that had the same magical properties. So, it works.
    • The book states that the water on God's thumb runs uphill.
    • Or does it? It's only Sam who says the water at his secret onion patch runs uphill. Zero gives a natural explanation, so it's likely one of those Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane situations.
      • A possible mundane explanation for the water running uphill in both locations could be that it's really just an optical illusion: water appears to be running uphill when it actually isn't. They're called gravity hills. That said, the unique location of both God's Thumb and the stream in Latvia may still imply a quasi-supernatural origin for both since most (or maybe even all) real gravity hills are manmade, either as deliberate "mystery spot" attractions or random consequences of building a road and the like in just the right place.
    • Also, and this is coming from a Latvian, there are NO mountains in Latvia. Highest we get is a hill, called Gaizinsh and it's only 312 meters above the sea level.
    • Could be that the "mountain" in question was just a hill, which the locals called a mountain. (Kinda like in Denmark, which doesn't have mountains either — one of the tallest hills in the country, 147 metres over sea level, is called "Himmelbjerget," which means "Sky-mountain".)

  • Am I the only one who felt like it implied that that one guy Stanley was replacing, Barf Bag or whatever had committed suicide? Or maybe I'm just a morbid kid, since I was about eight years old when I read it and assumed that.
    • The implication was indeed that Barf Bag intentionally got himself bitten by a rattlesnake. The film goes so far as to show him in the opening scene, spotting the snake and then taking his shoes off, walking over to it, and holding out his foot for it to bite him. However, both the book and the film mention that Barf Bag lived, and Mr. Sir says that most of the time you can survive a rattlesnake bite. Barf Bag knew this, and was trying to get sent to the hospital in order to escape Camp Greenlake, rather than trying to commit suicide.


  • Would Stanley actually be convicted in Real Life? How strong is the case against him, I mean, didn't he have an alibi?
    • There have been cases of judges taking kickbacks from owners of private juvenile detention facilities to send more kids to them. This would explain why "vacancies [didn't] last long at Camp Green Lake".
    • He did, as the patent lawyer discovered towards the end, but it seems that early on he wasn't clear enough on the details of when the shoes were stolen to figure out what he was doing at the time.
    • It's rare that completely innocent people are convicted of those kind of crimes but a lot of times getting the right lawyer is all the difference in the world. The Yelnats couldn't afford a decent lawyer at the time.
    • Also keep in mind Stanley's family curse. A lot of his conviction was possibly the bad luck from that.
    • Heck, when asked whose fault it is that he's at Green Lake, Stanley replies, "My no-good dirty-rotten pig-stealing great-great-grandfather." Stanley, at least, attributes it to the curse.
    • Actually, according to the book, Stanley didn't have a lawyer at all, which a pretty hair-pulling case of Fridge Logic and Hollywood Law, since it's constitutionally mandated that a defendant must be appointed a lawyer if they can't afford one. Dammit, Sachar...
    • Your mortal laws have no meaning to Madame Zeroni's curse. Seems like a bit of a stretch, but it's really the only logical explanation.
    • It isn't that you must have a lawyer, you have THE RIGHT to one. Zeroni's curse must have caused Stanley to refuse that right.
    • That's not what happened at all. The book explicitly says Stanley's family couldn't afford a lawyer, not that they refused one.
    • Okay, watching the movie right now. The grandfather says, "We'e going to need a damn good lawyer." The father says, "We can't afford a lawyer." The mother says, "We don't need a lawyer; we'll just tell the truth."
    • In addition, during the arrest scene, we actually never see Stanley being read his Miranda rights. And the judge seems very, very quick to suggest Camp Green Lake - you know what also? This actually seems more like a plea bargain than a straight up conviction. Stanley isn't sentences to Green Lake, he's coerced to agree. Seems like some shady stuff going on in general. Perhaps it's not a stretch to say the Yelnats assumed they would have to pay for a lawyer, and were not informed of available free ones because of a corrupted system.
      • In hindsight, I kind of took it that, somehow, they manage to convince the Yelnats to waive Stanley's right to an attorney, which isn't really fartfetched, given that "Kids for Cash" thing (though, I think that occured much later than the events of the book/film), in which case, coupled with their ability to not pay, they probably took it as the best alternative.
    • As I recall, the book doesn't specifically say he didn't have a lawyer. An overworked public defender might have dropped the ball on his case, and juvenile cases are usually not jury trials, so the judge might have thought Stanley was obviously guilty and not called anyone on it. (He does have a thought that he didn't have a lawyer later on, but he may have not considered an incompetent public defender "his lawyer" after the trial wrapped and said lawyer was done with him.)

  • In the "Guide to Surviving Camp Green Lake", Stanley says that once you get your nickname it means you've been accepted by the community. Twitch, Zero's replacement, seems to get his nickname the day he arrives to camp, and yet the next day everyone hates him because he's just so annoying. So if they hate him, why did he get nicknamed so fast?
    • Everyone gets their nicknames as soon as they arrive. Presumably, a nickname means you have been recognized by the others as being in group D, not a mark of friendship and popularity.
    • Acceptance doesn't mean that everyone stops thinking something is seriously wrong with you. Remember Armpit and Zero? Armpit fit in relatively well, though everyone thought he really needed to shower more. Zero seemed to be a bit of an outcast, despite having a nickname. I guess acceptance in this case means you are a part of the community, though it might take a while longer to be considered a real member of the tent 'family' (in this case 'D' tent).
    • It seems that it's at least partially that the nickname comes about when something happens to suggest a good idea for one. Twitch had an obvious physical tic, which suggested a potential nickname right off the bat, whereas Stanley's only presented himself after a particular action (finding the fossil).

    Ungrateful Camp-Mates 
  • I barely remember much from the book, so I'm going just by the movie on this one. Why are Stanley's so-called "friends" so ungrateful to him? He gave one of them a piece of junk that he himself found so that the other guy can have the rest of the day off, and took the fall for another guy when Mr. Sir thinks that he stole his bag of sunflower seeds, and yet they still treat him poorly and rat him out on teaching Zero how to read in exchange for helping him dig his hole. Shouldn't Stanley feel any bit of bitterness or pissed off after all he's done for them?
    • They view it it as kind of a rule that once you're part of the group you stick out your neck for them. In their eyes, Stanley wasn't just nice by taking the blame for the theft, he was doing what he supposed to. It's one of those rules of theirs, like "call everyone by their nickname" or "always let X-ray have his special shovel". Stanley may have been angry at them, but at the time he was more worried about what's happened to Zero, so that was his main concern.
    • Also, Stanley didn't give Kissin' Kate's lipstick to X-Ray just to be nice. Remember that the whole reason they're digging is to find Kate's buried treasure, which is why they're trucked out to a different patch of desert every day; even if Stanley doesn't realize what the Warden's real motivation is, it's not inconceivable that he'd realize the possibility that there might be something else at the spot where he found the lipstick. (If I'm remembering correctly, legends about Kissin' Kate's lost treasure are common even among kids Stanley's age.) Letting X-Ray have it, and telling him to wait until the next day to tell Mr. Sir, is his way of throwing them off so they'd end up digging in the wrong spot; only Stanley would know where the lipstick really came from.
      • It may not have even been that complex, it may have just been self-preservation. Given the kind of social power X-Ray had (he was the unofficial leader/boss of the group, and everyone did what he said), Stanley probably figured that getting one day off wasn't worth making an enemy of X-Ray.
      • Stanley didn't know about Kate Barlow having lived in the area yet. He only put it together that she might have buried treasure in this desert after he started teaching Zero. As for telling X-Ray to not reveal the tube until tomorrow, it's more ambiguous in the book, but in the film, it reads like he starts to object to X-Ray getting the day off when "your hole's already dug", and then when X-Ray reacts, he covers it with "why not wait until tomorrow" because he doesn't want X-Ray to realize what he was actually about to say. (Either that or he figured that doing X-Ray the extra favor would get him further into X-Ray's good graces.)
    • They were most likely pissed off because they felt that he was slacking off. Nobody volunteers to go to Camp Green Lake, and things like the lipstick tube were one-offs. Stanley was getting a lot of time off, and probably the others felt that this was unfair- after all, he could have taught Zero to read for no payment whatsoever, and the only people benefiting from teaching Zero were Stanley and Zero. In a place like Camp Green Lake, it's best to try to benefit as many people as possible by your acts.
    • Because the boys at Camp Green Lake are hardened. It doesn't mean they're bad people, but most of them had a rough time of it before coming to Camp Green Lake, and the Camp itself made it worse — even Stanley grew hard-hearted towards Zero, at first. But Stanley does have a kind heart, so he probably didn't hold it against them too badly.
    • They didn't actually know that Stanley was teaching Zero to read. All they knew was that Zero was helping him dig his hole because they "had an agreement" while they were doing theirs by themselves like they were supposed to. Stanley even admits later on that he could have taught Zero to read and dug his hole by himself. He just wanted to get a break.

  • I haven't read the book in forever so maybe the explanation is in there, but why is Pendanski nice (enough) to everyone except Zero?
    • Because Zero just doesn't react. It makes Pendanski think he's safe and doesn't have to worry about retaliation. Likely he started being nice to him, but everyone picks on Zero and eventually he caught on to doing that too.
    • Also, it's an early hint that Mr. Pendanski isn't quite what he seems.
    • The overarching reason Pendanski is nice[r than the others] to the kids is to try and motivate them to dig more. Not only does Zero already dig his hole faithfully whether Pendanski's nice to him or not, but he's also practically an orphan who the higher-ups all think could be kept indefinitely at Camp Green Lake without anyone caring, so Pendanski doesn't see a reason to put any effort into being anything beyond passive-aggressive, at best.
    • Zero being rejected by the group also means Pendanski not having to worry that picking on Zero would elicit a negative response from the others. If he's mean to someone like Armpit or Squid, the entire group is liable to turn on him, but they don't care if he picks on Zero, so he can use Zero as an outlet for his less benevolent impulses while maintaining a relatively good relationship with the others through his fake-nice persona.

  • Supposedly, the original pig lullaby rhymes in Latvian but not in English, so Elya Yelnats' wife changed the words, hence why when Stanley sings it to Zero, Zero says he remembers it but the words were different. So how come Stanley grew up with the version that doesn't rhyme in English - whether it rhymes in Latvian I don't know - and Zero's mother sings him the version that does?
    • It does. "Cries"-"skies", "lonely"-"only". Stanley's does rhyme in English.
    • It doesn't say anything about skies. Unless I've entirely misread it every time I've read the book, Stanley's version is "...just a little bit softer." You only hear " soft as the skies" once, from Zero's mother at the very end.
      • Zero's mother's version is completely different and doesn't have the "bark of the tree" reference at all; both variations on this line are the Yelnats version. The "as soft as the skies" lyric is Sarah's original translation, in keeping with the idea that she wanted it to rhyme. The "a little bit softer" lyric is the one that Stanley remembers from his childhood and later sings to Zero. Presumably it was changed somewhere along the line as it was handed down through the generations.
    • The film retcons the song a bit to include the "skies" part, making the whole thing rhyme. Sachar wrote the screenplay, so likely that too was his choice.
      • Probably also Pragmatic Adaptation, to prevent them from having to write another version of the song. (In the book, they just don't mention the lyrics at all until they're changed, but that wouldn't really work in the film.)
    • Also, (same Latvian as above) no, it doesn't rhyme in Latvian at all. "Cries" - "Skies" = "Raud" - "Debesis" and "lonely"-"only" = "vientuli"-"tikai"
      • Presumably the words were different in Latvian.
    • If I remember correctly, the original pig lullaby (the one that doesn't rhyme in English) begins "If only, if only, the woodpecker sighs/ The bark on this tree was just a little bit softer." When Elya Yelnats moved to America, he and his wife translated it to English and changed the words to make it rhyme so that it begins "If only, if only, the woodpecker sighs/ The bark on this tree was as soft as the skies." Both versions probably got passed down through the family, so Stanley would know the original version. As for Zero's mother's version, I always assumed that was another verse that Madame Zeroni never taught to Elya Yelnats.
    • Two different people can translate the same poem from one language into another, and get two poems that are very different (see The Rubaiyat.) Add in two different people with very different cultural and linguistic influences, and filter it through the generations, and only the bones will remain.

    Metal detector 
  • Did the warden ever think to use some kind of metal detector, like a ground imager? If the goal was to find a padlocked box full of shiny metal, the least effective way was to dig random holes while hoping the box would eventually be found.
    • I think while she hoped to find the treasure, she was perfectly happy helping "young men build character" as part of her vindictive quest. From a practical perspective, covering every inch of desert might seem daunting, even with imaging technology; employing her cover of youth digging holes lets her rest in AC while the search continues. Arming all the boys with metal detectors would give up the game.
    • Right, and if the State of Texas figured out what was going on, they'd stop paying her and providing her free labor.
    • Or maybe she's just crazy. After all, digging holes did drive her grandfather insane.
    • Most likely it never occurred to her. A simple metal detector could help, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. Covering the entire desert with imaging technology would take a lot of resources, and would make people wonder what she was up to. Also, she had no way of knowing what exactly was in the box or what the box made of.
    • The Camp Green Lake scheme is better in that it provides her with a constant source of income even without the treasure. The Warden gets paid in tax money due to running a state-sponsored detention camp, and her duties seen in the book are rather little; she mostly lounges in her cabin while her subordinates handle the bossing around. Additionally, the Warden is heir to a huge plot of land that, being desert, is basically useless and has little incentive for potential buyers she could sell it to. (It only got sold to the Girl Scouts after it started raining there again.) So while using a metal detector would find the treasure faster, it would ultimately leave her with less money than running Camp Green Lake simultaneously would. After the money from the treasure runs out, she'd then have to find a new potentially harder job and still be stuck with a now-even-more worthless patch of land.
    • In conjunction with the above reasons, The warden most likely did not use a metal detector as she was unaware of what the loot actually was. She didn't know if it was in a chest, and even if she did, she would probably be wary that not all chests are made of metal. Additionally, she would also be wary that the loot itself wouldn't necessarily be made of metal either, since she has no idea of what the loot actually is, she just knows of its existence, and so probably suspected it to be non-metal.
    • More specifically, most metal detectors only pick up certain types of metal; valuable metals like gold usually don't register, and as has already been mentioned, she had no reason to think the container would be made of metal at all. Also, those things usually have a range, so depending on how deep it was buried (which she could only guess at), a metal detector might not have done her much good.
    • Or she might think that the treasure doesn't actually exist. All she has to go on are stories from her abusive crazy grandfather insisting Kate Barlow buried her loot somewhere in the desert. Of course, if the boys just happen to find something valuable...
  • Even if not using a metal detector, why in all those years did she never rent a bulldozer or something to make getting to any potential treasure easier?

     Rights to the treasure 
  • So, realistically, would Stanley really have a claim to all that treasure just because it was in a trunk that had his name on it? You could say the Attorney General would just not know about the treasure and is assuming that the box does belong to Stanley, but looking back, it's unlikely his great-grandfather would've kept anything inside that box other than his stock market stuff, and Kate Barlow only happened to decide to use the box she'd taken from him to hold everything else that she buried, so wouldn't a pretty large part of that treasure belong to someone else?
    • The narrator mentions there was long tedious examination of the chest's contents by forensic analysts, so anything that might belong to another family was probably determined around that time. It's just the narrator skips over it because, by his own admission, that part's very boring especially when they're wrapping up the story.
    • The book also mentions that most of the physical treasure was poor quality and didn't end up coming out to much. The most valuable contents were the stock certificates and the like, which presumably did have the first Stanley's name on them.

     Stanley I's survival 
  • If Stanley Yelnats I found refuge in the desert by climbing up the mountain and finding Sam's old onion patch, then how and where did anyone find him? Did they climb the mountain, too? If so, how does no one know how he survived when whoever found him had to have seen it? Or did Stanley I leave the mountain and go back into the desert, and someone found him there? If so, why would he leave the onion field when everything he needed to survive was right up there with him?
    • It is likely that he left the mountain after a while to try to find his way back home. Magical or not, a diet of onions and water can't sustain a person forever, and he must have had a life he needed to get back to. As for why no one looked there for him, it's probably because no one knew of the reservoir there, and figured he had perished in the desert heat. He may have been found entirely by accident after he left the thumb.
  • It's possible that after Kate robbed him and he got to Gods Thumb, a posse (possibly Trout and his cronies) who were tracking Kate found him afterwards; he might've even been the one to tell Trout what direction she was heading last he saw her.

     Rattlesnake bite 
  • Wouldn't Barfbag's rattlesnake bite only serve as a temporary fix for him? Is the remainder of his sentence waived just because he was injured?
    • It's not waived, but time in the hospital would most likely still count as time served on his sentence, so it's a reprieve. Plus, he may have figured (correctly) that Camp Green Lake wouldn't keep a spot open for him indefinitely, so when he does get out, he probably wouldn't be able to be sent back (unless they happened to have an opening at that exact moment, which is unlikely given that "vacancies don't last long at Camp Green Lake") and would have to go to another facility instead; he may have gambled on the hope that he'd end up somewhere at least marginally better than Camp Green Lake.

    The Hundred-Year-Old Food 
  • Could sixteen jars of Katherine Barlow's spiced peaches really have survived in the sunken boat for Stanley and Hector to eat them a century later? I mean, I feel like they should have...not been food anymore. It's not like they were even frozen all that time, they were pretty much the opposite of frozen. Sitting in a desert that was explicitly described as being like ninety degrees even in the shade. Additionally, should the boat still have been there? I assume it spent at least part of the hundred years underwater after it sunk.
    • They could've if they were canning jars. Canning was well established by the time the backstory takes place and was practically endemic to small, Western towns, because it kept fruit safe and edible through the long winters.
    • The boat couldn't have been underwater for nearly that long. Trout Walker was still very much alive when Kate Barlow died, and the film explicitly shows her sitting up against the boat when they meet up.
      • They could have survived (as one can eat canned food for while after it's been canned), yes, but that amount time plus the heat would have caused bacteria to build up, so, they'd be edible in a sense, though not without giving someone food poisoning.
      • Right...Isn't that exactly what happens to Hector? In the book and the film, that's the reason Stanley ends up carrying him up the mountain, because the contaminated "sploosh" has rendered him too weak and sick to climb on his own?
      • In the book, Stanley also hypothesized that the contaminated "sploosh" was only in the jars easy to open; the jars that were so tightly sealed that they had to break them open with the shovel were also so tightly sealed (and thus airtight) that bacteria couldn't get in either. Hence why Stanley was fine after drinking out of the latter but Hector was knocked out of comission after drinking several of the former over a few days.

     Mr. Sir's name 
  • At the end of the book/ movie, Mr. Sir's real name is revealed to be Marion. When a camper said "I didn't think that was a man's name", he replies "It isn't." I always assumed to mean that he was transgender. But is he really just embarrassed by his name? I mean, John Wayne's real name was Marion, so it's not really unheard of as a man's name.
    • It's not unheard of but "Marion" is common as a female name, especially in more modern times.
    • It's almost certainly just embarrassment. Given the name he chose for himself and what it suggests about him, he'd probably find anything that even hints at challenging his masculinity to be mortifying.

    Sam's Onions 
  • The onion patch at the top of God's Thumb was presumably the same one that Sam got his onions from, but the climb up there was very difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming, so how could Sam do it on a regular basis and be able to bring a wagon load of onions back every time?
    • Keep in mind there used to be a lake there. What Stanley and Zero were climbing was not just the part that Sam would have encountered, but also everything that was underwater before the lake dried up. It's entirely possible that the difficult part of the climb was in the part that was submerged, rather than something Sam had to contend with.


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