In Louis Sachar's Holes, Sarah (Elya's wife) sang a pig lullaby to Stanley. "If only, if only," the woodpecker sighs, "The bark on the tree was as soft as the skies." While the wolf waits below,...

In Louis Sachar's Holes, Sarah (Elya's wife) sang a pig lullaby to Stanley.

"If only, if only," the woodpecker sighs, "The bark on the tree was as soft as the skies." While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely, Crying to the moo--oo--oon, "If only, if only." (Ch. 3)

Who do the woodpecker and wolf refer to? Are there any hidden messages in the lullaby?

Asked on by ymca1234

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 7 of Louis Sachar's Holes, we learn that Stanley's great-great-grandfather Elya Yelnats was taught to sing a lullaby to the pig the gypsy woman gave him to carry. As a result of a mistake Elya makes, they gypsy woman also cursed his family. In America, Elya married a woman named Sarah who invented rhyming lyrics to the pig lullaby, which ceased to rhyme when translated from Latvian to English. The pig lullaby references both wishful thinking and the food chain, with the woodpecker representing the lower end of the food chain, or the weaker animal, and the wolf representing higher up the food chain, or the stronger animal. Both are wishing for an easier way of getting food, an easier life. The opposite sides of the food chain also symbolize the juxtaposition we see between the innocent boys at the camp and the authorities and helps underscore the theme of injustice present throughout the book.

We know that the lullaby represents the food chain because the woodpecker is wishing for softer bark; woodpeckers eat insects on tree trunks they gain access to by chipping away at the bark. Softer bark results in faster eating and less hunger and suffering for the woodpecker. We know the wolf represents the higher level of the food chain because he is sitting by the tree waiting, feeling "hungry and lonely." He is clearly waiting for a big enough animal to eat to come down from the tree, like the woodpecker. The woodpecker will come down from the tree either when he decides to fly and land on the ground or when he dies from starvation or other causes.

The woodpecker symbolizes the weaker characters in the story, and it is the boys at the camp who are forced to dig holes that are the weaker characters. Stanley has been sentenced by the court to either go to jail or go to the camp for a crime he is actually innocent of. As the story progresses, Stanley learns that all the boys in the camp have been sentenced due to committing either petty crimes, like stealing sneakers, or are likewise innocent of crime. For example, though Stanley is innocent of the crime he was accused of, Zero confesses to having been "arrested the next day when [he] tried to walk out of a shoe store with a new pair of sneakers" (Ch. 42). Hence, like the woodpeckers, the boys are wishing for an easier life. Plus, the authorities are unjustly overseeing their punishments, symbolized by the wolf.

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