In a town just like ours, there lived a brahmin couple. They had plenty of money, but they had no children. They made long pilgrimages, made vows to many gods, and finally one of the gods was pleased with them. So they had a daughter. They distributed sugar to the whole town and named her Kutlavva. They doted on her and proudly saw her grow up to be a pretty young woman. Then they bought her splendid saris and costly jewelry and got her married. Maybe the gods didn't like anyone to be loved so much. Kutlavva suddenly took to bed and died one day. The whole town mourned her death with her parents. They took the body to the burning ghat and cremated her.
Just as they were slowly getting reconciled to their loss, a stranger came one day to town with a bundle of firewood for sale. He hawked it all through the hot afternoon, but no one would buy it from him. Quite disgusted with his lot, he set down his load and sat leaning against the brahmin's house. The brahmin's wife came out, saw him sitting there, and asked him, “Where do you come from?”
“O, don't ask me, lady. I come straight from the burning ghat and I'm going back there,” he said, weary of life.
The poor woman remembered that they had taken her daughter to the burning ghat when she died. So she asked him, “O, you come from the burning ghat? That's Kutlavva's place. Do you see our Kutlavva there? How is she doing?”
“She's doing very well. My house and her house are right next to each other.”
The brahmin's wife was filled with joy. She looked for her husband to give him the good news, but he wasn't home. She bustled about, went into her room, gathered together all the jewels she had kept for Kutlavva, put them into a box, and brought it to the stranger.
“Look here, good man, we had got a lot of jewelry made for our daughter at the time of her wedding. Here it is. Can you take it and give it to her?”
“Gladly,” said the man. He took the jewelry box and walked away, leaving behind his bundle of firewood.
Soon after, her husband came home riding his horse. His wife couldn't wait to tell him the happy news: “Do you know, a man came from the burning ghat today. I asked him how Kutlavva was and he said she was fine. So I gave him all her jewelry and asked him to give it to her.”
The brahmin struck his forehead in despair at what his simple wife had done. He mounted his horse again, asked which way the stranger had gone, and followed him. He rode out of town and through the fields.
Meanwhile, the man had hidden the box somewhere and was standing on a mound, pretending to shoo some sparrows off a tree. The brahmin stopped in front of him and asked him, “Did you see a man go this way with a box in his hands?”
The man said, “Yes, yes, he went right into that sugarcane field. If you go quickly, you can catch him.”
How can a horse go through a sugarcane field? So the brahmin said, “Do me a favor. Please look after this horse while I go chase after that thief.”
Then he left the horse in the stranger's hands and ran into the sugarcane field. The blades of the sugarcane grass slashed his face and hands and drew blood. He searched everywhere in the field but couldn't find the thief.
When he came out, his horse too had vanished. So had the man who was chasing sparrows. Then the brahmin knew he too had been taken. The thief had taken the jewelry from his wife and the horse from him.
When he came home downcast, his wife asked him, “Where's your horse?”
The brahmin replied, “Well, I sent the horse also to Kutlavva.”
Types and Motifs
Type AT 1540, The Student from Paradise (or Paris), popular in Renaissance collections, an oral tale related from England to Indonesia. According to Antti Aarne, who studied 300 versions of it, European versions usually play on the words “Paris” and “paradise”: a student says he is from Paris, and a bereaved wife hears it as Paradise. Then she sends money and gifts to her dead husband through the student from Paradise. Kaarle Krohn thought that the story (without the Paris/Paradise pun) originated in India (see Thompson 1946:169).