post Enno Littmann

January 4th, 2008

Filed under: Academic Cooperations — Admassu @ 02:10

Enno Littmann was a professor of oriental languages, first in Strassburg, then in Göttingen and Bonn and finally in Tübingen, where his beautiful house remained a centre of oriental studies in Germany up to his death. He combined a brilliant gift for languages (he fully mastered more than a dozen), wide intellectual interests and ability to build quickly a warm and intimate relationship with people of different cultures. These qualities explain why his relatively short stays in Ethiopia yielded such successful results. In addition, he had an amazing capacity for work, as can be seen from his six-volume translation of A Thousand and One Nights, completed with poetic energy within a very short period. He was also a master Arabic literature.

Enno Littmann (1875 - 1958)

His fame rests above all, however, on the works which arose from his two research visits to northern Ethiopia, where he stayed among the Mensa (Tigre) in Eritrea in autumn and winter 1905 and in Aksum from January to April 1906. During his stay among the Tigre he had the good fortune to work with a congenial partner, Naffa Wad Etman without whom the four important volumes, misleadingly entitled Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia, would never have appeared. They contain a whole corpus of Tigre traditions and songs, and are imperishable documents of Ethiopian culture.

Littmann’s research in Aksum, where he was accompanied by Theodor von Lüpke, Daniel Krencker and Erich Kaschke, marked the beginning of a new chapter in Ethiopian studies - archeology. It is amazing how much was excavated and recorded in the short period of his stay in Aksum. This too would not have been possible without the close coopration of Ethiopian friends and partners. The members of the German team received valuable assistance from the Dejazmach Gabra Sellase Brya Gabr and from many priests and monks in Aksum. Further illustrations of Littmann’s universality are his edition of the Praise-Songs for Ethiopian Emperors in the ancient Amharic language, for which he received precious advice from Mamher Kefla Giyorgis in Jerusalem, and his remarkable booklet on Galla-Verskunst (Oromo Poetry).

Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Frobenius Institute
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Frankfurt, Germany


  1. Dear Eike Haberland,

    I would very much grateful if you could be in touch with me at the above email address.

    Thank you.



    Comment by Yemane — 29. January 2008 @ 02:54

  2. Dear Eike Haberland,

    I am sorry to bother you again, I don’t seem to get your attention from my previous above email message, however, as I am very keen to get in touch with you, hence, I shall put my email address as follows:
    trust you will be in touch.

    I look forwrd to hearing from you soon.

    Many thanks,


    Comment by Yemane — 8. May 2008 @ 03:17

  3. Dear Sirs;

    Im one of the Eritreans recently working with the Prof. Enno Littman’s and Naffa Wad Etman’s works in Eritrea. So anyone who knows anything about this two personalities, specially the photo of Naffa which we dont have as yet in hand and badly need it. Anyone who get this photo can contact me in my email.

    Thank you so much for you coreporation!

    from Eritrea

    Comment by Berekhet — 27. June 2009 @ 10:25

  4. There is a famous river crossing problem where a man must ferry across a river a wolf, a goat and a cabbage. The mathematical version of this problem is that A, B and C must be transpoted across a river in a boat that can only hold the human rower and only one of A, B or C where neither A nor C can be left alone with B on either shore. The author of an article entitled ” A River-Crossing Problem in Cross-Cultural Perspective,”
    Marcia Ascher , Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Feb., 1990), pp. 26-29 , attributes the above puzzle to Africa, in particular, Ethiopia, citing Littman’s book “Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia”. Google brought me this far (to your website) but I still did not get his book.

    Comment by Dawit — 11. March 2010 @ 09:12

  5. […] PRINCETON EXPEDITION TO ABYSSINIA By Enno Littmann (click here to about Enno Litmann) […]

    Pingback by » Tales from Abyssinia — 11. March 2010 @ 13:49

  6. Thanks a lot my friends at Lissan for sending me the e-book via emaiI. I liked especially the e-book version of the book.
    The puzzle I was talking about is on page 40 of E. Littman’s book. There are different versions of this puzzle worldwide. The ethiopian version (according to Littman) uses “leopard, goat and a leaf” instead of the “wolf, goat and a cabbage” that I wrote you earlier. But there is more in the book than just this puzzle. Each short story is worth investigating. Keep us updated of interest in those puzzles and stories. Thank you.

    Comment by Dawit — 12. March 2010 @ 21:46

  7. Dear Dawit, it was our pleasure to provide you with the link. We are interested in interpreting those tales and share it with our readers. We hope you will help us by sharing your knowledge on this interesting topic. Thanks a lot.

    Comment by Lissan Magazine — 13. March 2010 @ 12:05

  8. Enno Littmann apparently got possession of the “Soldier’s songs” of Amde Tsion. Looked for it all over the internet, nothing came up.

    Can Lisssan Magazine help me find the 4 “Soldiers’ Songs” in their original Amharic?


    Much Appreciated.

    Comment by Peter L. Simon — 1. August 2010 @ 07:36

  9. I would appreciate any information about Enno Littmann’s parents, siblings and children. He was born in the era of my grandfather and in the same general locale. He may have been my grandfather’s cousin. Thank you.

    Comment by Robert J. Littmann — 12. February 2012 @ 20:52

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