Sundström, Richard (Rev)

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Life and minstry

Gustav Richard Sundström was born in Sånga (Sweden) in 1869.

After his theological training and ordination, he was trained in tropical medicine at Livingstone College in London (UK) and in linguistic methods in Florence (Italy, 1897).

He was married to Hanna Sundström, née Broberg (1871-1963).

Sundström joined the Swedish Evangelical Mission and worked as a missionary, pastor and medical assistant in Geleb (1897-1907, 1910-11) and Keren (1913-19) in today’s Eritrea.

Sundström collected Tigre oral texts and used a phonograph to record them. Some of the audio recordings have been deposited with the City Archives [website] of Stockholm.

Sundström’s main resource person on Tigre oral texts was Nafa wod Etman (1882-1909).

Sundström translated hymns into Tigre. A Mensa singer praised his skill in a 12-verse poem.

Rev. Sundström was diagnosed with cancer and died in Keren (Eritrea) in June 1919.

Songs in hymn books


Därus Ṣəyon, 1902

  • 13 of the 43 hymns were translated by Sundström

Därus Ṣəyon, 1913

  • 106 of the 185 hymns were translated by Sundström

Därus Ṣəyon, 1931

  • 190 of the 310 hymns were translated by Sundström


G. Richard Sundström (Rev) in Florence
(adapted from a photograph at the SEM Archives)

Further reading

1. Selected Sources
1.1 Swedish

Sundström, Richard. “Sjukdomar och deras behandling av infödingar i Mänsa [Diseases and their treatment by Mänsa natives]”, Le Monde Oriental [Uppsala] 3 (1909a), 127-51.

—. “Kännedom om läkemedel och deras användning bland infödingarna i Mänsa [Knowledge of medicines and their use among Mänsa natives]”, Le Monde Oriental [Uppsala] 3 (1909b), 152-73; id. 8 (1914), 1-15.

1.2 With / in Tigre

Sundström, Richard. En sång på Tigre-språket [A song in the Tigre language]. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1903. [1904 w. German transl. by Littmann?]

—. History of the Mänsa People. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1913 [in Engl. and Tigre; 2nd ed. 1923]

— (tr.). Il libro di Isaia in lingua tigré / Ketāb ʾEsayās [The book of Isaiah in the Tigrean language]. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1925. [Uppsala Univ.]

— (tr.). I salmi di Davide / Darsān Dāwid [The Psalms of David]. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1925. [Uppsala Univ. & Stockholm, Kungliga bibl.]

Sundström, R., and K. Rodén (trs.). Cantici di Sion : in tigrè / Därus Ṣəyon. 1st ed. Asmara [Swedish Mission Press], 1902 [56 p.; Stockholm, Kungliga bibl.]

—. Cantici di Sion: in tigrè / Därus Ṣəyon. 2nd ed. (?). Asmara [Swedish Mission Press], 1905. [93 p.; Uppsala Univ. & Stockholm, Kungliga bibl.]

—. Cantici di Sion: in tigrè / Därus Ṣəyon. 3rd ed. (?). Asmara [Swedish Mission Press], 1907. [68 p.; Uppsala Univ.]

—. Cantici di Sion: in tigrè / Därus Ṣəyon. 2nd ed. (?). Asmara, 1917. [180 p.; Uppsala Univl.]

—. Cantici di Sion: in tigrè / Därus Ṣəyon. 2nd ed. (?). Asmara [Swedish Mission Press], 1910-1917 (1913 ?) [283 p.; Uppsala Univ.]

—. Cantici di Sion: in tigrè / Därus Ṣəyon. 2nd [no; 4th] ed. Asmara: Swedish Mission, 1931. [437 p.; Uppsala Univ.]

Littmann, Enno (ed.). Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia. Vol. 3: Lieder der Tigre-Stämme — Tigre text; vol. 4a: Lieder der Mänsa, Bet-Guk und Marya; vol. 4b: Lieder der Ad-temaryam, Ad-Hebtes (Habab), Ad-Takles und kleinerer Stämme. Leyden: E. J. Brill, 1913, 1913, 1915. [Contains 549 folk-songs collected by Sundström]
[Read vol. 3 (in Tigre language)]

2. Literature

Arén, Gustav. Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia: Origins of the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. Stockholm: EFS; Addis Ababa: The Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, 1978. [See p. 357-59]

Boström, Mathias. “The Phonogram Archive of the Stockholm Ethnographic Museum (1909-1930): Another Chapter in the History of Ethnographic Cylinder Recordings”, Fontes Artis Musicae 50 no. 1 (2003), 22-35. [Online version; subscription barrier]

Hylander, Nils. Morgonljus: Femtioårigt missionsarbete på natthöljd jord, 1865–1916 [Morning Light: Fifty Years of Missionary Work on Night-Shrouded Land, 1865–1916]. Stockholm: EFS, 1917. [esp. p. 87–88, 94, 105]

Lindahl, Bernhard. “Sundström, Gustaf Richard”, in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, vol. 4, ed. S. Uhlig in cooperation with A. Bausi, p. 767-768. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010.

Littmann, Enno. “Richard Sundström”, in Ein Jahrhundert Orientalistik: Lebensbilder aus der Feder von Enno Littmann und Verzeichnis seiner Schriften; zum achtzigsten Geburtstage am 16. September 1955, ed. R. Paret et al., p. 26-30. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1955.

Lundström, Karl Johan, edited by Ezra Gebremedhin. Kenisha: The Roots and Development of The Evangelical Church of Eritrea (EC) 1866-1935. Trenton, NJ; etc.: The Red Sea Press, 2011. [see index, p. 515]

Nilsson, Marianne. Chapter in forthcoming book on Ethiopian Gospel Music.

Senai W. Andemariam. “The Story of the Translation of the Bible into Tǝgre”, ITYOP̣IS 2 (2012), 62-88. [Online version]