Wends (Sorbs) in the United States

This article by Charles Wukasch first appeared on pages 1589-1590 in American Folklore: An Encyclopedia edited by Jan Harold Brunvand and published in 1996 by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, NY.

Wends (Sorbs) in the United States

West Slavic ethnic group, settled in central Texas In 1854. Wendish folklore is a blend of Germanic and Slavic folklore. Not surprisingly, Wendish folk traditions and beliefs in the United States have suffered the fate of those of other immigrant cultures. Wendish folklore in the late 20th century, to the extent that it exists at all is found among the older generation. Motifs found in Texas as late as 1986 include the wódny muz (water sprite) and the zmij (kobold, or house spirit). An example of the latter is in the following tale:

A farm boy finds a baby chicken in the pasture shivering in the cold. He puts it behind the stove in the house to let it get warm and gives it some feed. The next morning a large pile of feed has mysteriously appeared. When the boy‘s father sees it, he realizes that the baby chicken is really a kobold. He tells his son to take it back to the pasture. (The moral is that it is wrong to make use of the demonic powers of the kobold.)

The Wends are the only group of Slavs who are primarily Protestant. In 1854, because of differences with the state church, a group of 500 conservative Wendish Lutherans under the leadership of Reverend Jan Kilian emigrated from Germany. Having disembarked in Galveston, they founded the farming community of Serbin (between Austin and Houston). The descendants of this immigration call themselves “Wends,” although the preferred academic term is “Sorbs.” The Texas Wendish Heritage Society in Serbin has attempted in recent years to increase an awareness among Texas Wends of their cultural and folkloric heritage. The society does this via folk festivals, guest speakers at society meetings, and a museum. 

References

Nielsen, George. 1961. Folklore of the German-Wends of Texas. In Singers and Storytellers, eds. Mody C. Boatright, Wilson M. Hudson, and Allen Maxwell. Publications of the Texas Folklore Society No. 30. pp. 244- 259.

________. 1989. In Search of a Home: Nineteenth Century Wendish Migration. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.

Wukasch, Charles. 1987. “Dragons” and Other Supernatural Tales of the Texas Wends. Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 52:1-5.

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