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"Erlkönig" (also called "Der Erlkönig") is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

By wiki I know that the word könig means 'king', but what's the meaning of erl? Is it devil, elf, or genie?

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wrong translation from danish ellerkonge = Elfenkönig;… – bummi May 29 '13 at 9:50
@bummi Honestly, I'm not familiar with German, what's the major content in that post? – Popopo May 29 '13 at 10:02
same with my english ;-( The substance of the ballad comes from the danish, there is the Erlkönig Ellerkonge, so elf king. – bummi May 29 '13 at 10:06
As far as I see the this answer to Erklärung der Beugung des Wortes „Erlenkönig“ im Gedicht Goethes does also answer your question. – Em1 May 29 '13 at 10:28
@Em1,@bummi, I see, thank you. – Popopo May 29 '13 at 12:46
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The ballad Erlkönig is originally Danish and named there "Ellerkonge"... meaning elf-king. Eller was falsely translated with "Erle" which is a German tree. So the short form of "Erle" is "Erl".

Hope that could answer it :)

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