"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?

  • 2
    wrong translation from danish ellerkonge = Elfenkönig; board.battleknight.de/board119-archive/…
    – bummi
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 9:50
  • @bummi Honestly, I'm not familiar with German, what's the major content in that post?
    – Popopo
    Commented May 29, 2013 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
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 10:06
  • 4
    As far as I see the this answer to Erklärung der Beugung des Wortes „Erlenkönig“ im Gedicht Goethes does also answer your question.
    – Em1
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 10:28
  • @Em1,@bummi, I see, thank you.
    – Popopo
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


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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