German ballad-poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe depicting a father desperately riding with his sick son through a forest while being assailed by a (possibly imaginary) supernatural fae creature.
Originally written in 1782 as part of the Singpiel (folk opera play, roughly) Die Fischerin, Erlkönig is widely considered Goethe's most famous work. It is often a required reading in German schools, as well as in advanced German classes for people taking German as a second language.
The ballad has also been set to music by many different famous composers, with Franz Schubert's version (composed in 1815) being most prominent. Several illustrations of Erlkönig also exist; these tend to depict the father riding desperately while clutching his son, with the titular Erlkönig ("Elf King") levitating in hot pursuit.
Erlkönig is known as 魔王 ("Maou", Demon King) in Japanese. Authorship in Japanese sources is sometimes misattributed to Schubert.
- German Wikisource: Erlkönig Original German verses
- Wikisource: The Alder King English translation by Edgar Alfred Bowring
- Youtube: Franz Schubert's Erlkönig / The Elf King Fan splice of a singing performance set to a German comic depicting the events of Erlkönig, with English subtitles