A part-translation of German Erlkönig literally ‘alder-king’, a mistranslation of Danish ellerkonge ‘king of the elves’.
erlking (plural erlkings)
- in German mythology, a giant who preys on children
- 1962: This line, and indeed the whole passage (lines 653-664), allude to the well-known poem by Goethe about the erlking, hoary enchanter of the elf-haunted alderwood, who falls in love with the delicate little boy of a belated traveler. — Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire