11/17/12

Julius Sergius von Klever, Erlkönig

Date: c. 1887
Technique: Unknown

Der Erlkönig (often called just Erlkönig) is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It depicts the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking or "Erlkönig". It was originally composed by Goethe as part of a 1782 Singspiel entitled Die Fischerin.

An anxious young boy is being carried home at night by his father on horseback. To what sort of home is not spelled out; German Hof has a rather broad meaning of "yard" or "courtyard". The Hof has been presumed to be a farmyard, although the long form Bauernhof would typically be used (in prose) to clarify this sense. The lack of specificity of the father's social position allows the reader to imagine the details.

As the poem unfolds, the son seems to see and hear beings his father does not; the father asserts reassuringly naturalistic explanations for what the child sees – a wisp of fog, rustling leaves, shimmering willows. Finally the child shrieks that he has been attacked. The father makes faster for the Hof. There he recognizes that the boy is dead.

One story has it that Goethe was visiting a friend when, late one night, a dark figure carrying a bundle in its arms was seen riding past the gate at great speed. The next day Goethe and his friend were told that they had seen a farmer taking his sick son to the doctor. This incident, along with the legend, is said to have been the main inspiration for the poem.

One may suppose the boy is simply feverish, delirious, and in need of medical attention. The poem itself leaves the question open.

The story of the Erlkönig derives from Danish folk tales, and Goethe based his poem on "Erlkönigs Tochter" ("Erlkönig's Daughter"), a Danish work translated into German by Johann Gottfried Herder. It appeared as "The Elf King's Daughter" in his collection of folk songs, Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (published 1778). Niels Gade's cantata Elverskud opus 30 (1854, text by Chr. K. F. Molbech) was published in translation as Erlkönigs Tochter.

The Erlkönig's nature has been the subject of some debate. The name translates literally from the German as "Alder King" rather than its common English translation, "Elf King" (which would be rendered as Elfenkönig or Elbenkönig in German). It has often been suggested that Erlkönig is a mistranslation from the original Danish elverkonge, which does mean "king of the elves."

In the original Scandinavian version of the tale, the antagonist was the Erlkönig's daughter rather than the Erlkönig himself; the female elves or elvermøer sought to ensnare human beings to satisfy their desire, jealousy and lust for revenge.

Source 1
Source 2

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...