Who goes there riding through the night and fog?—
A father and son come journeying along.
He holds him tight as he rides through the storm,
He grips him safely and he keeps him warm.

My son, why are you covering your face?
Father, don’t you see the Elf King’s swift pace!
The Elf King roaming in his robe and crown!
Son, it’s the rustling woods, they mean no harm.

“Come my sweet little boy, run off with me!
We will play many a game laughingly!
We’ll pick the pretty flowers on the glade;
We’ll watch my mother weave her gold brocade.”

Please, father, father, oh can you not hear
The Elf King whispering into my ear?
Son, everything is fine, have no worries,
It’s the wind whistling through the old dry leaves.

“Come now sweet boy, it’s time to run away!
My many daughters eagerly await.
At the night we hold a lovely festival,
We’ll rock and dance and sing you to sleep.”

Father, father, oh can you not see!
The Elf King’s daughters are looking at me!
My son, I know exactly what you mean,
In the distance there lies a flowery scene.

“I love you child, your beauty raptures me;
But if you refuse, I’ll take you forcibly.”
Father, father, oh please don’t let me go,
In the Elf King’s clutch lies so much sorrow.

The young boy’s father worries as he rides,
He listens to his sweet little boy’s cries.
He arrives consumed with terror and dread,
Within his arms his little boy lies dead.

Translation © David B. Gosselin

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The featured image is Der Erlkönig (c. 1830) by Moritz von Schwind (1804–1871) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. It has been brightened for clarity.

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