Goethe, Erl-King, Erlkonig, Adolescence, Alternate Reality
Goethe's poem, The Erl-King, tells the story of a father frantically riding with his son who sees and hears a spectral figure, the Erl-King, threatening to take him away.
It is not clear whether the father or mother are like the threatening Erl-King, taking him further from the light he seeks--although in one of his visions, he swims beneath the water with his father to discover a world of light, although they cannot break through to it.
As if parodying the Hollywood thriller commonplace of the intuitive detective experiencing lightning-bolt revelations, he excitedly babbles, "He's here, he's right here," convinced that his unknown enemy--a child-stealing Erl-King
of his own making--is watching from nearby.
The nationalist note is prolonged by the professor's proposal to name the body the Erl-King (Le roi des aulnes--the King of the Alders) not only because it was found in a bog surrounded by alders but also in order to mark it as German through its affinity with Goethe's ballad, "Der Erlkonig": "It sings to our German ears, it lulls our German hearts, it is the real quintessence of the German soul" (165).
As the novel unfolds and the "innocent" Tiffauges becomes more and more implicated in the Nazi project, the Erl-King takes on a central structuring role in the "forest of symbols" that constitutes the protagonist's personal mythology.
The bog bodies in The Erl-King are described by the narrator as messengers from the mists of time--"messager[s] de la nuit des temps" (Le roi des aulnes 295).
Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs concluded, Perahia's intensely musical gifts serving one great musician using his own wizardry to pay homage to another, as in a stupendous Erl-King
Nonetheless, the erl-king
wheedles, trying to tempt the boy to come with him.
Among all these venturings, the most pronounced investigation of the Romantic heritage occurs in "The Erl-King," a literalization of William Wordsworth's "we murder to dissect" ("The Tables Turned" 28) that offers literary criticism through fiction by narrating the position of the Romantic subject.
In "The Erl-King," Carter tests the outlines of the Romantic ideology to see whether and how its contours might embody a female aesthetic form.
The narrative of "The Erl-King" is so conspicuously overlaid with echoes of canonical nineteenth-century lyric poetry that the leaved woods which house the erl-king might furnish an anthology of William Blake, Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Shelley, Robert Browning, and Christina Rossetti.