Dresden Files

The Erlking, or Lord Herne,[1] is a wyldfae.[2] He is the Lord of the goblins, and a peer to the Faerie Queens. He first appears in Dead Beat.


And upon the throne sat a figure in black armor, covered from head to toe. He was huge, nine feet tall at least, and had a lean, athletic look to him despite the armor. His helm covered his head and veiled his face with darkness, and great, savagely pointed antlers rose up from the helmet, though whether they were adornment or appendage I couldn’t say. Within the visor of that helmet was a pair of steady red eyes, eyes that matched the thousands of others in the hall.— The Erlking described[3]

The Erlking is a hunter spirit associated with primal violence. According to Die Lied der Erlking, he isn't a part of the Winter Court or the Summer Court, but is described as a wyldfae. He can also be described as a Summer King.[2]

The Erlking holds dominion over the spirits of fallen hunters, the energy of the hunt: excitement, hunger and bloodlust. He can call those spirits in the forms of great black hounds, then ride the winds and forests of the Wild Hunt. He carries great power as he does this.[4]

The Erlking is devious, cunning, strong, and swift.[4] He is not an evil being, he is a "force of nature, power and violence without conscience or restraint."[5] Regarding children's deaths, the various tales say he either: preys on children, heralds their deaths, or he's a guardian making sure the souls of children aren't harmed or diverted as they leave their bodies.[6]

Some say he's among the top faerie nobles other say he's equal to the Faerie Queens.[6] He is one of the beings who can call up the Wild Hunt (a gathering of the more predatory beings of Faerie).[6]

He is about equal in power to Mab: the Erlking is to goblins what Mab is to the Sidhe—he's their ruler.[4] Die Lied der Erlking is the book written about him by Samuel Peabody. Eldest Gruff addresses him "Lord Herne."[1]

While trapped in Harry Dresden's circle in Dead Beat, he is over eight feet tall. He looks more or less human dressed in close-fitting leathers and mail. He had on a bucket-shaped helmet that covered his face, and huge stag horns rose up from the helmet. His eyes shone like amber fires through the slit of the visor. When he spoke to Dresden, the words just appeared in his head.[5]

In Changes, the Erlking holds court sitting in a great stone throne atop a huge dais, the side of which Dresden and Susan Rodriguez assume at first to be a big wall.

When he takes off his helmet, the horns are fixed to it. Though his face reflects the hideous asymmetries of his goblins, they were somehow transformed, "muted into a kind of roguish distinction." He has a crooked nose that is likely earned rather than gifted. He had old faint scar, that added grace. Dresden feels he has been "hand-crafted by a true master." His face holds power, and so does his presence. He has the focus of a true predator who rarely misses his prey. He bows with inhuman elegance and kisses Susan's hand.[7]

In Cold Days, with his helmet off, he has shoulder-length, shaggy, light-brown, grizzly hair. His asymmetrical features hold a roguish charm. He had gold-green eyes. The Erlking is dressed in hunter's leathers and his sword's hilt is made of an antler. Though huge, over seven feet tall, his physical presence suggests agility and grace, similar to that of a tiger.[1]

In the series[]

Dead Beat[]

In Dead Beat, Mab tells Harry Dresden more about the Erlking. The Heirs of Kemmler want to summon the Erlking in order to raise ancient and powerful spirits to devour them for power in a ritual spell called the Darkhallow. Heinrich Kemmler had learned a way to bind his will to shades, not just the dead (written in The Word of Kemmler).[4] Dresden plans to call the Erlking and secure him so that the Heirs cannot summon him.[8] Dresden goes to see Sheila who has perfect recall to tell him what was in the Die Lied der Erlking.[9]

Later, Dresden summons the Erlking outside Murphy's house and traps him in a circle. He demands to be released, inviting Dresden to join him in the hunt, which Dresden refuses. First he lets Dresden feel the excitement of the hunt, then lets him feel the experience of being the hunted. After three refusals, he howls in rage unable to escape. Dresden is hit on the head by Cowl allowing the Erlking to escape on his steed. He salutes Dresden with his sword before he leaves to run havoc through Chicago.[5] After Dresden defeats Cowl, using a resurrected Sue the Tyranosaurs, the Erlking finds him tired and helplessly weak. Impressed with his resolve and his use of a great, long dead predator, the Erlking spares him for now.[10]


In "Heorot", one of the Malks hunting Harry Dresden mentions that the Erlking would grant them great favor if they bring him Dresden's head.[11]


In "Curses", King Gwynn ap Nudd mentions to Harry Dresden that he is 'tickled to no end' by the fact that Dresden stuck a thumb into the Erlking's eye.[12]


In Changes, Harry Dresden and Susan Rodriguez enter the Erlking's lair in the Nevernever by accident when attempting to flee from an attack by the Red Court, led by the Eebs at the FBI Headquarters.[3] The Eebs contested Dresden's claim that he and Rodriguez came there by chance and as such, the Erlking orders a trial by combat to settle the matter. Dresden and Rodriguez battle the Ik'k'uox and another vampire, emerging victorious. The Erlking releases them so that he may hunt them himself some fine evening.[13]

Cold Days[]

In Cold Days, the Erlking attends Harry Dresden’s birthday party in Arctis Tor, accompanied by Kringle. During their pleasant chat, Eldest Gruff refers to the Erlking as Lord Herne.[1]

Dresden and Murphy later encounter the Erlking leading the Wild Hunt against them. Dresden is able to shoot the Erlking, injuring him due to the nature of Halloween. Dresden takes charge of the Hunt and leads them against the Outsiders.[14] The Erlking, serving as one of Dresden’s lieutenants, informs him that the night sky changing color indicates a temporal pressure wave, which Kringle expands on. At Dresden’s order, the two of them return the flow of time and the Erlking explains that Kringle had to remain behind in order to accomplish it. He then veils the Hunt and assists Dresden in assessing the Outsider assault. Together, they sink one of the ramming barges.[15]

When He Who Walks Before sends his massive psychic assault upon the Hunt, the Erlking is caught up in it until Dresden breaks the attack. The Erlking laughs and shouts "Well-done starborn!" He then takes half of the Hunt and attacks one of the remaining barges while Dresden deals with the other.[16] After all the barges are down, the Erlking requests Dresden’s permission to resume command of the Hunt, claiming that greater expertise is required to continue pursuit of the Outsiders. Dresden agrees after eliciting a confirmation that the Hunt will not be turned against him.[17]

After the fight, Dresden admits his suspicions to Kringle that the Erlking purposefully allowed himself to be bested. Kringle explains that only by defeating the Erlking would Dresden have been able to control the Hunt.[18]


The lore about him was compiled into the book Die Lied der Erlking by Wizard Peabody. It is a collection of essays, stories, songs, lectures, accountings, sketches and poetry about him.[6]

When Harry Dresden meets the Erlking again at court, we find out his name is Lord Herne. Herne the Hunter is a well-known figure in English folklore, appearing as an antlered man said to haunt and hunt in Windsor Great Park, which surrounds Windsor Castle; this is also a reflection of the Welsh Gwyn ap Nudd, who is lord of the goblins and of the Welsh Wild Hunt. The English name "Erlking" derives from the German "Erlkönig" ("Alder King"); the latter in turn was mistranslated from a Danish name meaning "Elfking".[1]

Many of the features of Butchers Erlking echo those of the titular Goblin King "Jereth" from the 1986 movie Labyrinth, though the name itself is the only real connection, in the film he is known as the Lord of Goblin and the Goblin King, his legend involves the stealing away of children which is far different than the Butcher version. This is exemplified with the physical descriptions, in the film he is portrayed by David Bowie and is presented as hauntingly beautiful, while in the Butcher books his similarity to his Goblin kin is highlighted by the asymmetry of his face - though it is noted that he’s described to  have a “roguish charm”.(reference needed)


The Erlking
You are poor game at the moment. Because of that, and because you pleased me with your calling of the old hunter, this night you may go free. But beware, mortal. The next time our paths cross, it shall be my very great pleasure to run you down.
The Erlking
Well. Well, well, well. Isn’t this interesting.
The Erlking
I do not indulge in courtesy as do the Sidhe. Such matters delight them. I find that they pall swiftly.
The Erlking
Nay, nay. The Knight caught my words fairly. Guests they are, Lord Ordulaka, and I will not cheapen my honor by betraying that ancient compact.
— Quotes by the Erlking himself.[10][7]
Harry Dresden
I do thank thee for the compliment, O King. Though it is chance, not design, that brought me hither, I am humbled by thy generosity in accepting us into thine home as guests. Mine host.
The Erlking
Ah. Caught out by mine own words, ’twould seem. Courtesy is not a close companion unto me, so perhaps it is meet that in a duel of manners, thou wouldst have the advantage. And this hall honors cleverness and wisdom as much as strength.
— Dresden using the laws of hospitality to save himself from the Erlking.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Cold Days, ch. 5
  2. 2.0 2.1 Word of Jim
  3. 3.0 3.1 Changes, ch. 35
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Dead Beat, ch. 21
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Dead Beat, ch. 33
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Dead Beat, ch. 20
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Changes, ch. 36
  8. Dead Beat, ch. 26
  9. Dead Beat, ch. 28 and 32
  10. 10.0 10.1 Dead Beat, ch. 43
  11. "Heorot"
  12. "Curses"
  13. Changes, ch. 36-37
  14. Cold Days, ch. 41
  15. Cold Days, ch. 42
  16. Cold Days, ch. 43
  17. Cold Days, ch. 44
  18. Cold Days, ch. 53

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