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 seriesEdit

The Erlking has an ambivalent relationship with Harry Dresden, seeing him as a prey of sorts,[8] but also respecting him for his power and honor.[9][10]


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]

The attributes of Butcher's Erlking strikingly echo those of Jareth, the Goblin King from the 1986 Jim Henson movie "Labyrinth." He is called the lord of goblins and even Goblin King on occasion; in myth, though not in Butcher's books, he is concerned, as is Jareth, with stealing away children. However, the Erlking's facial appearance reflects the asymmetry of his subjects, though it is said to have a "roguish charm"; while Jareth (played in the movie by David Bowie) is hauntingly beautiful, with long blond hair and mismatched eyes.(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.[11][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 Cold Days, ch. 5
  2. 2.0 2.1 Word of Jim
  3. Changes, ch. 35
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Dead Beat, ch. 21
  5. 5.0 5.1 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. Changes, ch. 36-37
  9. Cold Days, ch. 44
  10. Cold Days, ch. 53
  11. Dead Beat, ch. 43

See alsoEdit

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