"Elveskud" or "Elverskud" (Danish for "Elf-shot") is the Danish, and most widely used, name for one of the most popular ballads in Scandinavia (The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad A 63 'Elveskud — Elf maid causes man's sickness and death'; Danmarks gamle Folkeviser 47; Sveriges Medeltida Ballader 29).
Origins and distribution
The origins of the ballad are agreed to be considerably earlier than the earliest manuscripts, in the Middle Ages, but there is little consensus beyond this. Many scholars suggest a Breton or French origin but the routes by which it came to and was disseminated within Northern Europe are unknown.
The ballad has close parallels across Europe (the closest English-language parallel being Clerk Colvill). The earliest surviving manuscript is Karen Brahes Folio, a Danish manuscript from the 1570s; the earliest surviving Swedish version is from the 1670s. At least seventy Scandinavian variants are known; over forty come from Denmark, and seventeen from Sweden.
It is also widely known as:
In the summary of The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad,
Not all versions precisely fit this summary. For example, in many Danish versions, Olav does dance with the elves, sometimes to death; in some versions in Denmark, Norway and Sweden Olav's death is at first concealed from his bride, but eventually she finds out; in the Icelandic versions, the bride is not mentioned at all, and Olav's refusal to dance arises from his Christian faith.
Vésteinn Ólason's summary of the Icelandic variants of the ballad, generally known as "Kvæði af Ólafi liljurós", is
The most widely known version of "Elveskud" is that published by Peder Syv in 1695, given here in modernised spelling:
These and other available translations by Borrow, Prior, etc., are listed in Syndergaard's survey: