What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

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Manveruon
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What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Manveruon » Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:17 pm

So I was looking over the chapter "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit" again, and I passed by the section describing the Rangers of Ithilien:

"Four tall Men stood there. Two had spears in their hands with broad bright heads. Two had great bows, almost of their own height, and great quivers of long green-feathered arrows. All had swords at their sides, and were clad in green and brown of varied hues, as if the better to walk unseen in the glades of Ithilien. Green gauntlets covered their hands, and their faces were hooded and masked with green, except for their eyes, which were very keen and bright. "

Now of course, this short passage has been discussed to death a hundred times over, since it's one of the very few actual concrete kit descriptions for Rangers in Middle-earth, but the thought occurred to me that I don't think we've ever discussed what Tolkien really meant when he said "gauntlets."
When I hear the word "gauntlet," the immediate thought that comes to mind is an armored glove, such as a knight might wear (much as the Ringwraiths are depicted as wearing in the New Line films). But I think we can all agree that this seems extremely unlikely. So of course, the next interpretation would be a heavy leather glove with a wide, flaring cuff. This interpretation seems much more likely - however, I'm not sure how useful such a cuffed glove would really be in the forest, and for shooting the long bows they were described as carrying. Seems to me that a big cuff like that would get snagged a fair deal - indeed that has been my experience with similar gloves when fencing (although I did bring a pair on an overnight trek once and they really saved my fingers at night).
The third thought that comes to mind is perhaps some sort of bracers? Or maybe long, more closely fitted fingerless gloves? That seems like it would be much more practical, to my mind, but I also feel like it's probably not really what the professor intended.

Any thoughts?
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Ghostsoldier » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:05 am

Historical precedents aside, it could be just the movie fan in me affecting my opinion as I've always pictured the reference as an archery bracer; I'll admit that too many Robin Hood movies and the New Line contributions have shaped this view.

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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby theowl » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:25 am

I've always considered gauntlets to be any heavier than normal gloves, but I'm not sure of the historical terminology.
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Taurinor » Wed Nov 13, 2019 2:03 pm

My personal opinion is that "gauntlet" in this context means a heavy leather cuffed glove.

Like you say, plate armor seems unlikely, especially given the rest of the description of their kit.

I think leather bracers are also unlikely, for a couple of reasons. In Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Imrahil "held the bright-burnished vambrace that was upon his arm before [Eowyn's] cold lips" (emphasis mine). This suggests to me that the Professor knew a term that specifically describes rigid forearm protection, and chose not to use it when describing the Rangers of Ithilien. He also describes the gauntlets as "covering [the Ranger's] hands", not their arms, which again suggests a glove to me.

Another thought that I have about Middle-earth and bracers is that I'm just not sure the image of the fantastical hero with leather forearm protection and no other armor was as common when the Professor was writing as it is now. I've occasionally tried to get some idea of when that was popularized (since it doesn't seem to be based in historic clothing), but I haven't had much luck. Errol Flynn wore a single bracer on his bow arm when he portrayed Robin Hood, but that strikes me as something a bit different. Wonder Woman's famous bullet deflecting accessories started life as bracelets, more metal cuffs than bracers. Going back to Middle-earth, I didn't see any bracers when I glanced through some of the illustrations by The Hildebrandt brothers from the late '70s, but I found plenty of cuffed leather gloves, including on their interpretation of the Rangers of Ithilien.

That's really neither here nor there, though. Coming back to the point, I really think the Professor meant cuffed gloves made from heavy leather. As you say, large cuffs would probably interfere with a bow, so perhaps the cuff could be laced tight, maybe on a side seam that would run up to the little-finger-side of the wrist?

Green gloves would also have the benefit of camouflaging the hands. If you are a paler-skinned individual, quick movements of uncovered hands can be very visible in a woodland setting.
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby kleenur » Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:23 pm

I don't know that flared gloves would interfere with bow work, but I always envisioned the gauntlets in Tolkien as being soft leather gloves that came up to about mid forearm, and fit more snugly. Something like this.

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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Elleth » Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:34 pm

When I first read the text, I certainly read the text as Taurinor did - leather gloves with fair-sized cuffs.That's probably just because I'd absorbed mid-century ideas of medieval fashion that had permeated fantasy art in the 70's-80's though.

I don't offhand know what I'd picture now... but I'd probably start looking at WWI military gloves and Edwardian era fencing gloves for some inspiration for a first stab at the idea.
(Once upon a time Fell and Fair were offering gloves with heavier leather stitched across the back of the hand and some other protective measures that might also be a sensible inspiration source, though there's admittedly far less historical support there I think)
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Manveruon » Wed Nov 13, 2019 7:44 pm

Sounds like you guys are much of the same mind as I am about it.

I'm also unsure of when forearm bracers became so ubiquitous in modern fantasy, but I do know that in terms of Western wear they were/are often worn by ropers as some measure of protection against rope burns when using a lasso (which now that I think of it might have been part of the inspiration for Wonder Woman as well). But yeah, I always have to chuckle a bit when I see a character with armor bits covering their shoulders, their wrists, and maybe their shins - and absolutely nothing else! Like... Yes. Good. You've clearly covered all the important parts. :lol:

Even so, unlike many here I've never been a big fan of th Hildebrandt illustrations. They just come off really dated to me, and don't capture my imagination in the same way as the various Illustrations by people like Howe and Lee. Also, I absolutely imagine the Ithilien Rangers' masks as sort of rags or scarves pulled up over the nose rather than the rather silly looking (in my opinion) domino masks they're depicted with in the Hildebrandt version. That being said, I do think they were on the right track in terms of the gloves. Although, for my own part, I would probably go with something with less flare at the wrist. I like the lace up look of the ones posted above. Something like that seems like it might be more practical. And if it laced fairly close to the forearm, then potentially an additional piece of leather or other stiff material could be added to the underarm to act as a sort of archery bracer.

I've also considered the possibility of perhaps a fingerless glove, or glovelet, similar to the ones worn under the bracers of the Ithilien Rangers in the movies (I have made a couple of these myself, and I happen to just like their aesthetic) but I think as Elliott said that the description of the gauntlets covering their hand seems to indicate full gloves. And yes, covering pale skin in a forest would definitely be a boon to one's stealth
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Greg » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:10 am

Taurine hit the nail on the head...Imrahil wore vambraces, which creates a distinction between the two words. I, however, don't believe that the gloves intended had to have wide cuffs.
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Iodo » Sat Nov 16, 2019 8:34 am

Fascinating thread :P

Gloves are necessary to protect the hand from cold in winter so I imagined that they'd have gloves with tighter cuffs to allow for shooting a bow in winter months (maybe wet weather and for extra protection in a fight as well) and might switch to a thiner bracer in the summer

although I can't shoot at all if I have a glove on my bow hand but I think that's just me, I end up with no feel and it sends my aim right out, maybe I could get use to it?
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Taurinor » Sat Nov 16, 2019 7:20 pm

Manveruon wrote:Even so, unlike many here I've never been a big fan of th Hildebrandt illustrations. They just come off really dated to me, and don't capture my imagination in the same way as the various Illustrations by people like Howe and Lee. Also, I absolutely imagine the Ithilien Rangers' masks as sort of rags or scarves pulled up over the nose rather than the rather silly looking (in my opinion) domino masks they're depicted with in the Hildebrandt version. That being said, I do think they were on the right track in terms of the gloves. Although, for my own part, I would probably go with something with less flare at the wrist. I like the lace up look of the ones posted above. Something like that seems like it might be more practical. And if it laced fairly close to the forearm, then potentially an additional piece of leather or other stiff material could be added to the underarm to act as a sort of archery bracer.


To be honest, I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a fan of the Hildebrandt illustrations, either. I use them as... hmm, I don't know how to describe it. A palate cleanser, of sorts, maybe? I often look at them when I need to see something radically different from what Weta did, but that comes from the same source material. A way to give my imagination a hard reset, I suppose. As Elleth said, the Hildebrandt illustrations are as beholden to the "rule of cool" of their time as much as anything Weta put out (big gloves, very movie Robin Hood-influenced Strider, lots of Ren Faire poofy sleeves, etc), but it's something DIFFERENT, at least.

I agree with you on the masks and cuffs, though - covering the lower half of the face makes much more sense to me, and I think something with a tighter cuff would serve better.

I figure if our kits look a little like the movies and a little like the Hildebrandt illustrations and a little like historic gear and at the same time not really like any of those things, we're probably on the right track!
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Manveruon » Mon Nov 18, 2019 1:36 am

Taurinor wrote:To be honest, I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a fan of the Hildebrandt illustrations, either. I use them as... hmm, I don't know how to describe it. A palate cleanser, of sorts, maybe? I often look at them when I need to see something radically different from what Weta did, but that comes from the same source material. A way to give my imagination a hard reset, I suppose. As Elleth said, the Hildebrandt illustrations are as beholden to the "rule of cool" of their time as much as anything Weta put out (big gloves, very movie Robin Hood-influenced Strider, lots of Ren Faire poofy sleeves, etc), but it's something DIFFERENT, at least.

I agree with you on the masks and cuffs, though - covering the lower half of the face makes much more sense to me, and I think something with a tighter cuff would serve better.

I figure if our kits look a little like the movies and a little like the Hildebrandt illustrations and a little like historic gear and at the same time not really like any of those things, we're probably on the right track!


Well said! This is very much my mindset as well. Sometimes it's nice to have something like the Hidebrandt illustrations to help give a bit of perspective so we don't find ourselves stuck in too much of a creative rut.
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby theowl » Mon Nov 18, 2019 5:08 am

If I had a nickel for every time someone has called me Robin hood while fully kitted up...

I keep a large square linen "bandana" of sorts to tie around as a lower face mask, which is super helpful for dust and holding up stagecoaches. What do you think the motivation was behind the domino masks in the Hildebrandt picture? That seems like the least practical interpretation.
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Elleth » Tue Nov 19, 2019 11:00 am

The third quarter of the twentieth century was a weird time. That's all I got. :)
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Re: What Was Meant by "Gauntlets?"

Postby Greg » Wed Nov 20, 2019 3:04 pm

theowl wrote:If I had a nickel for every time someone has called me Robin hood while fully kitted up...

Well, you ARE carrying a bow, which no other character in history or fantasy has ever done, so...
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