They are titans, they are the true and indisputable masters of the universe, the lords of creation, and they are unhappy with us. They speak, and theirs is a voice that shatters mountains. "WHO. ARE. YOU?" The captain's lips draw back over his teeth in a mirthless grin as he plants his fists on his hips, throws back his head, thrusts out his jaw. "Who wants to know?"
Anybody can get into a fight, but it takes someone very confident, very desperate, or very pissed off to stand up and demand that someone fight them. And it takes a badass to do it with style.
This is Throwing Down the Gauntlet — so named for the medieval practice of literally throwing down one's actual gauntlet before the person one wanted to challenge, making it both Truth in Television and Older Than Print. It can take any number of forms, depending on the character and the reason for the challenge. It may include a Badass Boast or Badass Creed, a list of the reasons the challenger has for beating the challenged down, and a detailed description of the ways in which the challenged is now doomed. It might be a "World of Cardboard" Speech in which the challenger explains himself and how he's reached this point. It might be a calculated effort to goad the challenged into accepting the contest and fighting their hardest, either in order to test them or just because the challenger likes a good fight.
Whatever the form, Throwing Down the Gauntlet is the act of challenging someone to a fight or some other competition, preferably in the most badass way possible. This could result in a Duel to the Death, Ten Paces And Turn, Wizards Duel (if both are wizards, of course) or pretty much any type of fight that has rules involved.
If this involves actually throwing a glove of some sort on the ground, the challenge is accepted by picking it up. In some cases, this may overlap with the Glove Slap, as traditionally the glove was used to slap the challenged twice upon the chest before being thrown down (although this is mostly forgotten now).
When the recipient of the challenge is a parent, mentor, or other authority figure, this is Calling the Old Man Out. If the one being challenged is vastly above the challenger's level and fully capable of squashing him like a bug, it may resemble Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter. If the character is particularly angry, they may say "Prepare to Die". If the character does it every time they begin a fight, it's In the Name of the Moon. If the challenge was unintended, it's Fumbling The Gauntlet.
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Anime & Manga
Happens a lot in Ranma ½. Once, the "gauntlet" was a moist fish cake from a bowl of noodles.
L delivers a televised challenge to Kira in Death Note.
In Chrono Crusade, Aion does this to Chrono after he's blown away by Joshua using one of Rosette's guns.
Aion: I'm disappointed. All these years and you haven't learned a thing. Get up! How long are you going to stay dead? Rise and awaken your legion! Prepare to attack your enemy! Strike him down! Kill him! Your enemy is here. He's standing right before you. Kill me now... or you'll lose everything you care about, forever.
Alucard to Luke Valentine, in Hellsing. Between the imagery and Crispin Freeman's voice acting, the scene approaches nightmare.
Mamoru does this once in GaoGaiGar, just after saving the GGG bridge crew from being mind-controlled by the Ear and Nail Primevals. Bonus points for doing it in the middle of a Dynamic Entry / Big Damn Heroes moment as well.
Immediately after Kyou Kara Maou's lead Yuuri becomes accidentally engaged to Wolfram by way of slap, Wolfram knocks a bunch of cutlery to the floor in a rage, and Yuuri kneeling to pick it up provokes a malevolent chuckle of victory: he just formally agreed to an honor duel.
Rather later Yuuri gets suckered by this again, this time by a girl who's challenging him for Wolfram. Bonus points for his accidental pointing of a spork at her, which turns out to be local code for 'I have stolen your lover.' Wolfram is touched. Yuuri is frazzled.
Happens on a regular basis in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, given that competition using a card game is a Serious Business. (In fact, the dub name of the second episode of the original series is "The Gauntlet is Thrown", ephasizing this Trope, although that specific episode was kind of a subversion, because the "challenge" could better be described as blackmail.)
ElfQuest: After causing his rival Cutter incalculable grief and hardship, Rayek challenges him to a fight to settle their differences, despite knowing full well that Cutter will beat the living crap out of him. It turns out that there's method in Rayek's madness. Rayek knows that Cutter's rage will only keep on festering if he doesn't let all of it out, so Rayek refuses to concede until Cutter is one blow away from killing him.
There was also the Rayek's original challenge to Cutter (via a carved stick).
In one story, Deadpool wants to fight Wolverine, who is disgusted with Wilson's methods. The Merc With The Mouth responds by Shoryukening Shadowcat, and dancing happily when Logan pops his claws.
In Kyon Big Damn Hero Wataru gives one to Kyon by causing what it seemed like an earthquake and a simple "Kyon! Face me!" who arguably everyone in the school could hear.
Kill Bill has The Bride calling out O-Ren Ishii, the first of the Deadly Vipers, at the House of Blue Leaves using her Catch Phrase. In Japanese.
In Scaramouche, when the National Assembly's noble delegates are reducing the numbers of the common delegates by challenging them to duels and killing them, Moreau is challenged several times by persistent nobles who want to improve his horrendously ugly face (an example of Hollywood Homely too) by slapping him with a glove.
It was parodied less than a minute prior, when the sheriff slaps Robin in the face with his glove and throws it down as a challenge. Robin responds by taking a metal gauntlet and smashing the Sheriff in the face while saying "I accept" (Bugs Bunny did it first).
Spoofed at the end of Beauty and the Beast. When Cogsworth and Lumiere are returned to their human forms, they squabble over who told whom so, and Lumiere slaps Cogsworth across the face with a glove.
In the finale of Commando, John Matrix gets Bennett to release his daughter by appealing to his inner Knife Nut and challenging him to a knife duel.
Matrix: You don't want to pull the trigger, you want to put the knife in me and look me in the eye and see what's going on in there when you turn it. That's what you want to do, right? Come on, let the girl go. Just you and me. Don't deprive yourself of the pleasure. Come on, Bennett, let's party.
Bennett: I can beat you. I don't need the girl. Haha, I don't need the gun! I'M GONNA KILL YOU NOW!!
In Hook, Peter tries to leave with his kids (whom Hook captured to bring him there), but Hook has no intention of letting his Worthy Opponent walk about without a final showdown. When Peter looks like he's ignoring him, Hook throws down a gauntlet he can't walk away from...a threat to his kids.
"Peter! I swear to you, wherever you go, wherever you are, I vow there will always be daggers bearing those signs saying "Hook"! They will be flung at the doors of your children's children's children, do you hear me?"
In The Dark Crystal, after the death of the Skeksis Emperor, SkekSil the Chamberlin seizes the scepter in order to claim the throne, only to be challenged to a ritual contest for it by SkekUng the General; the penalty for refusing or losing this challenge is death or worse. Despite the rather serious consequences, the rules are rather simple: both take turns using incredibly heavy swords to try to shatter a large gemstone, and the first to successfully shatter it wins; but each is only allowed three tries. (The fact that it is covered with hundreds of chips and scratches attests to the numerous power struggles in their history; nonetheless, this time, SkekUng is successful, but he spares SkekSil, choosing to simply strip him of his robes and exile him from the palace.
Live Action Television
After stomping out the rest of Starfleet, the Borg are on their way to finish off Earth. They are intercepted by the Enterprise, a ship they nearly destroyed and whose captain they kidnapped. The ship arrives with the sole purpose of daring the Borg to attack them.
Locutus: There are no terms. Surrender your vessel and escort us to [Earth]. If you attempt to intervene....we will destroy you.
Captain William Riker: Well then...take your best shot Locutus because we're about to intervene.
Smacking or punching another Klingon in the face is usually a sign of dominance and will not result in anything worse than a punch to the face in return, but smacking him with the back of the hand is a challenge to a duel to the death. Captain Sisko found this out in the DS9 episode "Apocalypse Rising"; thankfully for him the recipient was Worf, while training them to infiltrate Klingon territory.
Taking one's dagger and plunging it into a table between oneself and another Klingon is another challenge to a duel to the death, as seen in the DS9 episode "Sons and Daughters". Luckily for Alexander Rozenkho, who knew damn well what he was doing, the recipient of the challenge, also Worf, declined to kill him.
Finally, a challenge can be done simply by telling the other Klingon, often times challenging his fitness to lead other warriors. Worf got involved in this twice, once as part of a gambit to reignite the fire for combat in Martok, and another to kill Gowron, leader of the Klingons, and install Martok in his place. Riker also pulled this off in the TNG episode "A Matter of Honour", which ended non-fatally.
This is fairly commonplace on BBC's Merlin and has, in fact, been the driving force behind several episode plots. Usually the issue addressed is Arthur's Honor Before Reason attitude. In many cases, it literally involves throwing down a gauntlet.
In the Babylon 5 episode "Knives", a disgraced noble challenges Londo Mollari to a duel by stabbing a kutari (a Centauri shortsword) into a table and announcing his intentions in no uncertain terms. Mollari (who is familiar with this type of challenge) accepts by pulling the sword out.
It's not so much general Centauri tradition but specifically that of the unit where both of them served.
In Prince Caspian, Peter delivers a formal challenge to King Miraz, in which he establishes his credentials as High King, lists the crimes for which he plans to hold Miraz accountable, declares his intention to "prove upon your Lordship's body" Caspian's rightful claim to the throne, and concludes by giving the year as the first year of Caspian's reign as though his victory is a forgone conclusion.
Fingolfin, one of the many, many tragic heroes in Tolkien's massive backstory, challenged Satan to personal combat at the gates of Hell:
His hopeless challenge dauntless cried Fingolfin there: "Come, open wide, dark king, your ghastly brazen doors! Come forth, whom earth and heaven abhors! Come forth, O monstrous craven lord, and fight with thine own hand and sword, thou wielder of hosts of banded thralls, thou tyrant leaguered with strong walls, thou foe of Gods and elvish race! I wait thee here. Come! Show thy face!
In Deryni Rising, Charissa literally throws down a mailed gauntlet to interrupt Kelson's coronation and challenge him for the throne of Gwynedd.
After being accused of treason, the villain of the Honor Harrington novel Flag in Exile challenges his accuser to a trial by combat, reasoning that if his accuser can use ancient laws to accuse him, he can use them to defend himself. He also assumed that Honor Harrington was a novice with no real skill at the swords that were the traditional weapon of choice for such duels. He was very, very wrong.
Also done in the preceding novel Field of Dishonor where Manticoran societies dueling practices were both the instigation of the big bad's plot to kill Honor and the final resolution where she gets him on the field. Much like the Flag in Exile example, people who end up across a dueling field from her tend to wind up leaving the field in a body bag.
Done in a non-badass way in The L-Shaped Room, set in the '50s: the protagonist gets pregnant after a one night stand, and although she refuses the father's offer to marry her, he still feels guilty and wants to help. After helping her get back in contact with her "boyfriend," the father deliberately provokes a fight so that the boyfriend can beat him up and, having taken his beating, feels absolved of all guilt or responsibility in the pregnancy.
In the Codex Alera series, this involves challenging the offender to what is called a "juris macto" - essentially a Duel to the Death. Its not terribly complicated, simply by having the challenger confront and declare the name of the person they wish to duel, naming their offenses, then declaring that "May the crows feast on the unjust!"
Juris macto comes up often- something like ten times per book. 80% of these are just threats, and somebody backs down before the formal challenge. 10% of the time, the crows do indeed feast on the unjust. The remaining 10%, Tavi or his kin are doing something or other overly clever.
Ciaphas CainHERO OF THE IMPERIUM challenges another Commissar to a duel over an insult to Colonel Kasteen. The other Commissar chooses to apologize instead after watching Cain fight a Chaos Space Marine in hand to hand combat.
In Michael Crichton's novel Timeline, there is a segment 33 hours, 12 minutes, and 51 seconds into the plot where Sir Guy literally throws down a gauntlet of mail to challenge Chris, the witless woobie made of steel, to a duel, mostly because Chris seems like someone fun to stab in the gut with a gigantic spear made of wood. Being witless, Chris doesn't get it and picks the gauntlet up, so accepting a challenge to a duel given by a gigantic man capable of swinging a very large sword effortlessly.
The title character does this a couple times in The Dresden Files. In White Night, he marches straight into the lair of the White Court and challenges a couple of their members to a Duel to the Death, and he repeats it with the Red Court in Changes.
One of the King Arthur stories involves the Green Knight challenging any of Arthur's knights to chop of his head and, one year hence, return to have his own head chopped off. In some versions, only Gawain was brave enough to answer the challenge. In others, Arthur himself stepped up to the plate, but Gawain begged to do it instead because he didn't want to risk his king coming to harm.
There's also an Irish version of the Green Knight tale with Cúchullain.
Pops up in Pathfinder; most obviously with the Cavalier's "challenge" ability, but the Paladin's "smite evil" and the Inquisitor's "judgement" are also forms of gaining mechanical benefits for Throwing Down the Gauntlet.
"And a brand new knight-errant with banners unfurled/hurls down the gauntlet to thee!" Yes, it's done by Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha: he slams down his glove on the stage when the Knight of the Mirrors insulted his lady, and provoked Don Quixote's rage.
Act I Scene IV: Cyrano challenge the whole pit of the Burgundy Teather collectively! Of course he is a Bad Ass, but this is more because he is a Jerk Ass that decided to interrupt the play.
Cyrano::... I order silence, all!
And challenge the whole pit collectively!
I write your names!—Approach, young heroes, here!
Each in his turn! I cry the numbers out!
Now which of you will come to ope the lists?
You, Sir? No! You? No! The first duellist
Shall be dispatched by me with honors due!
Let all who long for death hold up their hands!
Modest? You fear to see my naked blade?
Not one name?—Not one hand?—Good, I proceed!
Later, Cyrano challenges… if that is the word… Viscount de Valvert
Cyrano(with grimaces of pain): It must be moved—it's getting stiff, I vow, This comes of leaving it in idleness!
The Viscount: What ails you?
Cyrano: The cramp! cramp in my sword!
The Viscount(drawing his sword): Good!
For an idea of how old this trope is, it was already being parodied in Richard II. Bolingbroke and Mowbray play it straight early on, but in Act IV: Fitzwater and Aumerle have it out over Aumerle's supposed conspiring and challenge each other, then Hotspur, who just likes to fight, throws his gage down, and suddenly everyone's gloves are on the floor. Aumerle even has to ask someone to lend him a third.
In the introductory battle to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (which replicates the final battle of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood), Richter throws down a challenge to Dracula, shouting out all the reasons why the vampire lord is unfit to rule the world. Dracula responds by throwing down his wine glass and a hearty "Have at you!" and the battle begins.
In the beginning of Assassin's Creed I, Altaïr makes the prideful error of challenging Robert de Sable openly before attempting to assassinate him. Naturally, he gets his ass handed to him. He does it again in the endgame, and has to fight his entire personal guard.
In Dragon Age II, this is an actual ability that the Rogue class can use with the Duelist specialization, which draws a single selected enemy to the rogue. Upgrades to this ability make the enemy so enraged that he attacks recklessly and has reduced chance to hit. Coupled with the Parry combat mode, and the selected enemy has a roughly -50% chance to hit, before factoring in all the other defensive advantages of being a Rogue, such has high cunning and other passive abilities that reduce chance-to-hit.
In Dark Souls. when using the Grave Lord's spell you place a marker that show up in three random people's worlds. While the gave sign persists much stronger than normal phantoms spawn and you steal half of a player's soul amount when they die. But if ANY or maybe even ALL of them find where you hid the sign and feel like having vengeance...
There is also an item in the game specifically meant for this, the Red Sign Soapstone. It has infinite uses and its only purpose is to leave a sign on the ground others can touch if they wish to challenge you.
In the Infocom game Arthur: the Quest for Excalibur, the endgame involves getting to a literal gauntlet so you can go out and hit the usurper King Lot with it. If you don't have the gauntlet you'll never get to him, but with it the guards will recognize your legitimate challenge and let you pass.
In one Simpsons episode, Homer sees the glove-slap in a movie and starts using it in real life to get whatever he wants. This goes really well until he tries it on a Southern Gentleman — who accepts his offer of a duel.
Later in the episode, he runs away after being challenged to a duel by Jimmy Carter.
The "formal duel" episode of Tom and Jerry starts with Jerry stealing a glove and slapping Tom with it. When he tries it again after all the botched duels, Tom just snatches the glove and chases Jerry around with it.
In the second episode of The Legend of Tarzan, Tarzan challenges a rhinoceros by throwing mud in it's face in a very gauntlet-like manner.
This happened in a big way in an episode of Teen Titans. Apparently, a Tameranian has the right to wrest a monarch's power away from him or her by making a public challenge and winning (so long as no-one gives the challenger help). After Blackfire assumed the throne, Starfire did just that, and won after a rather epic fight. (She later abdicated the throne, however, passing it to her childhood guardian.)
Happens at leastOnce an Episode (with a few exceptions) on Xiaolin Showdown, which makes sense, as the name of the series is the mystical challenge that is made in order to take a Shen Gong Wu from another warrior. (Note that while all Showdowns tend to be dangerous, not all of them involve fighting your opponent directly; the show is very creative, having them take the form of everything from gladiator-style swordplay to ice hockey.)
Bugs Bunny did this at least once. In "Hare Trimmed", Yosemite Sam first insults Bugs by slapping Bugs with a leather glove. Bugs responds by slapping Sam with a brick-filled glove before giving Sam the gun for the duel.
Contrary to popular perception, you do not slap someone across the face with your glove when you challenge them- you slap them twice lightly across the chest with it then throw it down.
And the slap isn't actually the challenge - it's the provocation for the slappee to challenge you. Being struck was the one insult which could only result in a duel.
England's last legal occurrence of this was in 1818, in the famous case of Ashford v Thornton. Thornton was tried for murdering Ashford's sister and, after proving an alibi, was acquitted. Ashford was talked into demanding a private murder retrial. However, there was an ancient, very rare option for the defendant in such cases. The defendant (barring certain exceptions, which didn't apply here), could demand a trial by combat. Thompson demanded such a trial, throwing down a gauntlet having been brought to him, and Ashford backed down.
When hockey players prepare to brawl, they quite literally throw down the gauntlet — namely, stripping off their gloves and throwing them to the ice. Fighting with gloves on is a separate penalty. Those gloves are sturdier than they look, you can tear skin open with them once they're cold enough. That and removing the helmet are the only official rules on fighting, though there are a lot of unwritten ones. It's not uncommon for a faceoff to be completely ignored when two players are ready to go at it.
In Japan, striking your sword's scabbard, wittingly or accidentally, against someone else's is a challenge for a duel to the death.