In the poem’s medieval context, giving a token such as a glove symbolizes the delegation of authority for the giver, and the acceptance of a task for the receiver. In the poem, gloves feature most prominently. For example, Charlemayn bestows his glove on Ganelon when he sends Ganelon to Saragossa as an envoy—but when Ganelon drops the glove in the dust, the poet frames the moment as a symbolic indication that Ganelon cannot be trusted with the authority that’s been invested in him. When Roland dies on the battlefield, he extends his gloved hand heavenward as though indicating that he has now fulfilled his duty to God. When Pinabel vows to fight Thierry on Ganelon’s behalf, he hands Charlemayn his glove as a sign of this challenge. For the knights in the poem, gloves represent taking on responsibility entrusted by authority figures.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Gloves appears in The Song of Roland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...spitefully singled him out, but that he will obey Charlemayn’s orders. Charlemayn duly bestows “the glove and wand” upon Ganelon, chiding his anger. But before Ganelon can accept the glove, it... (full context)
...the privilege of striking the first blow at Roland, and Marsilion grants this, giving his glove as a pledge. He also gathers twelve Champions to join him in opposing Charlemayn’s Twelve... (full context)
When Baligant enters, Marsile has two aides help him sit upright, and he offers his glove to Baligant to symbolize granting him his whole kingdom. Baligant accepts the glove and leaves... (full context)