Medieval Monday: Gambeson

As a lover of all things medieval, not to mention someone who writes all of her stories in a time period comparable to our medieval ages, I’m continually surprised at how many people are unfamiliar with the era. It was recently pointed out to me by one of my critique partners that there are several terms in Elven Soul that younger readers may not understand. I had never considered this. One of the things I now must do in my edits before I start to querying for an agent this summer is go through and provide a brief snippet of description to follow-up the term. Now my novel gets to be educational too (yay!).

Yes, I know I look rather dashing in this sleeveless gambeson.

On top of including a type of definition to some of the things solely found in the medieval ages, I want to get back to doing Medieval Monday on my blog. It’s about the only thing I’m knowledgeable in, so why the hell not, you know? So, to start off MM once more, today’s word is gambeson. Yes, believe it or not, gambeson was one of the words mentioned as a word younger readers may not recognize.

A gambeson was a type of quilted jacket that could be worn alone as armor, or combined with heavier armor like mail or plate. Gambesons were made of linen or heavy wool, and had stuffing between the layers. These gambesons could be pulled over the head, but most had laces or buttons either up the front or at the sides.

Here’s an excerpt from Elven Soul dealing specifically with a gambeson:

“While an endless parade of chests filled with clothes, books, and other possessions were hauled from her room by guards, she stepped behind a changing screen and allowed herself to be dressed by the slaves. They laced up the front of her sleeveless gambeson, before helping her into the breastplate. Emblazoned on the front of it was her crest, a raven with its wings spread above its head so it encircled the sun. She’d be damned if she wore her father’s crest while in exile.”

Do you enjoy reading about and studying the medieval ages? Tell me! I love chatting, so don’t leave me alone here. Also, if you found this post useful or entertaining, give it a RT, please. Thanks!



  1. I like the aesthetics of the medieval age. But I do not devote enough time to explore further this part of our past. Although as a reader I do appreciate when an author spends time explaining terms and concepts, I am divided. Is it always better to explain everything to the reader or let him or her be more adventurous and leave some space for personal reasearch?

  2. Thanks for the comment, handustry! I feel much of that would depend on the genre. If it’s an Adult high fantasy novel, then the readers generally require fewer clue-ins as to what certain things are. They’ve most likely been reading high fantasy for years now, and are probably familiar with most medieval terms. My novel is Young Adult though, and high fantasy isn’t quite as prevalent in that genre. Readers in this category may be younger, or are just outright new to high fantasy.

    It’s hard to say, and I think there needs to be a middle ground. I don’t intend to work in an extensive definition and backstory to medieval terms, but rather provide a snippet of description to accompany the term so that readers will know in the future just what that “thing” is. It’s important that they understand what they’re reading as they read it, otherwise I then run the risk of jarring the reader out of the setting because they just stumbled across something that doesn’t make any sense to them.

    Hopefully they’ll be intrigued by the minor details they’re learning to take it upon themselves to then go forth and discover more about the medieval ages from more reliable resources than my own novel.

    1. As you describe it, I think you are right, balance is everything: giving enough information to understand and not too much to develop the sense of discovery 🙂

  3. I don’t think you want to take them out of the story to educate them on terms they may not fully understand. I thought the way it was used pretty much made it easy for those lacking in knowledge to fill in the blanks. But I could be wrong. Another option to consider, depending on how many terms you have at the end of the day, is including a small glossary at the end. If you were strictly doing ebook pretty soon you could simply embed the definition. 🙂 I like Medieval Mondays.

    1. Thanks for visiting me in turn, Debra!

      I agree. I definitely don’t want to jerk the reader out of the story. If that happens, then I’ve failed as a storyteller. My critique partner pointed out that while someone not knowledgeable with the medieval ages would be able to tell it’s something you obviously wear, it’s harder to distinguish what exactly that something looks like. There were also several other more obscure terms I used which were pointed, and which I fully intend to highlight for future Medieval Mondays!

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