Running the gauntlet
Running the gauntlet (originally gantlet, and, rarely, gantlope or gantelope) was a method of military corporal punishment and capital punishment, where a soldier or sailor, stripped to the waist, had to walk or run between two rows of comrades who would beat him with cudgels, switches or other implements as he passed. Sometimes a subaltern walked in front of him extending a sword or knife to prevent the delinquent from running.
This form of punishment (and sometimes execution), using sticks, clubs or more lethal weapons, was also practiced by some native Indian tribes in North America, particularly in the Northeast.
The punishment was very severe and would often, but not necessarily, end with death. However it was considered far less of a dishonor than a beating (with exposure to ridicule) on the pillory or stocks, since one could "take it like a man" upright and among soldiers. In some traditions, if the condemned was able to finish the run and exit the gauntlet at the far end, his faults would be deemed paid, and he would rejoin his comrades with a clean slate. Elsewhere, he was sent back through the gauntlet until death.
The practice persisted in parts of Germany (mainly Prussia) and Austria as the Spießrutenlaufen, or "pike-run", and also in Russia, until the 19th century. In Sweden, running the gauntlet was also a civilian punishment for certain crimes until the 18th century.
Film and television
- The grim Hungarian drama The Round-Up (1965) has an explicit depiction of this type of punishment. The film, set in 1868, is about insurrectionists held in an army prison. A beautiful young girl has to run naked between two long rows of soldiers. Each man holds a long switch and whips her severely as she runs back and forth several times. (This scene can be viewed at YouTube and the Internet Archive.)
- Vampire Circus (1972), a female vampire is briefly subjected to a gauntlet of whips and belts in the opening scenes of this Hammer horror film. (Complete film available at the Veehd website.)
- In the TV series Jack of All Trades (episode 13, "X Marquis the Spot"), a "Triathlon of Pain" takes place at the estate of the Marquis de Sade. The race includes a gauntlet where contestants pass a row of men and women who whip them with floggers. The episode can be viewed on YouTube (Part 1, Part 2).
- The Middle ("The Telling", 3:2, May 2012), in this ABC family sitcom, teenage daughter Sue is caught taking her mother's earrings. As punishment, her brother Axl gleefully suggests, "I say we make her take a run down Slap Alley". Raising his hand, he adds, "I call butt and face".
The spanking line is a fun spanking game based on the running the gauntlet principle. Players line up in a row with their legs apart; another player is obliged to crawl between their legs, receiving a spank from each friend.
- The 1965 sexploitation film RENT-A-GIRL has a spanking line scene that takes place during a wild party. The film also has more scenes of spanking and whipping.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ("Doomsday", 1:19, 1965) also features a spanking line scene. Two crawling crewman are paddled with flippers during a traditional equator-crossing initiation ritual.
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