TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
Rape, Pillage, and Burn
We'll work up a Number 6
on 'em. Hedley Lamarr:
[frowns] "Number 6"? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that one. Taggart:
Well, that's where we go a-ridin' into town, a-whompin' and a-whumpin' every livin' thing that moves within an inch of its life. Except the women folks, of course. Hedley Lamarr:
You spare the women? Taggart:
Naw, we rape the shit out of them
at the Number Six Dance later on. Hedley Lamarr:
One of the many ways your hometown can become a Doomed Hometown
. A group of bandits, pirates, or even mooks working for a Big Bad
cause trouble primarily by sacking the town - that is, looting
, damaging property, and sometimes even murdering and kidnapping innocent townsfolk. Raping is optional(-ly shown
), but the town is almost always burned down
afterward. This gives an excellent opportunity for the bad guys to Kick the Dog
. Rape, Pillage, and Burn is guaranteed to appear in any work involving Pirates
or Horny Vikings
. Sometimes appears, though not as frequently, in the Wild West
or Medieval European Fantasy
. This activity is a common pastime of The Horde
This is one way to gain Plunder
. If this problem persists, villagers may resort to hiring The Magnificent Seven Samurai
Truth in Television
. This is generally a problem in areas without a strong government to keep order, even today. In many civilizations, it was not resolved until power, money, and land were consolidated under noblemen
rich enough to afford standing armies. It is also one reason why peasants in older times tolerated kings and nobles who were quite nasty, as the alternative was almost always constant chaos caused by dozens and dozens of rival warlords.
It should be noted that as nasty as this trope can get, its not entirely unjustified in terms of cold hard pragmatism
, at least in less civilized settings. It provides food, supplies, and funds for an army far away from home which is in constant need of all three. It raises morale among the attacking forces, demoralizes the victims, and builds a fearsome reputation which can among be used to coerce surrender. The downside is that creates a lot of resentment from the population, turns enemy troops fanatical and invites reprisals, damages the economic value of the area you conquer, postpones cultural assimilation by decades, and can become addictive to the troops
, which is a big problem when they return home. Even "good guys" like Lincoln in the Civil War were known to order this, because supplies were making them tactically sluggish. Also, rape can mean multiple things. One of the more archaic definitions is "to capture"
And remember, to avoid (even more
, it's rape, pillage, then
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Inevitable in Vinland Saga, a manga about Vikings.
- ...and equally inevitable in Berserk.
- Wyald, the leader of the Black Dog Knights, loves to invoke this trope. Being a depraved hedonist, he especially enjoys the first part.
- Just as much with the evil Pirates in One Piece.
- Hokuto No Ken. This trope is often what is being inflicted upon the people Kenshiro must save, and is an excellent way to encourage him to pop some heads. Especially if you even think about doing this to children.
- Though averted with Raoh's army. He wants to conquer humanity, the last thing he needs is wasting time suppressing revolts. His motto to his troops was basically "kill all who oppose my reign, but if you do anything that'll make them live and hate us, I'll personally crush your skull under my horse's hooves" (which he did)
- Hellsing: Invoked by The Major before the burning of London. The Last Battalion is only too happy to fulfill this in both letter and spirit.
- Not surprisingly, occurs in many Hentai series, with heavy emphasis on the raping part.
- What happened to Rose's hometown of Lior, after Father Cornello had been revealed to be faking his "miracles", using just alchemy, in the first Fullmetal Alchemist series.
- It gets pretty well sacked in Brotherhood as well.
- Defied in Eikou no Napoleon: Eroica: the Right of Sacking was a given for armies of the time, but Napoleon Bonaparte denied it to his men (and stopped their protests by eating somewhat less than the men, who, upon finding out, didn't have the courage to make such demands). This is out of sheer pragmatism: Napoleon knows that if they sack a place they'll get some money and food once but will ruin it and embitter the neighbours, but if they don't the locals and their neighbours will give them what they need willingly.
- Also played straight at the Battle of the Pyramids. Once again, it's Napoleon's pragmatism at work: his men were tired from the long march through the desert, and by giving them the right of sacking just that once and pointing out the enemy Mamluks went at war wearing large amounts of gold jewels he motivated the Army of Egypt in inflicting the Mamluks a devastating Curb-Stomp Battle.
- In the Strontium Dog story "Traitor to his Kind", Cuthbert asks Wulf if he ever raped and pillaged England. Wulf responds that he did a lot of pillaging back in the day, but there was no raping - the girls were only too willing.
- In Rat-Man's Rambo parody, the enemy soldiers are told by their commander to attack a village and kill the houses, rape the men and burn the women. When one of the soldiers asks if he'd mixed things up, the commander shoots him and states the same. The other soldiers dejectedly comment how they'll start with killing the houses.
- One tale in Dracula Lives has a pirate crew venturing inland to loot the (mostly) abandoned Castle Dracula. On their journey there, they go through all the items in the trope name when they attack the village next to the castle, before moving on to the structure itself.
- Hägar the Horrible and his crew pillages a lot, and occasionally burn, but they spare the women. (Kids read the strip, after all.) There are a lot of jokes about this; for example, in a strip, Hagar is leading an army with siege engines and a battering ram against a castle, but it has a sign that says, "No looting and pillaging allowed!" Hagar says, "Gee, I kinda hate to turn back now..."
- Seven Samurai - The titular seven are hired to defend a village of Japanese farmers from bandits.
- The Magnificent Seven - This film is actually a remake of Seven Samurai as a Western.
- The villagers in both films are Genre Savvy enough to expect the raping part, going as far as to hide the women away from the village in both films.
- Elizabeth Swann's first encounter with pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- Also was possibly Jack Sparrow's plan after he stole a ship from Port Royal, "I aim to raid, pillage, and plunder my weaselly black guts out."
- Early in Pale Rider, the Big Bad's men raid the gold miners' camp to try to scare them off the land. They even shot a poor little puppy.
- The Burmese army in the fourth Rambo film does this.
- Blazing Saddles - hilariously subverted, as the townspeople build a fake town to lure out Hedley Lamarr's mooks.
- And spoofed in the beginning, where the mayor of Rock Ridge complains of "people stampeded, and cattle raped."
- And in the part where Slim Pickins' character was describing his plan (Number 6) to Hedley.
Taggart: Well, that's where we go a-ridin' into town, a whampin' and whompin' every livin' thing that moves within an inch of its life. Except the women folks, of course.
Hedley Lamarr: You spare the women?
Taggart: Naw—We rape the shit out of them at the Number 6 Dance later on!
Hedley Lamarr: Marvelous!
- Tusken Raiders in Star Wars were responsible for Anakin's mother's kidnapping and death.
- In ¡¡Three Amigos!! this is the standard M.O. of El Guapo. This leads to a bit of dialogue when Dusty poses as one of the banditos, and starts making up recollections for an inebriated and celebratory El Guapo:
Oh-ho, you... Dusty Bottoms:
Jose! [the banditos cheer] El Guapo:
Together, we... Dusty Bottoms:
Burned the village! El Guapo:
Burned the village! [the bandidos cheer] El Guapo:
And, uh... Dusty Bottoms:
... rrrrrrrrraped de horses! [the bandidos cheer] El Guapo:
And we... Dusty Bottoms:
Rode off on de wimmin! El Guapo:
Rode off on de wimmin! [the bandidos cheer, a bit more quietly] El Guapo:
And uh... Dusty Bottoms:
Plundered! El Guapo:
Plundered! [the bandidos cheer] El Guapo:
And uh... Dusty Bottoms:
Pruned! El Guapo:
...pruned the, uh... Dusty Bottoms:
Hedges! El Guapo:
...hedges of... Dusty Bottoms:
Many small villages!
- The movie Conan the Barbarian kicks off the main plot with a barbarian raid on the title character's village when he is just a kid. Plenty of raping, pillaging and burning goes on, and both of Conan's parents are killed (the father by being ripped apart by hounds, the mother by having her head chopped off by the Big Bad). Conan and the other kids are sent off to be enslaved.
- It's implied that he later raids villages for fun himself:
Chief: Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!
- In Andrei Rublev, while on the way to Moscow, a horde of Mongol-Tatars decide to prey on the undefended town of Vladimir. Men are cut down and shot with arrows, thatched roofs are set aflame, women of all ages are raped, a cow is set on fire, a horse falls down a flight of stairs; general pandemonium ensues. The majority of the townfolk barricade themselves in the town's cathedral. What makes it so heinous is that they are being guided by a pretender to the Moscovian throne and many Russians are among their ranks.
- Early in Serenity, the Reavers are shown doing this to the town that the titular ship's crew are busy swindling.
- The Soviet film Come and See has the Nazis doing this to one village in Belarus, then massacring the inhabitants. They get their just deserts from the partisans however.
- The city of Troy gets this treatment from the Greeks as they finally break into the city.
- Lampshaded and parodied in the Terry Jones film Erik the Viking when the inept hero defensively assures the village maiden he's failing to ravish that he's burned and pillaged his way up and down the coast, to which she responds "Burning and pillaging. What about the raping?"
- Happens at Apocalypto when the jungle village of the protagonist is razed to the ground by Mayan slavers.
- In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, this is considered common practice during war :
- The culture of the Iron Islands and the Dothraki are based on the concept of invading, looting, burning the place to the ground and raping women claimed as trophies.
- The Ironborn really take this to an extreme. Pillaging is a religious mandate to them and they glorify raiding to the point that they think actually buying things is for wimps. House Greyjoy's motto is "We do not sow". Almost understandable since the Iron Islands have so little actual arable land that they probably can't sow.
- Gregor Clegane is the avatar of this trope, a true expert in cruelty and savagery. He kills the Red Viper after confessing to raping and murdering his sister. And then the venom Oberyn Martell put on his lance killed Clegane in horrible agony.
- This little excerpt of A Clash of Kings says it all:
: A lording down from the Trident, says your father's men burnt his keep, raped his wife and killed all his peasants. Tyrion
: I believe they call that war
- The Wildlings go over the Wall to pillage any village nearby, as there's almost nothing else for them to pillage on their side save each other.
- Virgil's Aeneid opens with the Greeks doing this to Troy.
- In the book The Painted Bird, this happens to several Polish peasant villages during World War II. These villages have been neglected for centuries, lack electricity, and lie in a war-torn country. Towards the end of the book, the protagonist Jewish boy comes to a village that is attacked by a band of deserters from the Red Army. They go on an orgy of gang-raping and slaughter, and it's a real Tear Jerker scene.
- The Foundation series featured whole planets being sacked.
- Eragon: The Urgals get an opportunity to Kick the Dog at Yazuac.
- All the evil armies in Sword of Truth engage in enormous amounts of raping and pillaging; not just villages, but whole cities and countries they roll over. Of course, so do the good guys, but they're right when they do it! (Or so the author says...)
- Occurs in many instances in The Bible, naturally. Jerusalem has been sacked more than once.
- In two Thackeray novels, Henry Esmond and Barry Lyndon, the main characters are part of armies during European wars of the 18th century and their side is depicted as doing this. Barry is a Villain Protagonist, so he joins in. Esmond is a more honorable guy, so he doesn't really take part, but does assent when his faithful servant wants to join in the raping and pillaging.
- In Interesting Times Cohen has to explain to one of his senile warriors which things one rapes, and what things you burn.
Rincewind: Rape? That's not very—
Cohen: He's eighty-seven. Don't go and spoil an old man's dreams.
- Happens in The Crown of Silence by Storm Constantine. Invaders decimate a village, then rape any survivors, regardless of gender.
- The Mongols in the Conqueror books do this quite a lot, generally as punishment for not surrendering immediately.
- The Art of War advocates this practice as a way to keep an army supplied while simultaneously weakening the enemy. Doesn't say much about rape, though.
- Council Wars lampshades this when Bun-Bun complains that the bad guys were getting the order wrong.
- The Draka call this L&R, "Loot 'n Rape," and they do a lot of it.
- In The Prophecy of the Stones, pillaging and burning (rape is not mentioned) is part of the Army of Darkness's (no, not that one) job description, from the sound of it.
- The Reynard Cycle: Pretty much every army in the series commits atrocities of this kind on a regular basis. Even Reynard's own. He knows about it, but shrugs it off with a War Is Hell attitude.
- Engadlin, the region directly between warring Arcas and Luxia, has had this done to it so many times that the regional character trait is swift capitulation and a disturbingly relaxed attitude regarding cannibalism due to enduring a hundred years of famine. Even when it's the Other Other White Meat.
- The Calvarian army does this as a matter of practice, though they omit the rape. Their culture views rape and torture as utterly vile, something you wouldn't even do to an enemy. So, the good news is: You won't be raped or tortured. The bad news? You will be massacred to the last man, woman, and child, and everything you ever cared about will be burned to the ground. Mainly because inferior architecture annoys the average Calvarian.
- Cayleb Ahrmahk, Emperor of the planet Safehold's Empire of Charis, works very very carefully to avert this trope. While the burning is unavoidable, raping is punished harshly and pillaging is largely avoided by Cayleb willingly paying the going for the property and materials he takes from the people he's conquering. The reason for this, besides being a decent person, is that with a Corrupt Church eagerly smearing him with all the propaganda they can get or make up, Cayleb knows his best defense is to not behave the way the Church claims.
- This happens whenever a city is captured in Bernard Cornwell's novels. Notably, in one of the Sharpe books the hero storms an impossible breach in order to get to his wife and daughter ahead of the pillaging hordes of his own side who have got in elsewhere.
- Due to the setting, common in the 1632 novels. The Americans have a few issues with this, and they have no qualms about voicing their opinions on the subject. At gunpoint. In 1635: The Eastern Front, there's even an entire army regiment dedicated to maintaining discipline, including preventing the "downtimer" troops from carrying out what they consider "normal".
- The Magic Tree House book Viking Ships At Sunrise has Jack and Annie narrowly escape a Viking raid. No violence is shown onscreen, but the Vikings clearly intend to do some raiding and sacking.
- This is what happens when a city is taken by storm in The General. Well, not burning but the troops are customarily allowed to rape and pillage for twenty-four hours. Call it incentive to surrender on terms.
- This is the modus operandi of the Rogue Warrior. He doesn't actually rape anyone, but the rest is pretty accurate.
- In The Witcher short-story "Something bigger" (Coś więcej) Dandelion mentions the attacking Nifgaard army which "burns, kills and rapes everything in its path...not obligatory in this order".
- Marion Zimmer Bradley parodied this in a Darkover story.
We have to tell them again and again:
Rape the women and kill the men.
Sometimes I think they'll never learn:
First you pillage and then you burn.
- In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, the Mnankrei are an overclan of sea-raiders, and one of the chief rivals of the protagonists' Kaiel clan. Their goal is to rule the planet through force of arms. In the meantime, they routinely pillage coastal towns which refuse to swear fealty to them. Like the Kaiel, they have a well-deserved reputation for eating babies, although in their case, it's less morally ambiguous.
- Standard procedure by the Malwa in Belisarius Series includes not only doing this but selling whatever is left of the captured girls to pimps. Which makes it rather poetic justice that they were destroyed by the husband of a former prostitute.
- In Candide, when the Bulgars and Avars go to war, each side burns the other's towns and disembowels and rapes their inhabitants, all in accordance with international law. Cunegonde is said to be one of the many victims of this.
- What happened to Daine's family in The Immortals. She got her revenge, though, by convincing a local wolf pack to hunt them down and eat the raiders.
- The concept of raiders is also touched upon in Protector of the Small, which acknowledges that while the rape, pillaging and burning is a pretty terrible thing, it's encouraged by systematic poverty and even though you can bring individual raiders to justice, there are no easy answers.
- A blackout sketch from Dave Allen At Large:
- The Reavers from Firefly. But not necessarily In That Order.
- The aptly named Vikings shows the titular warriors wreaking havoc upon the hapless Saxons in this manner; with all the rape, slaughter and pillaging shown on-screen. Well, the rape is surprisingly low-key. In fact, we only see two instances of it, and only barely.
- Game of Thrones shows the Dothraki indulging in this at one point which comes back to bite Khal Drogo when he needs some medical attention. Also mentioned as happening offscreen.
- During the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion Lannister successfully plays on this for his Rousing Speech. The forces of Stannis Baratheon are pounding on the gate with a battering ram, King Joffrey has abandoned them, and the Bad Ass Hound has deserted. Tyrion offers to lead the counterattack, but no-one takes a dwarf seriously. How to motivate his soldiers?
"Don't fight for your king, and don't fight for his kingdoms. Don't fight for honor, don't fight for glory, don't fight for riches, because you won't get any. That is your gate Stannis means to break down, this is your city he means to sack. If they get in, it will be your homes they will burn, your gold they will steal, your women they will rape. Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!"
- The Wildlings climb up the Wall to sack any village they find, as they have almost nothing else in the other side of the Wall.
- The opening of Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a gang of demon bikers discovering the Slayer is dead and doing this to Sunnydale. At one stage Spike when watches the demons force their way into a house and hears a Screaming Woman, he has a big grin as he remembers doing such things himself. Fortunately Spike has Dawn with him.
- Farscape: Despite his efforts to stay below the radar (to avoid the various bad guys who want him dead), Crichton and his exploits still become well known...and blown way out of proportion
Borlik: You know, I heard he destroyed a Peacekeeper Gammak Base. Murdered an entire Nebari battalion—even laid waste to a shadow depository. Guy was a devil. He raped and pillaged, he popped eyeballs-
John: Whoa-whoa! Where-? Where do they get these stories? Let's set the facts straight. First off, there was no raping, very little pillaging, and Frau Blucher popped all the eyeballs.
- A lot of pillage and burning from the Wehrmacht in Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, followed by rape once the Russians arrive. Even the Polish partisans aren't above some pillage.
- From one "Veterinarian's Hospital" sketch on The Muppet Show:
Dr. Bob: Listen, my ancestor the Viking was terrible at plundering and pillaging.
Nurse Janice: He was?
Dr. Bob: Yes, he blundered his plundering, and he was stupid with his pillaging.
Nurses Janice and Piggy: How stupid was he?
Dr. Bob: They called him the pillage idiot!
- Rome. When Caesar crosses the Rubicon, he makes a point of ordering no "rapine, pillage or burning" as he's fighting a civil war inside Italy and needs to get the public on his side. It's made clear that otherwise this is routine procedure for the legions after they've won a battle.
Titus Pullo: Me, I have simpler tastes. I like to kill my enemies, take their gold and enjoy their women.
- A The Two Ronnies sketch had two characters discussing the origins of a feud between two Scottish clans. One of them mentions how the clan "rode into the village, killed all the men, raped all the women and stole all the cattle. <beat> Or perhaps it was the other way round."
- "Gods of War Arise" by Amon Amarth
- A good portion of Manowar's lyrics
- Procol Harum, "Whaling Stories".
Sack the town and rob the tower
And steal the alphabet
- The Viking Birthday Dirge, unsurprisingly, features several references
May the candles on your cake
Burn like cities in your wake
Burn the castle and storm the keep
Kill the women, but save the sheep
Burn, then rape by firelight
Add romance to life tonight
This one lesson you must learn
First you pillage, then you burn
- "Invaders" by Iron Maiden, the opening track to The Number of the Beast
Stand Up Comedy
- Comedian/Impressionist Rich Little once impersonated John Wayne as Ghenghis Khan: "We're gonna go in and we're gonna rape the women and steal the sheep. And for God's sake, get it right this time!"
- Hannibal Burress' album 'My Name is Hannibal' contains a joke about creating the phrases 'rape and pillage' and 'pillage and plunder' "how about 'rape and pillage'?" "what's pillage?" "I was focusing on the rape" later on, "What about 'pillage and plunder'?" "What's plunder?" "Honestly I was still focusing on rape"
- The Cut Song "There's Something About A War" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has Miles Gloriosus and the soldiers sing in praise of this:
There's always a town to pillage,
A city to be laid waste.
There's always a little village
Entirely to be erased.
And citadels to sack, of course,
And temples to attack, of course,
Children to annihilate,
Priestesses to violate,
Houses to destroy — hey!
Women to enjoy — hey!
Statues to deface — hey!
Mothers to debase — hey!
- While Shakespeare's Henry V doesn't actually do this to Harfleur, he does have an absolutely hair-raising speech about it:
Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
Take pity of your town and of your people,
Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command;
Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil and villainy.
If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
- A popular pre-show theater exercise involves the cast chanting VERY LOUDLY:
WE'RE GONNA RAPE, KILL, PILLAGE, AND BURN
WE'RE GONNA RAPE, KILL, PILLAGE, AND BURN
EAT THE BABIES!
- In Pippin, after Charles defeats the Visigoths in battle, he says that it's time for his men to rape and sack. "Oh yes, it's required." The Infidel Hun is alleged to have "destroyed three villages, raped hundreds of women, tortured and murdered thousands."
- In the Brazilian play Hermanoteu na terra de Godá, the titular prophet wannabe meets a duo of Visigoth barbarians, who pride themselves on their "rape and kill" life style.
- In Schlock Mercenary, the first maxim in The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is "Pillage, then burn."
- Furmentation notes that you must do it in that order.
- Parodied in The Noob here. The roleplayers debate about who has the most tragic past, every one of them saying their parents were killed by orcs.
Meanwhile, in the farmlands
Orc 1: These were the Maxwells. Next it's the Millers and the Nolans, then lunch break.
Orc 2: I'm exhausted! Can't we skip the raping, at least?
Orc 3: Come on, that'd be unprofessional.
- In Beyond The Veil, Feyd, Elder God of Fear and Pain, claims to have forgotten how to do it right.
Is it... Rape the children, burn the women, and take the loot? No, that's not it... Rape the loot, burn the children, take the women? No, that doesn't feel right either.
- In Greek Ninja, that's what happens to the main character's hometown.
- David Mitchell is none too fond of this idea
Add "pillage" to "rape" and suddenly it has an air of knockabout fun. But "pillage" is bad enough by itself. It's theft looting and arson. Being pillaged would be an awful thing to happen to anyone. What it definitely isn't is a spoonfull of sugar to help the rape go down. Nonetheless put them together and these two awful crimes apparently cancel each other out. You can almost imagine a jolly uncle saying something like: "Where are you boys off to tonight? Out raping and pillaging I'll be bound!" But you wouldn't want one of them to reply: "Well, not pillaging anyway
But save the sheep!