Rape, Pillage and Burn

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Taggart: 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: Marvelous!

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 and kings 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. In modern times, it's also a war crime.

And remember, to avoid (even more) Squick, it's rape, pillage, then burn.

No real life examples, please; this is a rape trope, and All The Tropes does not care to squick its readers.

Examples of Rape, Pillage and Burn include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • In the Strontium Dog story "Traitor to his Kind", Cuthbert asks Wulf is he ever raped and pillaged England. Wulf responds that he did a lot of pillage back in the day, but there was no raping - the girls were only too willing.


  • 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 Rambo does this to Complete Monster degrees.
  • 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 "women stampeded, and cattle raped."
  • 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:

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: Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the 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 Moscow 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, 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 cost, 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.


Bronn: 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 entire culture of the Iron Islands and the Dothraki are pretty much based on this.
    • And then there's the Mountain That Rides, who is more or less the avatar of this trope.
  • 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 incredibly Narmy 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 basically 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...
  • The Magic Treehouse 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 it's 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.

Live-Action TV

Viking #1 (Allen): Rape all the men and kill all the women!
Viking #2: Don't you mean kill all the men and rape all the women?
Viking #1: You pillage your way and I'll pillage mine.

  • The Reavers. But not necessarily in that order.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • "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

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

Newspaper Comics

  • The Far Side spoofed this a lot, often with Horny Vikings:
    • In one cartoon, as most of a Viking crew are looting and burning a village and carrying off the women, two are in the foreground, casually having lunch, one of them complaining (as he looks in a lunchbox), "Well, she did it to me again. Tuna fish!"
    • In one strip, a mob of Vikings are storming a castle, and one looks down into the moat and exclaims, "Ooh, goldfish, everyone! Goldfish!" Gary Larson claims that guy was an Author Avatar, seeing as he'd likely do the same thing in that situation.
    • In another cartoon, Vikings are depicted running about tossing eggs at huts, with the caption reading, "for many years, until they became truly nasty, Vikings would plunder, loot, and then egg the houses of coastal villagers".
    • Yet another, a party of Viking raiders are waiting outside a "Small Defenseless Village" that has designated plundering hours, patiently waiting for the time to arrive.
  • Hagar the Horrible and his crew pillages a lot, and occasionally burn, but they usually spare the women. (A few jokes center on Hagar kidnapping one or more, but no complaints from the victims.) 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..."

Recorded and 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!"

Tabletop Games


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:


  • 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."
  • 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.

Hermanoteu: So that's all you guys do?
Fat Visigoth: Of course! At every village we come across!
Thin Visigoth: Just at the last village, we killed all women and raped all goats!
Both Visigoths: *Beat, both look at each other like they forgot something important*

Video Games

  • The bandits dooming your hometown in Fable. The town recovers, though, and when you return there later in the game, you are greeted by a now-grown-up girl who was looking for her teddy bear Rosie, who recognizes you.
  • You'll run into one of these in Fire Emblem.
  • You can sack towns in Pirates!
  • The Overlord games usually consist of a healthy amount of this, especially if you decided to play in a more Chaotic Evil fashion.
  • Sacking towns is the best way to maintain a steady income in the Total War series.
  • In the background options for Shepard in Mass Effect, Shepard can potentially have faced this twice; first, if the Colonist background is taken, Shepard survived a slaver attack on his/her home colony on Mindoir, but also lost his/her entire family at 16. If the War Hero background is taken, Shepard singlehandedly prevents this from happening to the colony of Elysium.
  • An army of mooks get this slightly wrong in Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.

"Let's stampede the women and rape the cattle!"

  • No doubt a reference to Blazing Saddles, in which an army of mooks also stampedes women and rapes cattle.
  • Mount & Blade, being a Low Fantasy action-RPG, will of course allow you to descend upon villages and loot them. Their model changes to a burnt out husk of its former self and for quite some time afterwards, will not be accessible; all you get upon entering it is a screen succinctly describing its destruction.
  • The school and village where the player begins in Jade Empire is burned to the ground and all but a handful of its inhabitants slaughtered. What news of this reaches other villages paints it as purely pirates attacking, when it's actually mooks of the Emperor working alongside the pirates.
  • This is the modus operandi of Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas. In the endgame, if the Courier has a maxed out Barter skill (which in this game means a very good understanding of economics and trade), s/he can deconstruct this by telling Legate Lanius that raiding is a very poor long term way to properly sustain a nation, especially considering that NCR towns make very poor raiding targets since they depend on trade and that even if the Legion wins the battle for Hoover Dam, they'll ultimately be defeated via attrition. This will be enough for Lanius to agree to retreat.
  • Happens off-screen in the prologue of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, as King Foltest's army attacks the Castle La Valette. Unusually, the player is on the attacking side as well, although you have the option to stem the worst brutalities that you come across.
  • In all Civilization games, most land units can pillage the infrastructure (roads, farms, mines etc.) outside enemy towns. Marauding barbarians are especially fond of this.
  • In the first stage of Castle Crashers, you fight barbarian-mooks in a town that has already been pillaged and burned, while chasing a group of them who have kidnapped four of the women. Get to the end of the stage and said kidnap victims are tied to posts, so it's time to pull a Big Damn Heroes against the really big Boss.

Web Comics

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.

Web Original

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."

  • In Greek Ninja, that's what happens to the main character's hometown.

But save the sheep!