Quickfire

Quickfire

[kwik-fahyuhr]

Quickfire or Quick-fire (Old Norse kveiking) was a type of arson sometimes employed in blood feuds in medieval Scandinavia and Iceland. In committing quickfire, a group of attackers would quickly and surreptitiously pile wood, brush and other combustible materials against the exterior of a dwelling and set it on fire. Typically the attackers would surround the house to prevent the escape of its inhabitants, although women, the elderly, and small children were sometimes allowed to leave.

Under Icelandic law as codified in the Gragas, quickfire could be punished by death only if the arsonists were killed in the act; such a killing could not be prosecuted. However, if captured alive the arsonists had to be tried and sentenced to outlawry, even if they were thralls. At least some Icelanders considered quickfire dishonorable, hence when the enemies of Gunnar Hámundarson attacked his home they refused to burn him inside, despite the fact that it would have been faster and less costly in lives. Members of Gunnar's clan showed no such scruples when they burned Bergthorshvoll, home of Gunnar's erstwhile ally Njal and his sons.

Examples

  • The exiled Swedish king Inge the Elder retook the Swedish throne by using quickfire against his pagan opponent Blot-Sweyn c. 1087.
  • The semi-legendary king Ingjald Illråde used quickfire at least twice: first he used it to kill several invited petty kings in order to directly rule their territories, and lastly he used it to kill Granmar, the last independent king of Södermanland.
  • In the late 10th century in Iceland, Ulfar, a freedman, was the victim of an attempted quickfire by thralls (slaves) owned by his enemy Thorolf. Thorolf's own son, Arnkel Goði, captured the thralls in the act and had them executed the following day. Arnkel's rival Snorri Goði prosecuted Arnkel, at Thorolf's request, for the unlawful killing of the thralls.
  • Njáll Þorgeirsson, his wife Bergthora, his sons Helgi and Skarpheddin Njalsson, and his grandson Thord Karason, were burned at Bergthorshvoll, Iceland in around 1010 by a band of Njall's sons' enemies. One son-in-law, Kari Solmundarson, escaped and later killed many of the burners.
  • The regnal list of the Westrogothic law gave the 11th century Swedish king Anund Jakob the epithet "charcoal-burner" because of his methods. He was said to have been "generous in burning down men's homes".
  • The Flugumýri Arson was an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Gissur Þorvaldsson by his Icelandic enemies in 1253.
  • The Altuna Runestone in Sweden tells that a father and a son were burnt to death inside their home.
  • The medieval Swedish ballad Stolt Herr Alf tells of how Odin advised a king to kill one of his vassals with quickfire.

References

Bibliography

Search another word or see quickfireon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature