In Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Elrond calls a secret assembly with representatives of the three free races in Center-earth — people, elves, and dwarves — to debate what to do concerning the One Ring. As Elrond instructions that the ring should be destroyed within the fires of Mount Doom, Boromir utters a line that has since turn out to be one of the iconic Lord of the Rings memes of all time: “One doesn’t merely stroll into Mordor.”
2021 marks The Lord of the Rings motion pictures’ twentieth anniversary, and we could not think about exploring the trilogy in only one story. So every Wednesday all year long, we’ll go there and again once more, analyzing how and why the movies have endured as trendy classics. That is Polygon’s Year of the Ring.
Sean Bean, who performs Boromir, delivers the road with the gravitas needed for the film’s pivotal scene. Nevertheless, the distinction between his critical line studying and the truth that the quote comes after a quick pause and virtually out of nowhere caught the eye of Lord of the Rings followers. A screencap of the scene, that includes Boromir making a round hand gesture, overlaid with the well-known line rapidly grew to become a preferred meme, spreading throughout main social websites of the time.
When the primary movie was launched in 2001, memes had been simply starting to search out their footing on-line. They’d been round for years — one of many first trendy memes, a dancing CGI baby, grew to become widespread in 1996 — however the panorama was quickly evolving. On the similar time, fandoms had been thriving on web sites and boards meant to attach members all over the world.
Lord of the Rings memes arrived within the digital house at a second the place devoted fanbases had been purposely attempting to share as a lot content material with as many individuals as attainable. The enjoyable of constructing memes attracted individuals who hadn’t seen the flicks, who watched the flicks so they might make higher memes, which attracted extra folks and … the remaining is historical past, a symbiotic relationship that has saved the Peter Jackson trilogy entrance and heart in on-line consciousness for twenty years.
From Éowyn’s iconic “I am no man” scene in The Return of the King, to a line about menus, uttered by an Uruk-hai in Two Towers, which has captivated and confused the web for years, there are dozens upon dozens to select from. A web-based search of “Lord of the Rings memes” produces a whole bunch of articles chronicling the perfect and most identified. Pages have popped up on virtually each social media website to permit followers to share their love of the memes, from Reddit’s r/LOTRmemes to Instagram’s @danklotrmemes and Tumblr’s LOTRreactionmemes.
Boromir’s Mordor meme isn’t the one Lord of the Rings meme in rotation, however Strolling to Mordor is likely one of the oldest and most recognizable from the franchise. Whereas the picture grew to become a part of the web’s meme lexicon after the film’s launch in 2001, one of many first famous makes use of wasn’t till 2004, when a consumer on the discussion board One thing Terrible posted a picture of Boromir in a automotive with the textual content “One doesn’t merely drive into Mordor.”
The unique second from the movie was itself widespread, however this adaptation of the road rocketed it to a different stage. The edited model of the meme located it as a snowclone, a formulaic phrase that may be custom-made however nonetheless convey the identical origin. Other iterations, like “One doesn’t merely insert a USB on the primary strive” and “One doesn’t merely hit the snooze button simply as soon as,” started popping up throughout the web, cementing the meme’s standing within the digital house. It was a straight-forward template that could possibly be tailored to any phrase, making it a straightforward format for seasoned and new meme customers alike to take pleasure in. Finally, it helped pave the best way for comparable snowclone memes to thrive.
“It’s simply an simply digestible, low-effort meme from a less complicated time,” Redditor and member of r/LOTRmemes u/bottle_O_pee says. “That being stated, that meme grew to become so widespread [that] it began a kind of renaissance within the meme world.”
Now, although, the meme’s function has drastically modified. The humor behind it has advanced from being a humorous, culturally-relevant twist on the meme to an indicator of somebody doing one thing inane or ridiculous. Whereas its widespread use was a significant factor of this modification, it additionally grew to become widespread information that the road within the meme isn’t really what Boromir says at that second within the movie — he’s really speaking concerning the nice Eye of Sauron, therefore his curled hand — contributing to its absurdity. Meme humor has additionally majorly advanced, favoring smarter subjects or codecs and immediately contrasting with the meme’s uncreative, template-like structure. To make use of the Boromir meme these days is to grasp that it has been run into the bottom, however that it’s too integral to web tradition to ever actually die.
“Lord of the Rings memes are widespread as a result of the sequence is widespread,” says u/bottle_O_pee. “Typically [the] easiest reply is the perfect.”
Whereas the breadth of memes that the franchise has spawned is spectacular, what’s extra is how lengthy the memes have caught round. Boromir’s line, for instance, has been handed across the web for 20 years, lengthy surpassing the everyday four-month life span of a meme.
In some ways, the longevity of the trilogy’s memes is a mirrored image of its fandom. Lord of the Rings followers have been round for the reason that first guide’s publication in 1954; Fanlore even revealed a 100-year timeline of the fandom. What solidified the fanbase as a serious cultural group, although, was its passionate dedication to the franchise and to Tolkien himself. Followers have created clubs round it, lined up for hours to see the movies, and similar to the 12 months of the Ring challenge is doing, dissected each single facet of the supply content material by means of articles, podcasts, and documentaries.
That dedication to the trilogy is as robust as we speak because it’s ever been, because of the tales’ launch into the mainstream by the movies and the web’s potential to ship Lord of the Rings content material to virtually anybody anyplace at any time. The Reddit web page r/LOTR has seen its subscriber depend enhance by over 4600% since simply 2013, and an unfathomably detailed wiki continues to chronicle each nook of the trilogy and its followers — and these are only a small sampling of the fandom’s progress and dedication.
“It doesn’t matter that it got here out 20 years in the past,” says Cates Holderness, head of editorial and traits knowledgeable at Tumblr. “[Fans are] rewatching it each couple of weeks, and so they have discovered a group of people that additionally love these motion pictures. They’ll have interaction ceaselessly with this one leisure property.”
This enhance can be attributed to circulation of Lord of the Rings memes on-line. As they unfold throughout the web, anybody who interacts with the memes additionally engages with the movies, no matter how far faraway from the content material they’re. For non-fans, they’re a gateway right into a fantasy world that in any other case requires an immense period of time to get into. Memes enable an individual to dip their toes into the Lord of the Rings, with out placing within the appreciable effort to unpack its story. It’s a relentless cycle; as new followers are launched to the story by means of memes, they turn out to be meme creators and circulators themselves, pulling in additional new followers as they go.
The Lord of the Rings movies have additionally managed to turn out to be a cultural keystone of their two-decade-long existence. Even those that haven’t seen or learn the trilogy have heard of it, sometimes realizing at the least some basic plot factors. The most important characters themselves have turn out to be entities separate from the story. Referring to Gandolf or Frodo these days doesn’t at all times pertain to the Lord of the Rings books or motion pictures; to many, the previous is only a humorous, barely neurotic wizard, and the latter is a small, furry-footed hero, each totally faraway from their authentic context.
As a result of there may be now such a widespread cultural understanding of the trilogy, Lord of the Rings memes can be utilized and comprehended by everybody — not simply followers. “One doesn’t merely stroll into Mordor” is humorous as a result of fantasy heroes can by no means simply waltz into the climax of the story; it’s a common story aspect, moderately than one tied to a particular world. Neither the character of Boromir nor the road he utters are essential to the meme in any respect; as a substitute, it’s the cultural notion that propelled it to the highest of the meme charts and has saved it there ever since.
“There’s a low barrier of entry with regards to memes, as a result of a lot of the language and the cultural understanding of memes is ubiquitous,” says Holderness. “The context is there with out having to have seen the flicks.”
The movies themselves are additionally infinitely quotable, from Samwise Gamgee proclaiming “There’s some good on this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s price preventing for” in The Two Towers, to a visibly sober Legolas saying “I feel it’s affecting me” after a ingesting competitors with Gimli in The Return of the King. Due to the variety of memorable strains that Jackson and co-writers packed into the script, virtually each scene has at the least one second that might simply be reworked right into a meme.
“Basically, the flicks are lengthy, and there are a number of of them, […] so we have now that a lot materials,” says Holderness. “It’s simply numerous fodder for memes. It’s enjoyable, it’s fascinating, the characters are complicated but in addition humorous on the similar time. I feel that type of all builds out an awesome base for folks to only riff on and make issues out of.”
That potential to discover such a lot of content material implies that Lord of the Rings memes can feasibly cater to everybody. You don’t need to look far for a meme that matches what you’re attempting to convey — from the joys of drinking with friends to the aftermath of cleaning a messy room to easily a funny joke based on a specific scene. Not solely does the huge materials enable for fixed meme creation, nevertheless it additionally encourages steady circulation; you may at all times discover at the least one Lord of the Rings meme on the market to narrate to or that you simply discover humorous.
One doesn’t merely use a Lord of the Rings meme casually — there’s a wealthy story behind each picture and line, and at the least a part of it needs to be understood to ensure that the joke to make sense. These memes stage the enjoying discipline, although; those that solely vaguely know the tales due to cultural significance can benefit from the memes simply as a lot as those that harbor a deep ardour for the story behind them.
In the identical manner that the sequence is so profoundly embedded in our tradition, the memes that come from it have garnered their very own type of fame. At this level, for instance, the Boromir meme is a dwelling legend. It was created in a time of image macros — memes that include a picture with prime and backside textual content within the Impression font — and it survived the transition into what we consider memes today.
Due to devoted digital followers and a relentless adaptability within the altering web panorama, Lord of the Rings memes have been circulating for 20 years, squarely situating themselves as a serious a part of web tradition. These memes have a lot to be loved, and to be, and to do, and — like Samwise Gamgee — their half within the story of The Lord of the Rings will definitely go on.