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“I Took an Arrow in the Knee” is a memorable quote originating from the role-playing video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. An often repeated stock line throughout the game, it went on to inspire the snowclone “I used to X, then I took an arrow to the knee.”
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the town guard non-player characters (NPCs) have several stock lines they will repeat when the player walks near them, including a bewildered statement about “curved swords”, a patronizing statement about “sweetroll” theft, and the melancholy reminiscing of the past “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee.”
The repetition of this stock line throughout the game led the players to reference it in gaming forums and imageboards. On November 11th, 2011, the same day Skyrim was released, the phrase was referenced on the site GameFAQs in a Skyrim forum thread titled “I used to be an adventurer like you.”
The “arrow in the knee” may have been a reference to a passage in the 2007 fantasy novel The Name of the Wind. in which an inn keeper explains that he “took an arrow in the knee” after falling from his chair. On December 7th, 2011, Redditor tintintint submitted the passage to the /r/skyrim subreddit.
“Took an arrow in the knee on my way through the Eld three summers ago. It gives out every now and then.” He grimaced and said wistfully, “It’s what made me give up the good life on the road.” He reached down to touch his oddly bent leg tenderly."
On November 18th, 2011, a thread titled “‘I was an adventurer too, until I took an arrow to the knee.’ Pfft, pussies” reached the frontpage of the r/skyrim subreddit. An Urban Dictionary entry submitted on November 25th defined the term “knee-arrow” as “the affliction of taking an arrow in the knee”. The earliest known image macro using the phrase was uploaded to FunnyJunk on November 26th and Memebase posted a Y U NO Guy image with the caption “Skyrim soldiers / Y U NO get better knee armor?!” on November 30th. The domain ArrowToTheKnee.com was registered for a Skyrim-related fan site on December 3rd, although it was never launched and remains in development as of May 2012.
Several fan art illustrations referencing the phrase have been submitted to art sharing community deviantArt. Additional derivatives using the phrase, and various snowclone variations, can be found on Reddit and FunnyJunk. A related Facebook fan page has 413 likes as of December 2nd, 2011. A SoundCloud user named Eledium posted a track entitled “Arrow To The Knee” on December 3rd, 2011.
On YouTube, there are dozens of user-edited videos parodying the phrase as well as the character of town guards. The snowclone derivatives of “I took an arrow in the knee” also began appearing as highest-rated comments in YouTube videos. As of May 2012, a YouTube comment search for the phrase yields more than 70 video results.
Largely owing to the positive reception of Skyrim, “I Took An Arrow To The Knee” eventually became perceived as a hyper-saturated cliche, similar to “The Cake Is A Lie” from the puzzle action game Portal. In response to the indiscriminate usage of the phrase, some fans of the game began posting satirical animations and image macros criticizing its hackneyed nature.
fn13, Reddit – arrow in the knee is actually a literary allusion