Where does One does not simply come from?
Lord of the Rings, the Peter Jackson-directed movie trilogy inspired by the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels, was a very influential film production in the 2000s. In a notable scene in the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, a secret council declares that a magical, powerful ring can only be destroyed by being pitched into the fires of Mount Doom, a volcano in the dark and evil land of Mordor. In response, the character of Boromir, played by Sean Bean, explains to the group with great apprehension: “One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep.” And then, making a circle with his hand, he says. “The great eye is ever watchful.”
The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001 to smashing box office success. By the time that the Lord of the Rings film trilogy concluded in 2003, it had won numerous awards. The films also had a massive impact on popular culture, leading to imitations, copies, references, and online memes. One of these memes is One does not simply, which turns Boromir’s memorable line on its head.
The One does not simply meme usually features a screenshot of Sean Bean as Boromir, especially a still of the actor making a circular, eye shape with his hand. At the top of the image is the caption One does not simply followed by text on the bottom that replaces the rest of the film’s line “walk into Mordor” with a different, usually humorous phrase. For instance, “One does not simply touch MC Hammer” or “One does not simply save Africa by donating $1.”
While most of the One does not simply memes follow this pattern, there are other different takes on the same idea. For instance, one person set their locked computer up with the password suggestion “One does not simply open my computer,” a humorous warning to the user’s brother. Another person used an image of Sean Bean wearing a suit, staring at his cellphone and with erupting volcanoes behind him, adding the caption: “One does not simply check-in to Mordor.” Due to the meme’s popularity, the phrase itself has become popular enough that the image is not always necessary for context. For example, “One does not simply reheat tea” or “One does not simply lose a 26 point lead.”
One of earliest instances of the meme dates back to at least 2004 on the Something Awful forums. The image shows Boromir driving a station wagon with a broken windshield, the caption reading: “One does not simply drive into Mordor.”
Even though the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended in 2003, the One does not simply didn’t peak on Google Trends until 2012. This spike was likely influenced by the 2011 release of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones, which starred Sean Bean as the protagonist Ned Stark, who donned a beard and long hair that looked very similar to Boromir in Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was also released in December 2012, likely further boosting interest in One does not simply.
In 2011,Google Maps created an Easter egg related to the meme. If someone entered their starting location as the Shire, the hobbit village where Lord of the Rings begins, and their destination as Mordor, the program would respond with Boromir’s famous advice: One does not simply walk into Mordor.
In 2015, Sean Bean acknowledged the popularity of the meme himself in an interview: “For some reason, the parts I play, like Boromir or Ned Stark, have a life online long afterwards...I keep seeing, what do you call them—memes? ‘One does not simply ask for a drink' instead of ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’—that sort of thing...They'll probably be my unintended legacy.”
Who uses One does not simply?
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir’s suggestion was advice—and just as importantly, good advice. Though the ring does eventually get destroyed in Mount Doom, many die along the way. Based on this, the One does not simply meme, while varying the content of what one simply doesn’t do, is usually presented as humorous warning for confronting complex situations or difficult problems. These problems can be legitimate, such as how to ask someone out on a date, or they can center on observational humor: “One does not simply eat one potato chip.” Very often, though, the meme is meant to be ridiculous, such as a guitar-wielding Sean Bean stating that “One does not simply ‘rock’ into Mordor.” The meme is often satirical and self-referential, such as one image that shows a picture of Sean Bean in Game of Thrones, with the caption: “One does not simply assume that this is Boromir.”
The meme has become well-known enough that One does not simply can now be referenced without a picture at all. There are also derivative images that feature character or people other than Boromir, such as Yoda from Star Wars.
“One does not simply walk up behind an angry alligator and try to wrestle it. #ThursdayThoughts”
@Gfycat Twitter (April 20, 2017)
“One does not simply stare in people's eyes with no consequences”
@Miss_Noizeee Twitter (April 20, 2017)
“Something that is not particularly free, unfortunately, is seeing Phish, especially if they are playing on Long Island, and you would like to indulge in a conveyance that allows you to drink alcohol on the way (one does not, as that stupid Boromir meme on Reddit might say, simply walk into a Phish concert sober).”
Dick Corvette, “I Survived a Phish Show,” VICE (July 11, 2012)