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How Lord Of The Rings' Most Infamous On-Set Injury Became A Hilarious Meme

The cast of Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy faced nearly as many perils as their on-screen characters. Samwise Gamgee actor Sean Astin was pierced in the foot. Legolas actor Orlando Bloom broke some ribs. Gimli actor John Rhys-Davies was attacked by his own makeup.

Aragorn actor Viggo Mortensen overcame more dangers than most. He chipped a tooth, got a black eye while surfing, and even came close to setting off a latent landmine. If there's one injury that has become the most infamous in all of Mortensen's Middle-earth acting career, though, it has to be the one in "The Two Towers" when Aragorn kicks an Uruk-hai helmet in distress — breaking the actor's toe in the process.

The scene is infamous not just because it caused bodily injury to one of the most beloved actors in cinematic fantasy history but also due to its subsequent popularity as a talking point among the fanbase. For two decades now, fans of "The Lord of the Rings" bring up Mortensen's damaged digit every single time it pops up on the screen — although it hasn't always been in quite the same way. For years, the little behind-the-scenes factoid was repeated ad nauseam as a fascinating little detail. It was the head-turning item that a diehard fan would bring up as other, less committed viewers watched the scene in real time. Then, over time, things started to change.

According to Know Your Meme, it was in the more recent era of the late 2010s that the meme started to reach a saturation point. Everyone who cared already knew about it, and the oft-repeated piece of trivia started to become synonymous not with Middle-earth knowledge but rather with the annoying impact that behind-the-scenes knowledge can have in disrupting the movie-watching experience.

Mortensen's toe becomes meme fuel

As Mortensen's toe injury shifted from a fun fact to annoyingly common knowledge, the internet began reacting accordingly. Memes started to crop up everywhere, mocking the impassioned way fans share the over-discussed detail every time they see it. Twitter user @WendyDoodles, for instance, tweeted the information in verbose detail (in all caps, no less) along with the Girl Explains meme. Another meme featured Bro Explaining with the caption, "So when Viggo Mortensen playing Aragorn kicked the helmet he REALLY broke his toe so his scream was actually a pain scream and —" 

User @F_Edits took a more honest approach, declaring, "I can't watch that 'Aragorn kicking the helmet in anger' scene without making everyone in the room know that the actor broke his toe doing that – thus making him scream out in pain."

Whether it's a confession, a satirical announcement, or someone trolling the Tolkien community with some well-worn humor, the meme-ification of Mortensen's toe has taken the internet by storm. Its association with the irksome nature of knowing too many behind-the-scene facts has also given the meme an added meta element that makes it hit home even harder than Mortensen drop-kicking the headgear of his enemies in a fit of rage. The added importance will likely keep the common-knowledge story alive and well in its new meme form for many years to come, especially as "The Rings of Power" and other Middle-earth content start to come into the limelight again.