How They Came Up With Skyrim's 'Arrow In The Knee' Line

The big video game joke of 2011 — and certainly the most repeated line — came from Skyrim, a game populated by guards who used to be adventurers, just like you, before they "took an arrow in the knee."

Sorry if you thought you were done with that line. Can you tolerate it one more time, just to learn why it's in the game?

The game's developers at Bethesda put that line in the game late, and had no idea it would become such a big deal.

You know the line. You've seen the jokes. You've heard the dubstep remix. Maybe you have the tattoo?

Here's the secret origin, from Bethesda's chief game developer, Todd Howard:

"It's certainly not intentional that it would catch on that way," he told me recently. "It's a line that we liked."

They liked the line so much that they made sure it was in the game a lot, right? Not really. "I don't think you hear it that much," he said. "It sticks out. It's got more flavour, so I think it sticks out."

"It's a great line," Howard continued, laughing. "[Senior Bethesda game designer] Emil Pagliarulo wrote it.

"This was late in the project. We wanted to have the guards to have more personality. They're usually just grunting, telling you what to do. So we had Emil go in and write a lot more stuff and have them reflect you. So the guards say the most about you and what you've done: 'Oh, I like that armour.' 'I hear you're doing this.' And then, there is a suite of, 'Why am I no longer a guard? These guys are adventuring. I'm stuck here with dragons.' That was just one of the lines."

Pagliarulo wasn't available to tell us just why he wrote that line, but at least we now know why it's in there. It's there for you, gamers. The guards want you to know that you matter.

And, no, Bethesda did not expect to create the biggest gaming meme since the one about cakes and lies.

"Can anybody do that?" Howard asked. "'We will write this line. And it will catch fire.'"

It's just skill, flavour and... luck.


    The line I actually hear the most is "Maybe I'm the dovahkiin, and I just don't know it." I was about 30 hours in before I heard the arrow line. I wonder if it's linked to your archery skill, kind of like how when your alchemy is high they ask you to brew them up an ale.

      nope i heard it within the first like 5 hours and i'm a Mage.

        Yeah, I heard it from the get go, but its not too abundant for me. I hear more about sweetrolls, honeyed words and sneak-theif more than anything else.

          I have never heard the sweetroll line. I consider myself deprived.

          But I did hear "arrow in the knee" about 15 times in my first three hours.

            i keep hearing about Curved swords.... Curved.... Swords!

              Hah! That "curved swords" line gets me every time!

              Patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for a nuclear winter

                ALL. THE. TIME.
                In fact, i heard that a couple of hours ago when i was playing F:NV ಠ_ಠ

            The Sweetroll one to me was way more memorable. Maybe because it made me think of Fallout. But the Arrow one just didn't really stand out to me until everyone and their dog started repeating it.

            I love the 'sweetroll' line! Especially with the accent.

    I find it amusing that directly below this article on the front page, is an article that uses the "I'm commander shepard" line as a title, one of the most nonsensical lines I have ever heard. Arrow in the knee at least makes some kind of sense in the setting of the game.

    Relevant Courage Wolf:

    Bethsada surely will add 'An arrow to the knee' trophy/achievement as part of the 1st DLC.

      It seems more likely to me they'll make it an easter egg in the next Fallout game.

    "...It sticks out. It’s got more flavour, so I think it sticks out..."

    Like an arrow to the knee?

    My copy of Skyrim is still sitting on the shelf totally unplayed and it's things like this that make me itch to rip the plastic off and put it in the drive. I just don't have the 100+ hours to lose right now.

    I made my own potions twice, and for the rest of the game guards have been asking me to brew them some mead.

    Worst 'joke' ever

    Woah, woah, woah, watch it when the nonsensical hate.

    I'd ask them why they made Lydia with some sort of learning disability.

    "A spell? Are you a wizard?". Women's been following me around for what feels like a year. All I do is stab people and light them on fire.

    No, honey. No. I am not a wizard.

      "I'm sworn to carry your burdens"
      - maybe instead of so many random fetch X of Y quests they could have given the citizens more lines to speak.

    FFS let it die already.

    I haven't even played the game and I know it's "An arrow IN the knee." How do people mess that up?

    I've played... 86.1 hours of Skyrim so far and I've never yet heard the arrow-to-the-knee line! However, there are so many other lines that I just hear over and over and over again.

    P.S. Why is it that a second after I kill anyone, their corpse will say something like "Hey, be careful!" ???

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