How The Lord Of The Rings' Most Memeable Line Wound Up In The Movie

It's not incongruous the first time you hear it. It's just a quip, akin to a one-liner fired off by Arnold Schwarzenegger after he offs a bad guy. Most importantly, it gets a laugh! "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys." It's an Uruk-hai glorying in the beheading of a sniveling orc during a contentious moment in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers." The Uruk-hai are not dumb creatures. They're an orc-human hybrid. It's not out-of-character for them to have a sense of humor. It's just... when would these slovenly beasts dine in an establishment with menus?

Middle-earth is rife with restaurants and pubs and inns (e.g. The Prancing Pony), but an Uruk-hai who has pledged a solemn oath to Sauron is not likely to drop in for a pint of mead or what have you. For starters, they must reek. Secondly, their manners leave a great deal to be desired, as evidenced in the scene we're discussing. If they're pushed into a fit of pique, they might just lop your head off. Given this, how did the notion of a menu ever enter their vocabulary?

Of Uruk-hai and menus

Thrillist's Esther Zuckerman got to the bottom of this scene. She spoke to actors Nathaniel Lees (Ugluk, the Uruk-hai decapitator), Stephen Ure (Grishnakh, the orc who broaches the subject of feasting on hobbits), and Jed Brophy (Snaga, the orc who presses the issue to the detriment of his noggin being connected to his shoulders), and emerged with an explanation that's about as random as you might expect.

According to Ure, the line probably originated with co-writer Philippa Boyens. "She puts all this stuff in there that doesn't make sense," he says. Ure maintains that the Uruk-hai wouldn't have the slightest clue as to what a menu was, but Brophy isn't so sure:

"I guess when you look at Bilbo Baggins and the types of food he eats. They do talk about banquets, especially in Hobbiton. So 'menu' [could] be a common phrase. The Uruk-hai are orcs bred with humans, so who knows where that language comes from, really?"

If it works, best not to question it

Lees, perhaps defensive of his character's relatively superior intellect, has no qualms with the quip. "Firstly, Ugluk was Uruk-hai and considered himself and his troops above the orcs. 'Menu' is merely the choice of food available. Once I had beheaded the orc [Snaga], 'meat was back on the menu.'"

If you want my opinion — and, well, I'm the one writing this piece, so you're going to get it whether you like it or not — "menu" is derived from French, which means it is a fancy word. The Uruk-hai are not fancy. They might be familiar with a posted bill of fare, but "Looks like meat's back on the posted bill of fare, boys" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Is the line discordant the more you think about it? Absolutely. Should we have reached a place where we write 1,000-plus word oral histories on the origin and deployment of the line? Probably not. Does it still get a laugh? Now more than ever. So if Boyens was responsible for this rhetorical flourish, good on her. It'll always work regardless of what a bunch of over-scrutinizing killjoys say.