- IKEA's Blåhaj is a meter-long toy shark with a long history of online fandom.
- It's now hit TikTok, as users rack up millions of views with videos about their beloved Blåhajs.
- Users say the toy's comforting nature and the community around it is part of its charm.
- For more stories visit Business Insider.
In January, TikToker @missgoodi posted a now-viral video that featured a montage of cuddly toy sharks and referred to their creator as a "genius." The six-second video has been viewed over 1.5 million times, with hundreds of viewers agreeing that the shark — named Blåhaj — is indeed a work of genius.
Blåhaj, which is pronounced "blah-hah" and means "blue shark" in Swedish, is a meter-long cuddly toy told by IKEA. On the retailer's website it is described as "big and safe to have by your side if you want to discover the world below the surface of the ocean."
Blåhaj was launched by IKEA in 2014, and posts of the shark doing human activities began to pop up on Tumblr soon after. Since then, its popularity has spread, and it has become the subject of fan art and memes celebrating its unique charms and comforting nature.
The online fandom for the cuddly toy has now extended to TikTok, where the #blahaj hashtag has racked up over 9.6 million views as users share their love for Blåhaj and discuss how it provides companionship to them. Many put it in humorous, very human situations, and encourage other TikTokers to invest in their own shark.
The videos are often surreal and comedic, but fans believe its enduring online fandom adds to a sense of community, and provides comfort when they need it the most.
TikTokers are inspired by Blåhaj's long history of internet fandom
Blåhaj's popularity has only grown in past years. On Reddit, the r/blahaj community, which was created in 2018, has almost 30,000 members, while the Instagram hashtag #blahaj has over 40,000 posts. Fans have set up Twitter and Instagram accounts documenting the daily lives of their Blåhajs, showing them cooking, driving, and traveling with their owners. On Etsy, Blåhaj-themed stickers, pin badges, and cross-stitch patterns are all available for fans to buy.
24-year-old Jian Kiat from Singapore posted a TikTok about his Blåhaj on February 1. He drew inspiration from online creator Adam Rose, who often makes TikToks showing sinister article headlines accompanied by the track "Hell 2 da Naw" by Bullwinkle Boyz. Jian used the same sound in his video, and showed a Mothership article with the headline "IKEA shark plushie tragically flattened to demonstrate usefulness of vacuum bags." Jian then walks into the frame holding his Blåhaj, and reacts with shock, attempting to cover the shark's eyes.
His video has been viewed 1.2 million times, and Jian told Insider he first came across Blåhaj in high school, when his peers "got hyped over it" and began sharing memes online during the toy's original online fandom.
Jessica, 28 from Liverpool, UK, made a TikTok of her trip IKEA last August when she and her boyfriend ended up coming home with three Blåhajs. In the video, which was viewed nearly 250,000 times, her new sharks are pushed around the store in a trolley, before being strapped into the backseat of a car as the voiceover says, "Safety first."
She said she was inspired to made bandanas for the sharks "so we could tell them all apart" by the many Twitter accounts dedicated to Blåhaj.
She told Insider, "We just think Blåhaj is super cute, and to be honest we did get a little carried away that day, but we have no regrets."
Fans say the toy brings much-needed wholesome comfort to social media
When IKEA's UK support team tweeted in September 2021 that the shark was "set to be discontinued from April 2022," fans started a petition on change.org urging IKEA to reconsider and save Blåhaj from "extinction", which has garnered nearly 7,000 signatures to date.
The tweet has since been deleted, and an IKEA spokesperson told Insider that there are "no plans" to discontinue the toy, but that it's currently unavailable "due to ongoing supply issues," but the petition remains active. Its description says Blåhaj is "the perfect size for hugging" and states it has "brought joy and comfort to thousands of people."
"My Blahaj means so much to me," the creator of the petition wrote.
Jessica said she thinks the pandemic was partly responsible for Blåhaj blowing up on TikTok, saying lots of people seemed to be posting about using the shark "for comfort and companionship during the lockdowns."
This sense of mutual care and affection for Blåhaj is a running theme throughout the TikToks. Shark owners credit Blåhaj with providing support and always being there for them, and in return they look after the toys — some videos show the shark being carefully washed or re-stuffed.
Under Jian's video, fellow fans have flooded the comment section in horror at the flattened shark, with one exclaiming that it's "a massacre."
"I honestly didn't expect this video to blow up, and the response has been quite amusing honestly," Jian told Insider. "Everyone is shocked and upset at how the Blåhaj are being 'abused' by being vacuumed up in the bag. It's kind of like they are all playing along."