The reader reaction to the low-resolution image of Beorn from the SD Toys 2014 Hobbit Calendar has been swift, visceral and fascinating.
Fact is that, while noting that people often tend to automatically respond negatively to change then rapidly adapt, the reader response has been largely unfavourable. Overall, people don’t seem to like Beorn.
It’s a reaction seemingly propelled by the crazy mane of hair that sweeps over Beorn’s head like a mohawk, and stretches down his back like a long, rangy mullet.
It’s prompted a wide-ranging variety of negative comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog, Blanka, Joe Dirt, ’80s hair metal bands, David Bowie in Labyrinth and Beast from Beauty and the Beast.
Re-introducing J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beorn
First, it’s maybe worth refreshing ourselves first with Tolkien’s description of Beorn when we first meet him in the The Hobbit in the chapter titled Queer Lodgings. Initially, Gandalf tells Bilbo:
He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin; sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard.
Then the narrator describes him as follows:
Standing near was a huge man with a thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles. He was clothed in a tunic of wool down to his knees, and was leaning on a large axe.
Beorn, Lord of the Wild by Ted Nasmith.
Do Ringers like the look of Peter Jackson’s Beorn?
Now, I’m not entirely sure whether that description truly accords with what we saw. And, considering the reader response, one wonders if, a bit like the unfortunate implications of Radagast’s bird-poop-covered face, the art department really thought this one through entirely.
To try and evaluate the response of fans, we’ve done a little bit of back-of-a-piece-of-paper analysis of responses based on reader feedback and reactions left on our Facebook page, on the Disqus comments thread and on the first thread on the TORn message-boards. Of course, there are some caveats to this sort of thing — our analysis is a rough gauge that required a little bit of interpretation of occasionally fuzzy reader responses. And the sample is both smallish, and non-random. Anyone who’s done a stats course will understand that introduces bias and other issues.
That means you should think of this simply as a useful indicator of what folks seem to feel. A general yardstick. It is not meant to be, nor should be regard as, definitive.
Flip to the next page to see the results of our analysis.
Our special Beorn reader poll
But before you do, complete our special fan poll below and tell us what you feel about the Beorn spy image! Love it? Hate it? Or are you prepared to wait and see? Then stay tuned: we’ll be back to report the results next week!