What Point of View Is "The Hobbit"?

Image of a Dragon Eye

“The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien has a more complex viewpoint than one might expect for a children’s book. The Tolkien Society notes the narrative of “The Hobbit” is third person, which means that the narrator talks about the characters by their names and uses third-person pronouns such as “he,” “she” and “it.” The Tolkien Society also says the narrative is omniscient -- that is, the narrator has access to all the thoughts and motivations of every character. ​In the main, then, the narrative point of view of “The Hobbit” is third-person omniscient.​ However, it isn't that simple.

A Varied Viewpoint

Instead of having only one narrative point of view, then, “The Hobbit” shifts among first-, second- and third-person perspectives as well as among limited and omniscient viewpoints. Tolkien himself was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon literature, and his narrator in “The Hobbit” is much like the epic narrator: He has opinions and limitations, and he sometimes addresses the audience explicitly.

First Person Argument:

Although the narrator knows almost everything about the characters and their quest and speaks about them in the third person, he also refers to himself as “I” at times. When describing Gollum in Chapter 5, he says, “I don’t know where he came from, nor who nor what he was.” Phrases such as this one allow the argument that the narrative is first-person limited.

Second Person Argument:

The narrator’s use of “you” to speak to the audience also raises the possibility of calling him a second-person narrator: For example, in Bilbo’s riddling contest with Gollum, the narrator says to readers, “Gollum knew the answer as well as you do.”

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