Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #6)” as Want to Read:
The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #6)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One

(The History of Middle-Earth #6)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,530 ratings  ·  103 reviews
In this sixth volume of The History of Middle-earth the story reaches The Lord of the Rings. In The Return of the Shadow (an abandoned title for the first volume) Christopher Tolkien describes, with full citation of the earliest notes, outline plans, and narrative drafts, the intricate evolution of The Fellowship of the Ring and the gradual emergence of the conceptions tha ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Houghton Mifflin (first published August 25th 1988)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Return of the Shadow, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Return of the Shadow

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,530 ratings  ·  103 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Let me admit first off that _The Return of the Shadow_ (book 6 in the History of Middle-earth series) is exactly what I didn’t want to read when I first heard that Christopher Tolkien was putting out a series of books of his father’s unpublished writings. As far as I was concerned we already had what Tolkien was willing and able to publish in The Hobbit and LoTR (and even something he hadn’t yet been able to publish in his lifetime in the form of The Silmarillion) so the appeal for me of seeing ...more
James Swenson
I don't think I can give this a star rating. I don't know if I've ever read anything that's simultaneously more boring and more fascinating than this set of books. [Here I'll review the whole History of the Lord of the Rings together: [book:The Return of the Shadow], The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring, and The End of the Third Age.]

Christopher Tolkien, son of a famous father, has edited the rough drafts of The Lord of the Rings and presents (in every possible detail) the history of the
Luka Novak
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First of all you need to know what this book actually is. It's not explanation of Middle-earth history and it's not expanded universe either. This book deals with Tolkien's manuscripts and shows how LOTR was written.

This book (#6) covers part from beginning of LOTR to Mines of Moria, when Company discovers Balin's tomb, though there are glimpses of future events such as siege of Minas Tirith and destruction of the Ring.

Throughout the book you can see two processes working. One is evolution of ch
Reading "The History of Middle-earth" books make me think of the commentary and 'special features' on DVD movies. The difference is that the writer/director/producer is dead and so it is all hosted by his son Christopher Tolkien.

"The Return of the Shadow" is so much fun. It contains descriptions of the way Tolkien fumbled his way along as he wrote LTRs. We get to see characters drawn differently, some with different names [So very, very many differnt names]. We see Tolkien discover the story tha
For March 2019, we are finished The Return of the Shadow for discussion Friday evening, 3/22/2019.

@TolkienKC group read concurrently with The Fellowship of the Ring and using the @tolkienprof seminar as a study aid. Join the group discussion online.
Sarah Zama
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m enjoying The History of Middle-earth in general, but this first volume about the creation of The Lord of the Rings is particularly outstanding. I loved reading of how the book was created, because in a way it’s a story in itself.
Tolkien wasn’t particularly keen on the writing a sequel to The Hobbit, but accepted to do it. He wrote the first chapter three times before he found any traction and in this first volume of the four dedicated to The Lord of the Rings we can read the first three dra
Manuel Alfonseca
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
ENGLISH: The problem with this book is that it is very difficult to follow, for it tells about many different versions of the first 16 chapters of "The Fellowship of the King" that J.R.R.Tolkien wrote in 1938-40. Not only are there up to six different versions of the first chapters, but each version is corrected once and again with ink of different colors, and Christopher tells us all about it, muddling the issue:-)
Although I have always read "The Lord of the Rings" in English, I have read this
Jan 11, 2010 rated it liked it
So for the longest time I thought these books were just more Middle Earth mythology and/or Christopher Tolkien pimping out his father's name to try to make money off people who will buy anything associated with good ole JRR. But not so! Okay, maybe the part about people who will buy anything associated with Tolkien. But actually this book is awesome. True, it goes into some minutia that not everyone is interested in, but what it's actually about is the writing of Lord of the Rings. For example, ...more
Dr. Andrew Higgins
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Re-read this for the brilliant Signum University Mythgard Academy Return of the Shadow course with Professor Corey Olsen. Gained so many insights from this close re-read on Tolkien's development of his new Hobbit - including the persistent character of Odo, the fact that Aragorn was first supposed to be the name of a horse and Tolkien originally planned to have a Black Rider not a Balrog fight Gandalf in Moria. Most interesting, which was a brilliant part of the course, was charting how Tolkien ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth #6), J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (Editor)
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s amazing how a story you know so well can be so different and inthralling! I still want to know what happened to Odo during his disappearance! And Trotter, I love how that character is changing and merging before our eyes, but as always with Christopher Tolkien’s histories I find myself deeply touched by the care he took to share his father’s writing process with the world, it is both inspiring and insightful.
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exactly what it purports to be - an account of the development of the story that became The Lord of the Rings (going from the early, tentative attempts to create the desired sequel to The Hobbit to the discovery of Balin's tomb in Moria), with early drafts of chapters and fragmented notes. Is it the most fascinating thing ever published? No, but it's not for the general readership, it's for huge Tolkien nerds and scholars, and these people will find it worthwhile. It's fun to see how the story d ...more
Anna C
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tolkien
This book is not for everyone. You have to be a Next Level Tolkien Geek to tackle the 12-volume History of Middle Earth. But if you can enjoy seven pages of Christopher Tolkien trying to determine the exact angle of the Loudwater river as it bends toward Rivendell, this is the book for you. And for people who can get past the lore, this is actually a fascinating look at the creative process. It isn't often you get to read the earliest drafts and manuscripts of your favorite books. Going over scr ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you, Christopher Tolkien. This book consists of an edited collection of the first manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings, and it is probably the kind of book that is more useful than all the new interpretations of Tolkien out there. Tolkien was truly blessed in a son who cared about his father's work and had a first-rate historian's mind such that he could so ably curate and organize it for the public.

Of course this means that such a work is largely boring and not nearly as exciting as it s
Neil R. Coulter
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the development of the Lord of the Rings

“Make return of ring a motive." (41)

The Return of the Shadow, the first volume of Christopher Tolkien's History of the Lord of the Rings series, tells the story of the early development of The Lord of the Rings, taking the narrative from the beginning up to the Mines of Moria. I love how the little penciled note above shows just how uncertain the beginning of The Lord of the Rings was. The story might have gone anywhere, no matter how inevitable it now seems. This is what makes The Fellowship

Erik Waiss
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
to be honest, this entire series starting with this book is no doubt going to be rather dry for someone who does not Relish in rereading the Lord of the Rings over and over again. however, Christopher Tolkien does a good job of going through his father's notes and outlining a literary history as it were. I feel like I've earned quite a bit of nerd cred at this point, and I shall continue the series. I am interested to see how the story itself, one which I am so lovingly familiar with, evolved fr ...more
Neil Ottenstein
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you like behind the scenes information and DVD extras, etc. and love the Lord of the Rings, then this book is for you. It is fascinating, but with all the notes and such it is a long read. This is the first of the History of Middle-Earth books that I've actually made it all the way through. On to the Treason of Isengard.
Michael Pryor
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, illuminating, revealing.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this back in 2012 but stopped because I discovered my copy had a good-sized chunk of pages missing in the middle. I just recently got around to writing the publisher to see if they would send me a correct version (thank you, Houghton Mifflin!), so now I'm starting it over.

I am listening to the audiobook at the same time, and it is fascinating comparing the final version to the story development.
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A complicated title and I suppose a rather complicated little series of books. This is the first book of "the writing" of the lord of the rings that Christopher Tolkien published. To elaborate on the severely complicated writing process which occured in developing the lord of the rings "trilogy" Christopher put together this ensemble of drafts that his father wrote.

Here you get all the different drafts that Tolkien wrote in chronological order of their development with commentary by Christopher
Ben De Bono
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, reference
Tolkien fanatics and/or would be novelists will loves this. Everyone else will probably be bored silly.

Even for a Tolkien fanatic like me, the book does get a little dense in places (Middle-Earth geography, dates, some of the footnotes) but those sections are very easy to skip over if you start losing interest.

One interesting side note: the four titles that make up The History of The Lord of the Rings (Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring and The End of the Third
Brian Cubbage
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This volume, the sixth of the "History of Middle-Earth" series containing J.R.R. Tolkien's previously unpublished literary remains edited by Tolkien's son Christopher, chronicles Tolkien's first drafts of a sequel to The Hobbit or There and Back Again that ultimately became The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien here presents edited selections of his father's drafts and notes from 1938 to early 1940 that show how the story that would become The L ...more
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Yes. I am a nerd. This is the first in a series of books that chapter-by-chapter painstakingly details Tolkien's writing of LOTR. It has drafts of the chapters, edits, shows when names were changed, etc., etc. It is Hard. Core. And I love it.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yippee! Finally the story reached the Lord of the Rings. My favourite book from the History-series.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally reviewed at Thoughts Stained With Ink:

Unless you're a die-hard Tolkien fan, you might have no idea what this book is.

But it's a Tolkien fan's wet dream, basically.

One of his children, Christopher Tolkien, took it upon himself to give readers the most intense glimpse into his father's life and works as he could, creating a 12-volume series coined as "The History of Middle-earth," detailing the journey Tolkien underwent writing one of the greatest sagas of all time. It's an incredible s
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans only
Recommended to D-day by: Author I like
The Return Of The Shadow is part 6 of the History Of Middle Earth series and like all other installments of that series is for Tolkien enthusiasts only, not casual fans.
Now we come to the end of the 1930's and the beginning of the writing of The Lord Of The Rings. Tolkien himself was of a mind to continue to work on the Silmarillion but his publisher was pleading with him for a sequel to The Hobbit. Tolkien began writing a sequel, but what The Return Of The Shadow demonstrates is that slowly, as
Nonethousand Oberrhein
When Trotter led the way
There was a time when the Fellowship of the Ring was mostly Hobbits, when Treebeard was an evil giant and when Tom Bombadil was… still the same old merry fellow! The first of the volumes dedicated to the genesis of the Lord of the Rings holds a mesmerizing tale of narrative evolution through rewrites as the author himself calls into question his work in light of the Silmarillion mythology he was creating. An engrossing read for the Third Age enthusiast.

Here below my revie
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
With 86 reviews in place as of this writing, you don't need another one. Well, just one sentence: It takes an English major to really enjoy this stuff--and it doesn't hurt if he's got an M.A. in linguistics!

The real reason I'm writing this is to point out a coincidence. In a rejected genealogy reproduced in this volume, Bilbo has a first cousin named Vigo.* And as all the world knows, in Jackson's film trilogy there is an actor named Viggo. Not an unbelievable coincidence--Tolkien drew many othe
Lorianne Reuser
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You can’t exactly write a review or give a star rating to a book that is more a reference text. But if I could give all the stars in the world to Christopher Tolkien, who has spent his life making order out of the chaos of his fathers notes ... then I would! I didn’t so much read this book as check in about elements I was curious about, but the chance to see a master craftsman fiddle and edit - to see how much changed from first draft to finished product - is incredibly inspiring to any artist.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is definitely a book for serious Tolkien nerds, but surprisingly it ends up being inspiring to all aspiring writers. Though one can be overwhelmed and humbled by the vastness of Tolkien's creation, it helps to realize that it evolved, over not one or two or five revisions, but many, and was years in the writing. And it's the writing that matters - the love of words, the never ending quest for the right word, the most fitting name. The more I learn about Tolkien, the more I admire his genius ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell
  • Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology
  • The Map of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • The Atlas of Middle-Earth
  • The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • A Tolkien Treasury
  • The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created A New Mythology
  • Journeys of Frodo: An Atlas of J.R.R.Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"
  • The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth
  • A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth: A Literary Life
  • Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
  • The Origins of Tolkien's Middle-Earth for Dummies
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
  • The "Hobbit" Companion
See similar books…
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English lang

Other books in the series

The History of Middle-Earth (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #1)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two (The History of Middle-Earth, #2)
  • The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-Earth, #3)
  • The Shaping of Middle-Earth (The History of Middle-Earth, #4)
  • The Lost Road and Other Writings (The History of Middle-Earth, #5)
  • The Treason of Isengard: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two (The History of Middle-Earth, #7)
  • The War of the Ring (The History of Middle-Earth, #8)
  • Sauron Defeated: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The History of Middle-Earth, #9)
  • Morgoth's Ring (The History of Middle-Earth, #10)
  • The War of the Jewels (The History of Middle-Earth, #11)