The Return of the Shadow

The Return of the Shadow, by J. R. R. TolkienStarting in December 2016, Mythgard Academy will host a free 14-week seminar on the sixth volume of the History of Middle-earth (HoME) series, The Return of the Shadow.

In prior Academy seminars, we have explored the first five volumes in the HoME series, The Book of Lost Tales, Part IThe Book of Lost Tales, Part II, The Lays of Beleriand, The Shaping of Middle-earth, and The Lost Road. At the end of this next session, we will be halfway through the entire series that describes the history of the writing of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories about Middle-earth.

First published in 1988, The Return of the Shadow begins the four-volume subset of the HoME series that is sometimes called The History of the Lord of the Rings, as it encompasses the development of that book. The title for The Return of the Shadow comes from an early potential title for Book 1 of the novel. As part of the HoME series, The Return of the Shadow looks at the earliest drafts and ideas of the story that eventually becomes The Lord of the Rings, tracing the journey of the ring from Hobbiton to Rivendell and down into Moria, ending at Balin’s tomb.

The Return of the Shadow (The History of Middle Earth Vol. 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

Recommended edition of The Return of the Shadow

The Mythgard Academy sessions are always free for all and open to the public. Every week, the first 100 participants will be able to join us for the live discussion, which are recorded and made available at no cost through our iTunes U course and on the Signum University YouTube channel.

We are able to bring this series to the public only through the generosity of everyone who supports the Mythgard Institute and Signum University through their generous donations, who nominate and vote on the books that we examine in these discussions. In 2016 alone, we’ve been fortunate enough to look at two other volumes in The History of Middle-earth series – The Shaping of Middle-earth and The Lost Road and Other Writings – as well as one of my favorite books ever, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a book I had never read before, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

I’m looking forward to 2017, when many of our regular listeners plus a whole new group of donors will be electing more books to review. If you want to help decide our future topics in the coming year, there’s no better time to join than now! Visit our annual fund page to support our free seminars!
– Dr. Corey Olsen

Participation Welcome!

To help participants support each other, Mythgard provides the following interaction opportunities:

  • A live chatroom is available at the bottom right of this page where you can converse with other session attendees in real time.
    • There is a little icon on the bottom left pane of the chat widget to open the chat in a separate window, which you should find useful.
  • Also, we have a Mythgard Academy forum where donors can discuss topics related to this seminar. The forum is located in the Signum University Digital Campus within the Community Hearth. Our other Mythgard Academy activities, such as the Silmarillion Film Project can be found on our public forum. (Registration required.)

Also, please “like” the Mythgard Academy Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to get updates and reminders about each session. If you live-tweet the discussions, please use the hashtag #MythAcademy.

The History of Middle-earth, Volume 6 is available from Amazon.


The Return of the Shadow will meet on Wednesdays at 9:30 pm Eastern Time

Week 1: In Search of a Sequel

Read: Foreword and Chapter 1

Week 2: Adventure Comes on Unexpectedly

Read: Chapters II – III

Week 3: Concerning Wraiths and Rings

Read: Chapters IV – VI

Week 4: A Light-Hearted Adventure

Read: Chapters VII – VIII

Week 5: The Shadow Grows; Hobbitry Abides

Read: Chapters IX – X

Week 6: News From Bree

Read: Chapters XI – XIII

Week 7: A Turning Point in His Career

Read: Catch up on previous weeks’ readings

Week 8: Living at Once in Two Worlds

Read: Chapters XIV – XV

Week 9: Reconsiderations

Read: Chapters XVI – XVII

Week 10: Retconning the Ring

Read: Chapters XIX – XX

Week 11: The Quest Takes Shape

Read: Chapters XXI – XXII

Week 12: Bingo’s Two Halves

Read: Chapters XXIII – XXIV

Week 13: Into Darkness

Read: Chapter XV

Week 14: The Further Adventures of Odo Bolger

Read: Chapters XX-XXI

Week 15: Old Beginnings and New

Read: Chapter XXII

Week 16: Off Into the Blue

Read: Chapter XXIII

Week 17: Standing by Balin’s Tomb

Read: Chapters XXIV-XXV

Choose Future Seminar Topics

Do you want to support the work that the Institute does for fantasy and other imaginative literature? Would you like to help choose the books we discuss in future seminars? Donate today!