It begins with the initial compositions of J.R.R. Tolkien's early Lord of the Rings drafts, and goes through to the episode in the Mines of Moria. The inscription of the volume reads: "In the Return of the Shadow are traced the first forms of the story of the Lord of the Rings; herein the journey of the hobbit who bore the Great Ring, at first named Bilbo but afterwards Frodo, is followed from Hobbiton in the Shire through the Old Forest to Weathertop and Rivendell, and ends in this volume before the tomb of Balin, the Dwarf-Lord of Moria."
|J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium|