J.R.R. Tolkien said that his prime motive in writing The Lord of the Rings was “the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.” Clearly he succeeded, but why? Why has this story succeeded in capturing generations of readers’ attention? In this course, we will read The Lord of the Rings and examine this question using the tools of many disciplines, from literary criticism to scientific deduction to history, linguistics, theology, philosophy, and more. We will explore the story’s context within Tolkien’s fictional mythology and within real-world literary traditions and historical contexts. In the process of exploring the text, we will also do writing of our own, from careful argumentative essays to creative world building exercises.