Tolkien’s great mythological tales of Middle-earth are meant to be taken, fictitiously, as an ancient history of theEarth, particularly of Europe, from several thousand years before the modern era. The world Middle-earth is actually supposed to be a fictional period in our Earth’s own past 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Tolkien’s legendarium is often called “Middle-earth mythology”.
But let’s be honest, sorting the men from the elves and the Balrogs from the orcs can be confusing. Thankfully, if you have four minutes to spare we can get it all straightened out.