i know it's fantasy and everything, but what time is lotr supposed to be set in? i mean, they talk about the second age, but the year 3434 in in it. how can that be? and they talk about the third age but there's 30s AND 40s in it? what's the deal? im really confused!
I'm not totally sure what exactly you are asking here, ElberethGilthoniel, but I will attempt some sort of explaination for you.
The world in which LotR is set has a history that Tolkien wrote, which goes right back to its very creation. In this time, many things have occurred, and the world has gone through several major changes. Similarly, time has been recorded as a series of distinct Ages, and several of these Ages actually preceeded the First Age.
Originally to light the world, two great lamps were erected by the Valar. While they stood, it was the Age of the Lamps.
After Melkor destroyed these lamps, Yavanna created two great trees in Valinor, from which light blossemed. While they lived, it was the Age of the Trees. It was during this Age that the elves first awoke, and many went to Valinor.
These two early ages were each divided into other sub-ages, but most of these I will not mention here. One, however, was the Age of the chaining of Melkor (actually there were 3 such ages) during which time the Valar kept Melkor imprisoned in the Halls of Mandos.
Not long after his release, Melkor killed the Two Trees, and so that Age came to an end too. Because everywhere then fell into darkness, it became the Long Night.
The Valar then created the Sun and the Moon, and so began the First Age. With the first rising of the sun, Men awoke, and also with the passing of the sun, years began to be recorded. The First Age lasted about 600 years, and this time was spent with Elves and Men fighting Melkor.
The First Age ended with a great battle in which the Valar, Elves and Men defeated Melkor. This battle caused much of the land to sink beneath the sea, and so began the Second Age.
During the Second Age, which lasted 3441 years, Sauron took over from Melkor as the main enemy, and between 1500-1600 the rings of power were forged. This age ended with the defeat of Sauron at the hand of the Last Alliance, when Isildur cut the ring from his finger.
So began the Third Age, which lasted 3020 years. The Hobbit is set in 2941, and the events of LotR in 3019. The Third Age ended when the Ringbearers passed over the sea to Valinor.
So began the Fourth Age, of which very little is written. One of the last recorded events is the death of Aragorn in FA 120, and the passing over the sea of Legolas and Gimli shortly after.
I hope this is of some help to you. If, however, you were asking what sort of age we are talking about in our own history, that is more difficult. I'd say probably some time during the periods of the Greek and Roman empires.