Attack on Titan starts as a story about a boy that seeks revenge on the Titans. They are a species of giant, man-eating creatures that ruined his life and killed his mother in front of him. But as the series progresses, the audience learns that there is more to this story than a simple revenge quest.
Series author Hajime Isayama weaves an intricate plot and finally explains where the Titans came from, why the Colossal and Armored Titan suddenly showed up at Wall Maria one day without prior warning, and, more importantly, why humanity was trapped behind the walls.
It is the cycle of revenge. One side hurts another, and that side seeks revenge. It is an unpleasant, horrible cycle that has created the world of Attack on Titan.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for Attack on Titan, so please read at your own risk.
Attack on Titan and the cycle of vengeance
In the distant past, there was a dynasty of kings and queens called Fritz, and they held an extraordinary power. They could turn anyone they wanted into Titans and used this power to subjugate nations.
Anyone who didn’t belong to their nation of Eldia was either turned into a Titan as cannon fodder for their conquest or was summarily killed. They performed many brutal acts, such as experimenting on families like the Ackerman clan and using the Founding Titan’s power to control the Titan hordes. As a result, other nations loathed the Fritz.
History is muddled regarding how the Fritz family received the power to turn people into Titans. But some theorize that Ymir Fritz made a deal with the Devil, hence the slur given to all people of Eldia descent: “Devil’s Spawn.”
When the original Ymir Fritz died, her power was split into nine Titan Shifters, people who could assume Titan Form at will, each one with their unique ability.
With this power, the Fritz family continued their genocidal campaigns against various nations and races in Attack on Titan.
However, one race that opposed the Eldians was the Marleyans, and when the mantle of leadership was passed to Karl Frtiz, events changed in favor of the Marleyans.
During the Great Titan War, one Marleyan, later known as the hero Helos, along with the Tybur family, managed to trick the Eldians into turning their power on themselves and forced the Founding Titan to command the Titan hordes to attack their own nation instead.
The Eldians were then forced behind the Walls of Maria, Rose, and Sina on Paradis Island.
However, the Fritz family still had the power to command the Titans, much to the dread of Marley. As such, the Warrior Unit was sent to find the Founding Titan.
Nevertheless, the tale of the hero Helos is just that, a tale. The truth of the events is that King Karl Fritz himself was horrified to learn of what his ancestors did and sought to alleviate his own guilt.
He allied with the Tybur family to fabricate a hero, Helos, for a plausible explanation of the sudden turn of events. In reality, Karl Fritz willingly turned the Titan hordes on his own people.
Fritz also came up with the lie of unleashing the Titans in the walls to trample humanity once more if the Eldians were not left alone.
However, the Marleyans still saw the Eldians as their enemy and still feared the power of the Founding Titan. They sent three Warrior Units: Reiner, Annie, and Bertolt, to Paradis Island to act as spies and saboteurs.
In Marley, any Eldian who was not on Paradis Island was segregated into a different class and was often discriminated against by the Marleyans for the crimes of their ancestors.
When Attack on Titan happened in the modern age, Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and more were surprised to learn that humanity still existed on the other side of the ocean.
They were even more shocked to learn that Marleyans still wanted to kill everyone living on the island for events that happened well over 1800 years ago.
The conflict between Eldians and Marleyans in Attack on Titan
The conflict between Eldia and Marley has shaped the world of Attack on Titan to the point where neither side has a complete account of what has happened, and there is plenty of blood on both sides.
Ever since the Eldians were forced back to Paradis Island, the Marleyans have been spoon-fed propaganda where all Eldians were, and to quote Reiner: "Spawns of the Devil," and indeed, have even called them "Devils of Paradis Island."
Unaware that there were other nations up until the tail end of the series, the Eldians were distraught upon learning this, and they had begun launching counter raids against Marley. This has resulted in several brutal battles that fed the discrimination on both sides, with casualties taken among both the Eldian and Marley forces.
Attack on Titan protagonist, Eren, realized that the two sides would maintain the cycle of vengeance for years to come and thus put his own plans into motion to end the cycle and keep Marley and Eldia from destroying each other. It was called "The Rumbling," and it involved turning the lie of King Karl Frtiz into reality.