There’s a lot to unpack about Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 21 (aka Episode 80), “From You, 2,000 Years Ago.” One of the big questions that anime-only fans are trying to figure is just who are the Eldians. Everything was turned upside down in this episode. This article is exploring the clues we were given in the episode, and some commentary from other fans. The anime will likely reveal more to answer the question in the coming episodes.
This Attack on Titan article has spoilers for the newest episode, but the article itself is manga-spoiler-free beyond this episode. It’s written for anime-onlies. For more anime-only discussions, join us on Discord or in our AoT Facebook page.
The Eldians Were Originally a Pillaging, Oppressive Tribe
The Eldians were originally a pillaging, oppressive tribe led by a man named Fritz. (He is not to be confused with King Fritz who made the anti-war vow. That King was about 100 to 200 years ago and he was the one who built the Rumbling Wall. He wasn’t the Fritz from 2,000 years ago, as far as we know, but was named after him.) The original Eldians were a vile group who abused and enslaved the people they defeated. We’re introduced to them by seeing them ride into Ymir’s peaceful town when she was a child, setting the entire town on fire and enslaving all the people who lived there.
When the rest of her people falsely claim that she was the one who let a pig loose, she’s sentenced to “freedom” by being sentenced to death. She’s hunted down by Eldians and would be murdered if she didn’t escape into the tree, where she encountered the proto-parasitic-Titan.
Unfortunately, Ymir has been so thoroughly brainwashed as a child that even with such immense power, she still decides to allow herself to be subjugated by the Eldians. (Is this some kind of curse on the Titans, similar to King Fritz’s ideology against war? I do not know. I do know that we see the Warrior Titans of Marley subjugating themselves to slavery in a similar fashion, thousands of years later.)
So Ymir basically lives the next 13 years subjugating herself and giving Fritz (who later crowns himself king) her Titan powers. They use a lot of their power to try to annihilate Marley, because for some reason that is the country they are most deeply at war with. After she dies, Fritz makes the disgusting decision to feed her spine to her three daughters so the Titan power isn’t lost.
As it turns out, there was a kernel of truth to the Marleyan propaganda that Ymir made a pact with the devil when she got her powers. Only, the devil was not the original Titan. Rather, the devil was a human named Fritz, leader of the Eldian tribe.
The Titans’ Lineage
Ymir was the one and only pure Titan with 100% of the Titan’s pure power (except for the brainwashing, which subjugated her.) I separate Ymir the Founder Titan from the Founding Titan, which is a Titan that can control all the other Titans when it has its full power, but still isn’t the Founder Titan. (This is my guess, anyway.)
Ymir’s Founder Titan was distilled into nine Titans: Founding, Warhammer, Colossal, Armor, Female Titan, Cart, Jaw, Beast, and Attack. Her three children ate from her, so at first there was just three Titans who had the Founder’s power — they were likely stronger than the Nine Titans as we know them today, because apparently each time a Titan is “divided” and eaten by more than one, their powers are diluted between the multiple recipients. So most likely, three children each ate the Three Titans, and thus we ended up with Nine. And Ymir, in the Afterlife Paths, chose each Titan’s distinct personality and shape.
However, this could have played out in quite a few different ways. One of the three original Titans might have only had one child, and perhaps that one is the Founding Titan, and by nature of never being further diluted, it is the most powerful.
I think the photo at the top of this section has some big hints that will be tough to decipher ahead of time. The photo shows Nine Titans, presumably the Founding Titan who controls the other eight. But what makes that Titan so special? The photo shows three very strong Titans bowing to the Founding, followed by what looks like five lesser Titans, and then the rest of the Eldian race.
What’s weird to me is that the Founding and strongest Titan is touching a light source, presumably the origin of the Titans. This would lead me to believe that we’re looking at Ymir, not the Founding Titan, and all of her descendants. Which might also be hinting that there is one Titan not in the picture and who, perhaps, came about in a different way rather than descending from Ymir. Perhaps the Attack Titan, who never bows to anyone, and likely is not subject to being bound to the Founding like everyone else?
I’m probably just grasping at threads here, and I’m completely off base. But it’s a thought.
So Who Are The Eldians Now?
This is where things get really confusing, and hopefully the anime will be explaining it all more in future episodes. (As if my section above wasn’t confusing enough.)
We have been constantly told that the Eldians are the Subjects of Ymir and those phrases are used interchangeably to refer to people whose genetics render them capable of turning into Titans. And then, on top of that, we have the Royal Bloodline, which is the only one capable of utilizing the full power of the Founding Titan. And then on top of that, the Royal Bloodline that lived behind the wall was also bound to the latter Fritz’s anti-war ideology. (Which we later learned was actually a philosophy that Eldians need to be persecuted forever for their crimes.)
But how does this square with what we now know, which is that the Eldians were originally a warring, vile, oppressive tribe not even related to Ymir in the first place?
It seems like the Eldians chose to breed mostly through Ymir’s three daughters, so they could all be capable of turning into Titans. It is plausible that after 2,000 years, Ymir’s three daughters could have grown to encompass the Eldian people as we know them. But are we supposed to believe that the rest of the Eldians just didn’t breed at all? And if everyone today is a direct descendant of Ymir and King Fritz, then that would make all of Ymir’s descendants part of the royal bloodline. But we also know this isn’t true, because Eren never accessed any of his power while touching Armin or any other Eldian except Historia. And Ymir herself knows that not everyone is of the royal bloodline, including Eren.
So how does it all work?
There are a few possibilities. One could be that Ymir’s relatives were all capable of becoming Titans too (like her cousins and siblings if she had any). The non-royal OG Eldian subjugators were allowed to breed with Ymir’s relatives, so the Titan power would continue on through them too, but be less powerful. This is probably the explanation that makes the most sense.
Another possibility is that, for some reason, only one branch of Ymir’s three children is viewed by Ymir as royalty, and the rest aren’t. There’s not a big reason why that would be the case, but it’s another possible explanation.
More than likely, the real answer will be something we haven’t guessed here. But this is where we stand at the time of the latest anime episode.