Eren Jaeger showing Armin Arlert the scenes they wanted to visit as children in The Paths in Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 3.

Making Sense of ‘Attack on Titan’s Circular Timeline

Some have described the world of Attack on Titan as an ouroboros. It’s not a time loop, but a circular story. As confusing as that sounds, the former is just a moment in time repeating itself. The latter seems befitting of Attack on Titan, especially after the events of season 4. Characters and events weren’t repetitive, per se, but the world follows a cycle that inevitably leads to its destruction—like a snake eating its own tail.

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There’s no doubt that when Eren decided to destroy most of Earth’s inhabitants outside of Paradis, it signaled some form of the end for most of humanity. What seemed like centuries passed, and the world flourished and thrived into modernity, only for it to fall into disrepair once more. But why does the first chapter of Attack on Titan start with Eren waking up from a dream below a tree on a hill and him being interned beneath the same tree? What did Eren see when he connected with the power of the Attack Titan?

This comprehensive Attack on Titan timeline might clear everything up and hopefully help everyone see the past and future memories that Eren saw for himself.

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Ymir Fritz and the Founding Titan

The humans living behind the walls must’ve come from a bigger and broader world, and that’s where the story begins. Ymir Fritz, an enslaved woman, discovered the immense power of the Titans 2,000 years ago. Ymir was being chased and hunted for sport when she sought refuge under a tree, where she awakened the power of the Founding Titan through a spine-like creature. Through her power, Ymir built the Eldian Empire from the ground and was used as a tool of war against Marley at the behest of her enslaver, the first King Fritz.

She died protecting King Fritz out of love, but he forced their daughters Rose, Sheena, and Maria to eat their mother’s remains to gain her powers. Though dead, Ymir found herself in what would later be known as the Paths—a barren land where anything could be made, and where time flows as the past, present, and the future.

Paradis Island and the Three Walls

Because the daughters of Ymir and Fritz continued the tradition of eating spines so that the powers of the Titans were preserved, Eldia amassed great power for a long period in history. Eventually, nine noble families gained the powers of the Nine Titans who turned on each other. Marley, the opposing nation, got hold of Seven Titans.

King Karl Fritz decided to end the conflict that the power of the Titans brought by retreating to Paradis Island with the Eldians. He erased the memories of world history from the minds of those inside the walls. In an act of mutually assured destruction, Karl bargained for the world to leave the Eldians within the walls alone, and in return, he would not release the countless Colossus Titans to “flatten the Earth.” The walls were named after Ymir’s daughters Rose, Sheena, and Maria. Thus, Paradis was made.

Eren Kruger

In the year 819, Eren Kruger inherited the Attack Titan. This Titan has the capability to hold memories of both past and future inheritors of its power, which makes it different from the other eight titans, which could only see the previous holder’s memories. This is why Eren Kruger, a Restorationist rebel thought that Grisha Jaeger from Marley should inherit his power.

Eldians outside of Paradis Island have become an oppressed race under Marley, and were forcefully segregated. Grisha Jaeger experienced the cruelty of Marley himself through the unjust torture and murder of his little sister by Marleyan officers, as well as the loss of his first wife, Dina Fritz, when she was forcefully transformed into a Titan.

To you, 2,000 years from now

Grisha moved into the walls, just as ordered by Eren Kruger. There, he had a son named Eren Jaeger and a wife named Carla. This is where the first season of Attack on Titan begins, with Eren waking up from what appeared to be a glimpse of a gruesome future portrayed as a passing dream.

He woke up underneath a tree with Mikasa in sight, and two of the Nine Titans—the Armored Titan and the Colossal Titan—later infiltrated Wall Maria. This caused many deaths, and Carla herself was eaten in front of Eren. Grisha Jaeger, on the other hand, murdered the Reiss family at the command of an older Eren Jaeger, who communicated the order through the Paths. Grisha shortly passed down the power of the Attack Titan to the younger Eren. Not remembering the power he inherited, Eren later trained to join the Survey Corps with his two best friends, Mikasa and Armin.

The basement in Shiganshina

This pivotal moment was the turning point in the third season of Attack on Titan. It’s largely remembered for Erwin’s death charge towards Zeke Jaeger, the Beast Titan, and Levi’s iconic single-handed attack against Zeke, who barely made it out alive.

Captain Erwin Smith, who was curious about the truth of the world’s history, staked everything to know what was in the Jaeger family basement. There, it was discovered by the main characters that the people of Paradis were not the only people left on Earth. Titans weren’t just giants, but people transformed into giants.

From you, 2,000 years ago

After touching Historia’s hand during the awards ceremony for being a hero in Shiganshina, Eren was able to activate memory inheritance of the past and future. Discovering that there are other humans and they’ve been out to eliminate Eldians, Eren asks if they could finally be free after they kill all the enemies across the ocean. This was the beginning of the end, and a precursor to Eren’s slow trudge to destroying the world.

Marley arc

The first part of season 4 was the start of the full circle moment. Reiner, who once attacked Eren’s home in Paradis as the Armored Titan, was now being repaid in full by Eren, who transformed into the Attack Titan in Marley. This was done during an operation to kill military officials and high-ranking leaders in Marley, who were reportedly plotting to launch an attack against Paradis Island.

But the Marley arc proved that the immense racism against Eldians would make it difficult for them to exist in the world at all. There were threats from outside the walls, and Marley was going to lead the charge.

The Rumbling

This is the end of the world that couldn’t accept the existence of Eldians. Eren decided to fulfill the threat of Karl Fritz: to flatten the Earth by unleashing a great number of Colossal Titans. 80% of the world perished as a result, and only Eren’s former squad, comrades, and friends could stop him.

Eren was tearfully killed by Mikasa, and Armin hashed things out with Marley officials. Eldians lost their connection to the Paths, and were no longer able to transform into Titans.

What happened after the Rumbling

Armin, Mikasa, and the rest of the remaining characters grew old and died in peace. Decades and centuries later, the world fell into disorder again and the tree Eren was buried under—and where he first awoke—was approached by a boy exploring ruins with his dog. And so it begins again.

(featured image: MAPPA)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) has been a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue since 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, she (happily) rejected law school in 2021 and has been a full-time content writer since. Vanessa is currently taking her Master's degree in Japanese Studies in hopes of deepening her understanding of the country's media culture in relation to pop culture, women, and queer people like herself. She speaks three languages but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.