The rumbling is perhaps one of the most defining events in modern Shonen manga. Eren’s desire for freedom and his passionate wish to save his home resulted in him carrying out genocide against the rest of humanity. Eren was fine being crucified by the rest of the world as long as Paradis remained safe.
While the ending of Attack on Titan with the additional chapter 139.5 was grimmer than expected. It only showed how not even something as horrific as the rumbling could stop the world from warring. So, what was the purpose of the rumbling? Why did it happen?
A paradox itself, the Attack Titan is a key to answering the question. The existence of the power itself subconsciously spurred Eren on. Hence, it only makes sense if we start out from where we got to know how it ended up with Eren – Shiganshina.
Shiganshina: The Truth
Shiganshina is a crucial place in the story. The story starts and ends here. Eren’s primary motive had been to get back Wall Maria by exterminating his enemy, the titans. Till the reclamation of Wall Maria, Attack on Titan was more or less on a linear path of being a thrilling mystery. Only Erwin could have hypothesized the possibility of humans existing outside the walls. However, with the reveal of the truth, the story finally took shape.
This reveals changed Eren forever.
The treatment of Paradis by the rest of the world only strengthened Eren’s ideals. Eren had always believed in the right to live. He would go to extremes to make this possible for his own people, against all odds. Here is why Eren was ready to kill everyone across the ocean for the sake of his people:
Firstly, Eren has seen his countless innocent civilians die for sins they did not commit. The thought of the current generation of Paradis Eldians shouldering the blame of ancestors. Along with being the face of anti-Eldian propaganda never sat right with Eren. He had always felt a responsibility of protecting those of his own home. Especially from the horrors of the world, which he saw firsthand when he steps foot in Marley.
Secondly, Eren has lost his comrades. All of them lost their lives not knowing what lay beyond the thick forests of Paradis; never knowing that an ocean existed that isolated them from a world that had already moved on. The death of the Levi Squad, who died trying to protect Eren, was a traumatizing event. He lost not only his first team but also Marco in the conflicts at Trost. Eren later understood that he can never take their deaths for granted and it’s on him to make sure their sacrifice was worth it.
Moreover, Eren realizes the bloody history behind inheriting the Attack Titan. Pushed to the brink of survival, Grisha agreed to inherit the titan. It becomes obvious that the inheriting of the titan was all leading up to this point. The sacrifice of Eren Kruger and of his own father, along with Kruger’s cryptic words of keeping Armin and Mikasa safe were burned into Eren’s mind.
The reveal at Shiganshina added more complexity to Eren’s one-track goal. It seemed the corps had hit a dead end with making any progress, until their biggest enemy, Zeke Yeager turns out to be an “ally”. Unfortunately, Eren was never to like Zeke’s plan.
Eren loathed Zeke’s plan
Plans of both Eren and Zeke to bring the conflict to the end were on extremes. Zeke wanted euthanization, a plan to wipe out all Eldians. On the other hand, Eren focused on saving Paradis in particular at the cost of the whole world. Both sides brought up some philosophical arguments to the table.
Zeke’s own upbringing had instilled him in the dread of living as an Eldian. Eren had grown up with a “never say die” attitude, emphasizing the importance of one living their own life with no suppression. Clearly, it’s no big surprise that Eren would never be fond of what Zeke came up with. When Eren awakened the full powers of his Founding Titan, he had transcended time. Knowing that Eren would’ve loved to stay together with his loved ones if he could, the lack of any other options propelled Eren on the bloody path of the rumbling.
This comes to show that Eren wouldn’t choose Zeke’s plan even as a last resort. It’s not that hard to understand why! Eren had grown up knowing that the vilest thing a human could do was to accept oppression and deny freedom for a more “comfortable” life. To him, Zeke’s plan was probably shameless and in poor taste. Eren would never give up who he was, and his people, for the sake of the world who were not ready to forgive or forget.
Eren would rather kill off those outsides of the walls than have his own people sacrificed for the happiness of the world that hung them out to dry.
When Eren left the conference the corps were attending in Marley, he ponders upon the possibility of rumbling. As he watches people go on with his life, he understands that they’re no different from his own people. He contemplates how all of them will be killed by his hands until he comes across Ramzi. Eren broke down, probably at how he saved a child who would one day die. Therefore, it shows us that Eren was no bloodthirsty monster who was keen to kill everyone, it’s just that he had no choice.
Even if a choice had existed, it became history the second Willy Tybur opened his mouth!
Willy Tybur’s Speech Triggered the Rumbling
Willy Tyubr’s speech remains one of the most enigmatic events in the story. What seems like a simple speech, when deconstructed, shows more than what is seen by the eye. Be it his motive or the duty of the Tybur family, it left me wondering why he would want to declare war on Paradis, well knowing that it would activate the rumbling.
Hearing Willy’s words, it is safe to assume that Eren’s attack on Marley was more wide-scale than expected. What was supposed to be a commotion created to assert dominance and whisk Zeke away turned out to be a bloody massacre. Countless brainwashed Eldians of Liberio along with the corrupt Marleyan government and international dignitaries were crushed by Eren.
With Willy’s choice of words and rapport with the heads of the countries, an attack on Paradis was inevitable. While this egging on was intentional for the sake of clearing the guilt off the Eldians on the continent or not, Willy managed to trigger Eren into acting upon the rumbling.
Already convinced that diplomacy will not work out with the world that needed Paradis to be the bad guys to maintain peace among each other, Eren was running out of time and patience to watch Hange stall taking any actions. By choosing to strike first, Eren cut off the option of peace completely and took it upon himself to fight tooth and nail to save the island.
Subsequently, Hange confronted Eren after the party returned to Paradis. He argued that there is nothing the Survey Corps could do now, and this led to him taking things into his own hand. It is important to remember that Eren was rushing as he wanted to get to Ymir through Zeke and not Historia. This is because he was not ready for Historia and her descendants to be used as vessels of the Beast Titan and have their lives snatched from them.
The aforementioned is a testament to Eren’s fear of seeing his near and dear ones hurt.
Eren’s fear of involving his close ones
It’s safe to say that along the way Eren hurt his loved ones more than anything. His intentions were actually out of his strong love and wish to see his friends happy, even if he wanted to stay by their side.
Eren had developed trauma from seeing those around him die to save him. Not only that, but he was tired of seeing succeeding generations play their part in a conflict that should’ve ended long back. Eren himself saw how he, his brother, the warriors from Marley, and the youth of Paradis were all struggling to play their parts. That is why Eren decided to carry out the rumbling; to make sure the conflict ends with him.
Eren was ready to lay his life down. Yet, he would never want to have his friends take an action so bloody and monstrous. As Armin concludes in chapter 139, Eren was ready to be seen as the villain so his friends could be seen as “heroes” and negotiate peace.
In the end, Eren’s wish did play out. Most of his friends survived and lived on. His lover, Mikasa, moved on as promised in the dream sequence in chapter 138. Yet, she always kept him close in her heart. However, Eren’s wish to end the conflict didn’t really come true. He managed to eradicate titans, the most important promise that he had made to himself years ago (which most people forget to give him credit for). However, Eren failed to secure Paradis’ place in the world. This approach sits well in the reality of our world. The most heart-tugging sacrifices never manage to bring full solace to conflicts after all.
The rumbling was part of Ymir’s path to freedom
While the rumbling was a conscious decision from the Eren who knew nothing about Ymir’s own battle; it turns out that his actions were the last leg in Ymir’s path to freedom.
As Eren understands in the path, he had the powers to transcend time. He realizes that the tiniest things, from Eren willing Dina to not eat Bertholdt (because according to the timeline, he has to survive to kick Wall Maria to trigger the story) that resulted in the death of his own mother, all happened so that one day he would be left with no choice but to carry out the rumbling.
This shows us that in the end, Eren wasn’t as free as he thought he was. Yet, he still mentions that even if this wasn’t the part of Ymir’s endgame, he would’ve carried out the rumbling regardless. Unfortunately for him, he was a ploy that Ymir used to lure out Mikasa. A woman who was similar to herself to see if sacrificing your love for the sake of the world is justifiable or not.
While Eren’s fate didn’t sit well with many, it does make perfect sense according to the theme of the story. The conflict in Attack on Titan ran two ways; one with humans and the other with Ymir. Though Eren lost sight of the goal his nine-year-old self had set, he managed to fulfill it in the end.
The Attack Titan’s Curse
Tying it down to the fact that Ymir waited 2000 years for this to play out, there is also the Attack Titan. The Attack Titan users had all contributed to laying out this path so that Eren would be the last one to finish the conflict. When he, along with Zeke, saw Grisha’s memories in the paths, Eren knew that he had done something irreversible.
The Attack Titan inheritors were truly slaves to the future. Now knowing what he had done, Eren simply walked on the destined path knowing that it will ultimately result in the rumbling one way or the other. Therefore, the purpose of the rumbling was also slated into Eren’s fate as the Attack Titan.
Attack on Titan masters irony. To think the Attack Titan walks on a path that is bound by the actions of future inheritors really shows how freedom truly is an illusion.
What do you think about the reasons behind the rumbling? Could it be avoided? Let us know in the comments!