Anime fathers are notorious for either being absent or causing ruckus for their children, but Grisha Yeager had a great first impression! This gentle, brown-haired man came off as a caring father who raised his son right. Fast forward a few seasons, and turns out that this man did quite some things.
We can never win, can we?
From pushing his first son, Zeke, to his breaking point, to burdening Eren, his second born, with a conflict two thousand years old, Grisha Yeager’s journey of fatherhood is nothing short of a roller coaster ride. While Grisha may have had his redemption arc with Eren, is that enough to make him a good father?
(Spoiler alert: No, it isn’t)
Grisha Yeager’s Upbringing
Grisha’s own aspiration drove him to become the father he was. Grisha’s punishment for “losing” his sister came not in the form of a beating, but watching his parents submit to the Marleyan system. For a boy who just wanted to see a blip, this was a far crueler punishment. Consequently, his ideals changed forever after experiencing the harsh reality of the world.
The absence of his own father’s sympathies to his feelings had probably played a role in shaping his first fatherhood. Just like his own father, he had expected his to be child to be one who would comply with his own ideals. A child is more prone to prove a parent wrong, and Grisha was a classic case. Now married to royal blooded Dina, their unborn child would be more of a tool than anything.
Grisha and Zeke
If there is one thing that most fans agree on, its that Grisha was a horrible father to Zeke. As mentioned above, Zeke’s royal blood made him the one beacon of hope that the restorationists had. Despite knowing how it feels to be wronged by your own parents, Grisha’s greed came in his way of being a good father to Zeke.
Grisha has no regards to Zeke’s own aspiration, both him and Dina pinning all their hopes on him. Children, despite their age, can understand things very well which can coerce them into behaving in certain ways. Zeke was slowly getting burdened and developed low self esteem.
With Zeke, Grisha spent most of his time undoing the educational propaganda of Marleyans. While Zeke understood the “role” he had to play, luck wasn’t on his side. Neither physically gifted or sharing the grit of his comrades, Zeke was left behind.
What does Grisha do? Lose hope in him.
It is important to stress on the fact that Grisha saw Zeke more as a pawn than a human being. Its blatantly obvious with how he argues with Dina over Zeke’s incompetency. Worse, he walked away from his own son as he saw him fail. Now, fathers like him are very common in our world as well, but can his ideals give him the pass to emotionally break his own flesh and blood?
However, once the traumatic events of arresting and inheriting the Attack Titan happened, Eren Kruger asked Grisha to do a task which almost sounded more difficult than unearthing the secrets of Paradis- to have a family. Leaving him with an ominous statement about a certain Mikasa and Armin, Kruger passes his legacy onto Grisha.
Grisha and Eren
Grisha did a complete 180 with his fathering of Eren. Be it the fear of being outed by another son, or just realising the mistake he made, Grisha was an ideal father for Eren.
In fact, the change was so big that Zeke couldn’t wrap his head around it. Grisha raised Eren to embrace his own qualities and do as he wishes. Grisha was now aware that letting a child grow into his own person is essential. He let Eren be a hot headed boy with a sense of duty. Grisha told Eren he would take him to the basement, defending his inquisitiveness while Carla was on her toes due to Eren’s recklessness.
We feel even more awed by Grisha, who seemed impassive of Eren’s desire. That is what we thought.
Its only in chapter 121 that we see how horrified Grisha was at what Eren said. He knew that this thought process was self destructive; he would never want his son to go down the same path. This is probably where it all clicks for him. Knowing he would have no choice but to do what he was meant to, he made his way to the Chapel.
His domestic paradis(e) came to an end with the breaking down of the wall in 845. We do, however, see a big shift in his thinking. Before this, he was fine with shortening Zeke’s life for a purpose. This time, he begs to Freida to let his son live on. This shows that he probably learnt his lesson, and wanted to explore the option of negotiating so he could prevent Eren from getting involved.
And again, we see Grisha putting his job onto his other son before allowing himself to be eaten. This propels Eren on the bloodiest path taken by a man in that world, which ultimately leads to his own death.
Grisha failed as a father, again. But was this all his doing?
The fate of Grisha Yeager
With that being said, Eren and Grisha’s relation is much more complex. Taking in account to the downfall that inheriting the Attack Titan brings, it was inevitable that objectively he would fail as a father as he ultimately threw his son into the sharp claws of death.
Since the Attack Titan could see the future, it automatically made current inheritors act in a way that would lead to the desired outcome. Eren having two friends by the name of Mikasa and the memories Grisha must’ve seen were all writings on the wall. One day, Grisha would have no choice but to sacrifice his son for this cause.
There is a stark difference between both Zeke and Eren’s decisions. While Zeke going down this path could have been avoided, Eren’s fate was inevitable.
Would Grisha, after seeing what happened with Zeke, willingly shove Eren down this path? Absolutely not. He was just lucky that this son of his inherited his own rebellious streak that made him the perfect candidate for the job. Despite so, Grisha’s tears before transforming Eren are proof that if there were a way to avoid this, he most probably would’ve. In fact, his hesitancy in taking action against Freida is also proof.
Zeke was in for a surprise when viewing his memories; Grisha never treated Eren wrong. This plain shock only affirms just how bad of a father Grisha was to Zeke, and it makes you feel worse for him. Zeke wouldn’t need to “save” Eren after all.
Ever since Chapter 114, Grisha’s vile actions have made him lose respect among readers. However, it is his love for Eren that makes us walk on a tightrope; unable to understand what to make of Grisha.
With the conclusion of the story, all of Attack on Titan was a big Butterfly Effect. Every event has had a repercussion felt until the end. Therefore, were Grisha’s actions just fate? Something that just had to happen for Zeke to ultimately oppose an almost deranged Eren?
A Saving Grace
In the end, it turns out that Grisha did harbour lots of love for Zeke. While it is hard to establish whether it was out of regret or he loved him all along but got blinded by revenge; he confesses his true feelings. When going on his way to work, a panel shows Grisha walking past a father and son playing catch. This is symbolic to Zeke and Tom’s game, along with his final words to Zeke when he “sees” him.
Most of all, Grisha admits he was a terrible father. This acknowledgement is testament of his character development.
Playing catch with one’s father is a defining memory of childhood for many. In a picture perfect childhood, it is essential. Therefore, Grisha telling Zeke he regrets not bonding with him shows us that he was now a changed man. He leaves his will onto Zeke, wanting him to stop Eren from doing what is bound to happen.
This trust, along with the pain stricken face of a man who lost his all highlights Grisha’s inner emotions. From being dismissive of Zeke’s capabilities to now entrusting him with saving the world. Grisha came a long way.
Regardless, Tom maintained his special place in Zeke’s heart, understandably so. Apologising would not really make up for the damage Grisha caused, but it brings us peace knowing that he managed to tell his estranged son his true feelings.
(But, I think we all agree that none of the Yeager men were cut out to be fathers. I am glad Eren is not the father of Historia’s child.)
Grisha is one of the most well written fathers, showing many realistic traits of fathers who push their aspirations onto their offsprings. Grisha’s role as a father is not only crucial to the plot but keeps us on our toes as well. No matter how the story turned out, we can only assume that Grisha would now be at peace.
No Father’s Day cards for him, though.