What do you love the most about Erwin?
Dear Anon, I’ve had your ask in my in box for weeks (months?) now, but I haven’t been ignoring it, quite the opposite. I’ve been hoarding it like treasure. Every so often I take it out and admire it, then I put it back in the box to keep it safe, because it’s precious and to be honest I hardly know where to start with this. However you deserve an answer so let me try.
Apart from the obvious, ahem, aesthetic appeal, I am in awe of Erwin’s vision. He has an unnerving ability to look past the obvious, the superficial, to see the potential that most people are unwilling to see and don’t even bother looking for. He did it with the Survey Corps, he did it with Levi, with Eren, with Hanji and Historia. Without Erwin’s vision, without his belief, the Survey Corps would have been decimated long before Shiganshina, the corrupt nobility wouldn’t have been overthrown, Hanji wouldn’t have become the 14th Commander, Historia would never have taken the throne, Levi would have remained a petty criminal in the Underground and Eren would have ended up as so much meat on the autopsy table. By any measure, that’s an impressive record for just one man. Levi wasn’t wrong when he said that Erwin is gazing up at something he can’t even see.
But vision is something you admire rather than love so the things I love most about Erwin are his self less courage, his humility and his enduring humanity.
By courage I don’t just mean his unfailing willingness to lead from the front and put himself directly in the line of fire. I mean the courage to make the hard decisions that every military commander has to make, the decisions that send soldiers, comrades and friends to their death; the courage to keep making those decisions over and over and over again, even though every death weighs heavily on his conscience and the guilt keeps dragging him down. Erwin just shoulders the despair and keeps on going, that’s what military commanders do, and its only at the bitter end that we see that toll that it takes on him as a man.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing is that Erwin does all this without the slightest question or complaint. There is not an arrogant bone in Erwin’s body. He is willing to play the role required of him; to be the monster, the devil, the fraud. The commander with the heart of stone who sends men to their death without even blinking. And it’s only when he finally breaks that we see that beneath the implacable façade he is still just a man. A man who hurts and bleeds like every other man. A man who underneath it all is still just the child haunted by his father’s death.
And that’s really what I love most of all about Erwin, after all the war and guilt and sacrifice, he never looses his humanity. Every death touches him, every face is etched in his memory, but he still has the ability to connect to those he loves and respects. He never looses the capacity to love. Right at the bitter end he is still able to open his heart to Levi and lay it all before him. And if that’s not a reason to love the man then I don’t know what is.
There is poem that was often quoted in my previous Age of Sail fandom, Kipling’s The Song of the Dead, and though I’m no fan if Kipling, there is a line in it that always makes me think of Erwin
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we have paid in full.
paid the price in full, but he never lost his humanity, and that dear Anon, is
what I love about him the most.