As much as I am grateful to have finally gotten Ymir’s backstory, there’s still something that’s got me curious and I can’t let go of: her titan form. Many people have noted her resemblance to the devil figure in the myth, both seen in Frieda’s book and the one Grisha’s father had.
I can’t readily brush this off as a coincidence. There was so much focus on her speculated relation to Ymir Fritz that her resemblance to the devil here got put on the back-burner.
There’s another peculiar matter that once received plenty of attention in the past: her resemblance to the titans of Zeke, Grisha, and Eren.
Now we know Zeke is indeed closely related to Grisha and Eren, and for the longest time I thought Ymir would also have some relation to the Jaegers, if distant. But there hasn’t been any blatant evidence pointing to that lately. She never knew what her family name was, which at least opens up that possibility.
Now, I have an absurd idea on how both these points relate: Ymir, Grisha, Zeke, and Eren are all direct descendants of the devil – the one from the legend of Ymir Fritz.
That isn’t to say all these characters are meant to be evil or something simple like that. After all, there is no absolute good or evil in this story. It’s more about their tendency to upset the status quo and act as keys to the story. At face value, that doesn’t have a direct relation to the role of the devil, but it takes some explaining.
I had been thinking of this particular interview with Isayama, where he referenced the epic poem Paradise Lost when discussing the role of the Colossal Titan as the God of the SnK world. Living in heaven meant perpetual happiness, but was also considered living as a slave to God. It’s clear how this notion relates to the SnK world: the people in the walls live contently in their own world, but it’s not something to be celebrated. The narrative frames that complacency in a negative light. Eren infamously referred to this style of living as being the same as cattle. They are ruled by the titans. The Colossal Titan isn’t the only godlike being – the 145th Fritz King is called that in story by Rod Reiss, along with any of the royals who held the Progenitor’s power over the years. Everyone’s freedom was restricted because the king chose not to fight and hid away in his own utopia, where he took the people’s memories…on an island called Paradis.
In the same interview, Isayama stated that those who chose to go outside the safety of the walls are the ones who have chosen freedom. They go into hell willingly rather than being confined to the king’s bastardized version of heaven. In Paradise Lost, those that chose the freedom of hell were called devils. From this perspective, being called a devil means you’re willing to fight rather than be complacent with the unjust world. They are the ones who initiate drastic change, even if it means causing chaos.
With that in mind, being a direct descendant of the devil symbolizes that ideology. The likes of Zeke, Grisha, Eren, and Ymir all act(ed) as keys which resulted in significant changes affecting the direction of the story. That isn’t to say they are the only ones that have done so, but this is specifically about them and their relation to the devil. Whatever that devil was, anyway.
Change isn’t always great, though. The devil in the legend gave Ymir Fritz the power to turn into a titan, and everyone of the same race as her had their biology altered to be able to do the same. After her death, the ensuing chaos for nearly 2000 years using that power was hardly anything good.
For that reason, Zeke is an interesting case. He isn’t on the side of the protagonists, so he isn’t fighting for their freedom. However, he is furious about the way of life in the walls that the king dictated. He, too, doesn’t approve of the king’s ideology to hide away from the world in a so-called utopia. There’s only disdain for those he perceives as being unimaginative and unchanging in their ways.
He’s at a crossroads of sorts, because he would be a direct descendant of both the devil and the Fritz line. The former represents chaos and change, while the latter is order and stagnation. Both of those can be for better or for worse, as seen with the king’s way of living in peace. Zeke’s got the chaotic part down, but he has no desire the help the Eldians. He’s gone with the Marleyan belief that these people must be wiped out. Even the 145th Fritz king believed his own people deserved to perish.
I’m personally a big supporter of the idea that Zeke will eventually help out Eren to use the coordinate, and recognize that his disdain for all Eldians is flawed. He wants to end the cursed history, but his way of doing so would only perpetuate the cycle of violence and revenge that’s been happening since the death of Ymir Fritz.
There’s also something amusing about Ymir, a descendant of the devil, falling in love with Historia, a descendant of the Fritz (I’m going back to the idea that Reiss = Fritz). Two bloodlines that symbolize completely different ideologies. The world is funny that way.