Image source: maidigitv on YouTube

The world of Attack on Titan is a fascinating and horrifying place. Man-eating giants roam the land with the last of humanity holed up in a walled city. It’s like something out of ancient legend. Actually, it just might be.

Attack on Titan is one of the anime world’s biggest smash hits right now. Author Hajime Isayama stated in a 2013 interview that some of his direct influences in creating the story were the manga series ARMS and Jigoku Sensei Nube. However, as the story of Attack on Titan has played out, another, older possible source of inspiration has appeared: Norse mythology.

Here are some of the potential Norse mythology influences on Attack on Titan.

[Note: This article contains major spoilers for Attack on Titan (both the anime and manga).]

Ymir

In the second season of Attack on Titan, Ymir’s reveal as a shapeshifter titan came out of the blue for most people. However, people who are well versed in their Norse mythology will know that Ymir is the name of the first giant. In Norse mythology, Ymir gave birth to the race of giants known as Jötunn (see below). The Ymir of Norse mythology was torn apart and the pieces were used to make the the nine realms. As we are shown in the Attack on Titan manga, the first Titan was also named Ymir: Ymir Fritz. She was the first Titan and the progenitor of the Titan race. Upon her death, her “soul” was split into parts and inherited by nine different people who became able to transform into Titans at will.

Image source: アニメ「進撃の巨人」公式アカウント on Twitter

Jötunn

Giants appear in various mythology, namely in Greek and Norse mythology where they are known as Titans or Jötunn, respectively. The relationship these beings have with the gods is rather complex. At times adversarial and at times peaceful, in the end, they are enemies of the gods, destined to a final war that will consume them all. Similarly, the recent developments in Attack on Titan show that the relationship humanity has with the titans is also not as straightforward as initially thought. While the term “Titan” comes from Greek mythology, considering the more abundant use of Norse references, it makes more sense that the titans are inspired in substance if not by name more by Norse mythology than Greek (Imagine, if the series were titled Attack on Jötunn…)

Castle Utgard

The abandoned fortress that members of the Survey Corps hole up in during the search for a breach in Wall Rose in episode 28 of the anime. Utgard, or Útgarðr, in Norse mythology is the name of a Jötunn stronghold in Jötunheimr, the realm of the giants.

Image source: アニメ「進撃の巨人」公式アカウント on Twitter

The Walled City

In Attack on Titan, the last of humanity lives within a walled city that has three main walls, the Wall Sina, the Wall Rose, and the Wall Maria. As discovered at the end of the first season and covered in the second season, the walls which protect humanity from the titans are themselves made out of petrified titans. Humans are using titans to protect themselves from titans.

In Norse mythology, the realm of the gods, Asgard, is surrounded by an incomplete wall. The wall itself was built by a Jötunn whom the gods employed. The wall remained incomplete by trickster god Loki’s manipulation to allow the gods to have the wall without paying the Jötunn builder his reward. The realm of the gods is protected by a Jötunn wall.

Another possible reference in Norse mythology is the realm of Midgard, the realm of humanity. According to Norse mythology, the realm of Jötunheimr surrounds the realm of Midgard. Humanity lives surrounded by the realm of the Jötunn.

Ragnarök

The cataclysmic war between the gods and the Jötunn. In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is pretty much the end of world as we know it. Many prominent characters/gods die and the world is enveloped in chaos before settling and starting anew. The events of Attack on Titan are obviously moving towards some kind of ending, be it a showdown to eradicate the titans or restore what was the status quo at the beginning of the entire series, or the end of everything. Whatever it is, it will probably be traumatic.

Additionally, some fans have speculated that Attack on Titan’s story is actually a post-Ragnarök-ish event story or a loop, pointing at Eren’s initial tear-inducing foggy memories from the very first episode.

Image source: アニメ「進撃の巨人」公式アカウント on Twitter


There are potential parallels between characters and events of Attack on Titan and Norse mythology—Mikasa as a Valkyrie, the Beast Titan as Skrymir, etc. Some are far-fetched while others are almost fascinatingly serendipitous—like the fact that Yggdrasil, the world tree, connects the nine realms and the tree Eren wakes up under in the first episode of the manga happens to have nine branches. Despite any sources or references, though, at the end of the day, what makes all this speculation fun is the fact that Attack on Titan is an entertaining and captivating story. It may have its references, but at its heart it’s still its own story.

Attack on Titan can be viewed with English dialogue on FUNimation or with English subtitles on Crunchyroll in the US and on AnimeLab in AU/NZ.

Comments (3)
  1. This was a really cool article good job. Never really thought about the whole Norse Mythology in the series.

    • Why thank you!

  2. Yeah we’ve been told about this in religious studies. A few people who I take classes with also watch attack on titan, and when our teacher told us, we just screamed “Ymirs people are coming!”

    We got sent to the rector, but it was worth it.

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