Here’s what the tree at the end of Attack on Titan means:
The meaning of the tree at the end is left ambiguous on purpose.
It could be signifying that titan powers will rise again and create massive conflict anew.
It might be more symbolic suggesting that the struggles related to the titans are inevitable as long as life persists in the world.
So if you want to learn all about the meaning of the tree at the end of Attack on Titan, then this is article is for you.
Let’s jump right into it!
What Attack on Titan Tree?
Before we get into this, I need to issue a major spoiler warning.
The tree in question shows up in the final frames of the original manga, and this is a part of the story that has not been covered by the anime yet.
If you’re an anime-only fan, then there are major spoilers ahead.
If you haven’t finished the manga for any reason, there are major spoilers ahead.
You have been warned.
With that covered, let’s talk about this tree.
Trees actually show up a lot throughout the series, and they seem to carry some heavy symbolism.
The original titan actually stumbles across titan powers in a giant tree (which will be relevant a little later).
The tree I’m discussing today actually shows up in the final panels of the manga.
At the very end of the entire series, Mikasa kills Eren by taking his head.
She then slips away from the battlefield because she is worried that no one will allow her to give Eren a proper burial.
As she is leaving, she tells Armin that she’s going to take Eren to his favorite spot.
The manga skips ahead a bit, and we see Mikasa sitting under a tree.
Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Eren’s grave is under the tree too.
But, that’s not the end of the manga quite yet.
We continue to see the tree as buildings are constructed, and Mikasa is no longer there.
Another panel shows advanced skyscrapers built at the bottom of the hill where the tree resides.
Then, we see advanced aircraft bombing the city, and all of the skyscrapers are knocked down.
Time continues to pass, and we see the tree grow leaps and bounds taller than any others in the forest, and eventually, there are no signs of the destroyed city.
In the very last panel of the manga, the tree is there with an opening at the base, and a human and a dog are looking right at it.
That’s the very end of Attack on Titan.
What Does the Tree at End of Attack on Titan Mean? (4 Things)
So, what does it mean?
At the very least, the excessively tall tree in the middle of the forest sounds like a strong metaphor.
Throw in the character and their dog, and there are a lot of possible interpretations.
In fact, Googling this question, you’re likely to see a lot of answers.
Here’s the catch.
The ending was left a little ambiguous on purpose.
There is no definitive answer, but there are some popular ideas that do hold merit and are worth discussing.
I’ll take you through each of them in detail.
Along the way, remember that this was left up to the interpretation of the reader.
This kind of symbolism usually does that on purpose.
#1 The Tree That Ymir Found
The first thing to understand about the tree at the end is that it looks an awful lot like a tree we see earlier in the series, and this is definitely not a coincidence.
You might remember that Ymir was the first of the Eldians and the first person to ever have the powers of a titan.
Well, there’s a flashback in the series that shows us exactly how that came to be.
Ymir was a slave, and she was foraging.
As she wandered through the forest, she came across a giant tree with a hole in the trunk.
She walked in through the hole and immediately fell.
There was a giant pit under the base of the tree.
After Ymir fell, she was attacked by a creature that looks a lot like a centipede.
This centipede was the source of the titan power, and it’s also claimed to be the source of all life in the world of Attack on Titan.
The centipede merges with Ymir, and she becomes the founding titan.
Again, the tree at the end of the manga looks exactly the same, and there’s a character primed to enter the hole at its base.
You are probably already drawing your own conclusions, and this leads very nicely into the first popular idea.
#2 Titans Remain
The similarities between Eren’s tree and Ymir’s tree are definitely not coincidental.
Many readers are convinced that this panel is meant to show that the power of the titans remains in the world.
Despite everything that happened through the series and how the world changed, the power of the titans could not be destroyed so easily.
Instead, it was only removed from the Eldian people and went dormant until it could find a new host.
The symbolism behind this idea is that the power of the titans was never really under human control at all.
Such control was more of an illusion, and you can extend this into real-world implications.
Humanity often feels like it is in control of a lot of powerful things, such as our own technology, but power can be difficult to control.
In reality, great sources of power exist in their own ways, and we’re just along for the ride.
You can extend the philosophy however you like.
The real point is that the titan powers remain in the world, they will likely become active once more, and as compelling as the characters’ stories were, they were ultimately footnotes in the grand history of the world.
The titan power is greater than any one person who might try to wield it.
#3 A Time Loop
Some people take the idea of titan powers remaining and go further with everything.
This idea suggests that the entire world of Attack on Titan is basically in a time loop.
There are two ways to think about it.
The first is that everything literally repeats the exact same way over and over.
Towards the end of the series, Eren explains that for him, the past, present, and future all exist at the same time.
That and the powers of the attack titan suggest that nonlinear time progression is possible in this universe.
So, the idea is that the tree that grows from Eren’s grave is literally the same tree that Ymir finds.
Time is on a loop, and Eren’s struggles were really just to restart the time loop rather than really change things.
I’m not a huge fan of this because the character in the last panel is easily distinguished from Ymir.
You could argue that this unnamed character won’t actually go into the tree but that Ymir will later.
Still, I’m more partial to the competing theory that suggests that the world of Attack on Titan is cyclical in nature.
The character in the last panel will enter the tree and gain the powers and start a whole new cycle of titans and their related struggles.
Inevitably, that story will end with someone similar to Eren trying to remove the titan powers from their people.
It’s not a literal time loop, but the story plays out again and again with new characters and new variations each time.
Symbolically, you could relate this to the cyclical nature of life and the universe.
Again, you can extend things how you like, but the author might be suggesting that history is truly destined to repeat itself, at least to some extent.
#4 Just a Symbolism
The last explanation I’m going to get into is that the final panel isn’t so much about telling a story as it is using symbolism to convey ideas.
We don’t know if the character will enter the tree and become a titan.
Technically, we don’t even know that the tree is large because of titan powers.
It’s implied, but it’s not clearly stated.
So, instead of carrying the plot further, these final panels with the tree are trying to convey larger messages, and I have a few for you.
First, let’s remember that the power of the titans is also the source of all life in this world.
So, the fact that the titan power remains at the end of everything is proof that life truly survived the cataclysmic events of the story.
Life did in fact go on, and that could even be a hopeful message.
On the other hand, this symbolism (as discussed in the previous section) could be conveying the cyclical nature of life.
Life will continue after the end of the story, and the cycle of life includes violence and struggle.
Inevitably, if life persists, there will be new conflicts and wars, and nothing can truly stop that.
The next story doesn’t need to be identical to the one we just read, but there is no way to preserve life without also preserving the capacity for conflict.
In another manner of speaking, life includes pain among the good things, and no effort, no matter how extraordinary, can separate the cycle of life from the inevitability of pain.
That might sound dark, but if you view it from a symbiotic perspective, then it might suggest that the beauty of life and the pain of living are two sides of the same coin and both valuable.
That’s a lot of philosophy and symbolism for one day, so here’s a final thought.
What does all of this mean to you?