When Hajime Isayama created Attack on Titan, he ushered us into a sprawling world of Titans, set on devouring all of mankind. Yet where did Hajime find inspiration for these walking behemoths and are there any other giants in mythology that can serve as models?
Hajime Isayama Loved Things Ugly
In a 2014 interview with the magazine Brutus, Isayama describes how he would doodle in his notebook during Junior High. “I was drawing ugly things exclusively.”
Originally, the Colossal Titan had a much different appearance. Isayama used a “30-Second Drawing” app and designed the giant with a stone body and covered in human teeth. Later, he felt the muscled figure would look cooler and switched it out.
Drunken Humans Became the First Titans
Isayama worked part-time at an Internet cafe where he would observe the patrons. Many had a look of bewilderment, as if their life had no purpose. He brought these ideas into the idea of the Titans.
One night, he encountered a drunk patron. Trying to communicate with this person became frustrating and pointless. Isayama was intrigued by “the lack of the ability to communicate even though the person was of the same species.” Thus the Titans were mute, bent on their desire to consume humans.
Cannibalistic Mona Lisa
The manga Jigoku Sensei Nube also inspired Isayama. This series followed a teacher, Nūbē, who used a technique called Demon’s Hand to counter supernatural threats. In issue 34, he took on a now familiar-looking cannibalistic Mona Lisa. The figure would come out of the painting and eat people whole, much like the Titans.
The Norse Jötnar Reveal the Founder, Ymir
In Norse mythology, a race of giants, called Jötnar, live in the land of Jötunheimar. The Jötnar were the enemies of the gods (much like the Titans are the enemies of humanity). Yet many Norse gods had children with these giants and the Jötnar are important to the end of the world, Ragnarök.
Additionally, the primordial being in Norse mythology is Ymir, who existed before any of the gods. This huge frost giant spent all his time slurping from the teets of a massive cow, Audhumbla.
Three of the Norse gods hated the Jötnar and especially the greedy and noisy Ymir. They attacked the original frost giant, and finally defeated Ymir. The three gods tore apart the body, using Ymir’s flesh to create the world, his blood to make the ocean and his bones to build the mountains. Ymir’s hair became mighty forests and his brain transformed into the clouds in the sky.
The Gashadokuro, or Heaped Bones of the Angry Dead
Japan is filled with magical beings called Yokai and the most monstrous of them all is Gashadokuro — a giant skeleton that roams the night, eating people.
Legend has it that soldiers or victims of a plague who do not receive a proper burial are reborn as ghosts. They die with anger in their hearts and this energy binds hundreds of bones together into a gigantic skeletal monster.
Their teeth clatter (giving them their name) but they can also be silent. If they find a human out late and alone, the gashadokuro will creep up and catch the unwitting traveler. The skeleton crushes its victims in their hands or bites off their heads.