In the chaotic world of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), one of the most essential subplots revolves around a seemingly innocuous object — a key.
Yet, as any avid viewer will attest, this isn’t just any key, it’s Eren Jaeger’s basement key, an object that entwines the past, present, and future, and holds the key (pun intended) to unraveling the actual narrative of the world.
Eren’s Connection to the Key
The basement key is a deeply personal relic for Eren as it is entrusted to him by his father Grisha on that fateful day when the Colossal and Armored Titans breached Wall Maria.
It becomes a representation of Eren’s lost childhood and the mysteries surrounding his family. Grisha’s cryptic words — that the basement holds the truth of the world — instill an almost obsessive drive to return and unlock its secrets in the boy.
The Journey to the Basement
Eren and the Scouts’ mission to reach the basement and unveil its secrets acts as a primary motivator for many of the series’ initial arcs. This journey isn’t linear or easy.
The key becomes the group’s sole motivating factor as they face numerous detours, battles, and heartbreaks.
Whether it’s Eren’s capture by the enemy or the shocking revelations about Annie, Ymir, Reiner, and Bertholdt’s true Titan identities, the quest to unlock the basement’s secrets remains central to the narrative.
It is not until the end of season 3 that the Scouts reclaim Wall Maria and are free to explore the lower levels of Eren’s destroyed house.
When Eren, Mikasa, Levi, and Hange finally make their way to the basement after countless sacrifices and battles, they know the stakes are high and the tension is palpable.
They finally discover Grisha’s journals, which peel away layers of history, conspiracy, and the origin of the Titans. The world of Attack on Titan dramatically expands as the narrative shifts from a simple human vs. Titan conflict to a deeper tale of war, ethnicities, prejudices, history manipulation, and the cycle of hate.
The journals reveal that humanity isn’t extinct outside the walls, and an entire civilization thrives. The residents within the walls are descendants of the Eldian empire, who once ruled the world using the power of the Titans.
The key, in essence, unlocks a broader worldview, prompting the characters (and viewers) to question morality, history, and the nature of warfare.
From the beginning, the key around Eren’s neck serves as a vivid reminder of humanity’s lost past and the mysteries hidden beyond the walls.
It symbolizes hope, curiosity, and the unknown. Every time the story dives deep into the treacherous terrain of political schemes, Titan conflicts, or character relationships, the key reemerges as a unifying factor, reminding viewers of the overarching quest — to uncover the truth hidden in the basement.