"The Avatar must be compassionate towards all people, and the only way to do that is to live with them. The Avatar must experience sadness, anger, joy, and happiness. By feeling all these emotions, it helps you understand how precious human life is, so you will do anything to protect it."
Fully Realized Avatar
Unnamed fire Avatar
The Avatar possesses an innate connection to the Spirit World and uses it as a bridge by which to reconcile the two worlds and ensure harmony. The Avatar is also capable of using this ability to contact the spirits of previous Avatars and harness their combined energy to perform feats of bending beyond that of any other bender. Throughout the ages, countless incarnations of the Avatar have served to maintain harmony in the world.
Each nation has a method of recognizing the new Avatar. Among the Air Nomads, this involved presenting all infants with a selection of toys to play with and watching for a child that selected four specific toys that had belonged to past Avatars, called the four Avatar relics. Traditionally, the child is told of his identity as the Avatar on his sixteenth birthday. However, Avatar Aang was told much earlier than this because of Fire Nation aggression, and Korra was discovered as the Avatar when she was still a little girl when she was seen bending three elements without formal training.
The Avatar also possesses the ability to bend energy, though very few Avatars have learned this technique, and even fewer have used it. Avatar Aang learned this technique from the last living lion turtle and used it to remove Phoenix King Ozai's firebending, thereby ending the Hundred Year War, and again to end Yakone's reign of terror in Republic City by stripping him of his waterbending. Korra was also taught this ability after being able to contact Aang when she lost her bending. Aang used this ability to restore her bending and she likewise did the same for Lin Beifong.
When the Avatar masters control of the Avatar State, they are commonly said to be a 'Fully Realized Avatar'. However, it has not yet been confirmed whether mastery of the four elements, namely water, earth, fire and air, is required for this status as well.
Avatar Cycle Edit
The reincarnation of the Avatar is controlled by the Avatar Cycle of the elements: water, earth, fire, air. The cycle is based on the passage of the four seasons (water is winter, earth is spring, fire is summer, and air is autumn).
When an Avatar dies, the next Avatar will be born into the next nation in the Avatar Cycle; for example, Avatar Yangchen from the Air Nomads was followed by Avatar Kuruk from the Northern Water Tribe, who was followed by Avatar Kyoshi from the Earth Kingdom, who was followed by Avatar Roku from the Fire Nation, who was followed by Avatar Aang from the Air Nomads. Once Aang died, the Avatar reincarnated as Korra born in the Southern Water Tribe.
The Avatar Cycle also determines the order in which each Avatar must learn the four bending disciplines. The Avatar begins by mastery of his native element, so an Avatar born into the Water Tribe would first learn waterbending. The Avatar then goes on to learn the three remaining bending disciplines in the order of the cycle; the Water Tribe Avatar would first learn waterbending, then earthbending, then firebending, and finally airbending, in that order. Due to his unique situation, however, Avatar Aang tried to learn fire as his second element, first with Jeong Jeong, who originally objected because of the cycle, but ended up learning firebending last after prematurely ending his training with Jeong Jeong.
Known Avatars Edit
The known Avatars in the order of current to oldest are:
- Korra (Water Tribe, Southern Water Tribe)
153 ASC - Present
- Aang (Air Nomads, Southern Air Temple)
12 BSC - 153 ASC
- Roku (Fire Nation, Roku's island)
82 BSC - 12 BSC
- Kyoshi (Earth Kingdom, now Kyoshi Island)
312 BSC - 82 BSC
- Kuruk (Water Tribe, Northern Water Tribe)
c. 340 - 312 BSC
- Yangchen (Air Nomads, Western Air Temple)
Unknown - c. 340 BSC
- Unnamed fire Avatar (Fire Nation)
Simultaneous bending Edit
The Avatar is capable of bending more than one element at the same time. Avatar Aang first demonstrated this ability while stranded in the desert, when he bent water from a cloud into Katara's water pouch while flying with airbending at the same time, and again in Ba Sing Se when he used his earthbending to recreate a zoo while traveling on the air scooter made by his airbending.
During the battle with Ozai, Aang used all four elements while in the Avatar State to make himself nearly invincible and used the elements in a highly destructive attack. This consisted of him first bending air into a spherical shield around himself like he normally does while in the Avatar State, but then using firebending to create flames and then compressing the flames into a ring around the air shield. Next, Aang broke incredibly large chunks of earth using earthbending and compressed these boulders into small rocks and suspended them lined up in a ring encircling him. Finally, he used waterbending and compressed water into the final ring around him. The compression of the elements provided Aang with materials for bending all four elements without sacrificing too much size and speed, thus making this an extremely dangerous attack both defensively and offensively.
Avatar manifestation Edit
A previous incarnation of the Avatar can manifest itself through the current Avatar. There are two ways to do this.
Full manifestation Edit
Full manifestation is when a past Avatar possesses the body of the current incarnation. It can happen by force of another Avatar, or when the current Avatar calls upon one of its past lives. The past Avatar being summoned will temporarily replace the appearance and abilities of the current incarnation with theirs.
Partial manifestation Edit
This type of manifestation allows an Avatar to call another Avatar's spirit out of their body for communication purposes, revealing an apparition of the previous incarnation being called for.
Avatar State Edit
- "The Avatar State is a defense mechanism, designed to empower you with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars. The glow is the combination of all your past lives, focusing their energy through your body. In the Avatar State, you are at your most powerful, but you are also at your most vulnerable. If you are killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken and the Avatar will cease to exist."
- ―Roku to Aang.
The strongest and most powerful ability that the Avatar can invoke is the Avatar State. It allows the Avatar to channel vast cosmic energies and the knowledge of previous Avatars, enabling them to perform especially powerful and extraordinary bending feats. The Avatar may unconsciously enter the state in response to perception of mortal danger, utilizing the state as a defense mechanism, or emotional distress. While in the state, the Avatar has access to bending techniques they themselves may not have yet learnt, but have no conscious control over their actions and can cause great collateral damage. An Avatar with full mastery of the Avatar State has conscious control over the state and can enter and exit it at will. For an Avatar with complete mastery, their eyes will glow momentarily, not continuously. It was by entering the Avatar State reflexively that Aang was able to freeze himself and Appa inside an iceberg for a hundred years by using a combination of airbending and waterbending. He did not physically age at all during the century, as he was in suspended animation, but it took a great physical toll on his body after being in the Avatar State for such an extended period of time.
While in the Avatar State, the Avatar's eyes glow, as do any markings following chi paths along the body, such as Air Nomad tattoos; however, if the body has received an injury deeper than the tattoos, then that specific area will not glow in the state. The glow is the combination of all the Avatar's past lives, focusing their energy through a single body. When Aang spoke in the Avatar State, his voice encompassed a combination of several different voices at once.
It is possible for an Avatar to control the Avatar State, as Aang, Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen, and the unnamed Fire Nation Avatar have demonstrated in numerous flashbacks, but this requires great spiritual discipline and concentration. Guru Pathik attempted to teach Aang to control the Avatar State by helping him clear his chakras, but Aang could not let go of Katara in exchange for cosmic power, and Fire Sage Kaja informed Roku to clear his mind, but Roku found emptying his mind of thoughts to be quite challenging and was initially unable to do so. More often, the Avatar State is activated by danger or emotional turmoil. Aang inadvertently entered the Avatar State when he discovered that his friend and teacher, Monk Gyatso, was killed by Fire Nation soldiers. Aang entered the Avatar State when General Fong placed Katara in danger by sinking her into the ground with earthbending. When an Avatar is in complete control of the Avatar State, their eyes glow momentarily, not continuously.
It is possible for an Avatar to channel a specific previous incarnation while in the Avatar State. When this happens, the Avatar briefly takes on the appearance and voice of that previous incarnation. Aang did this on several occasions, channeling Roku twice, and Kyoshi once. The appearance of these incarnations seems to vary as Roku always appeared as an old man while all the other Avatar incarnations appeared youthful and in their prime. It is unlikely the age of the Avatar's death is the deciding factor in their appearance since Avatar Kyoshi lived for 230 years and would not have kept a young appearance at that time. It is possible that those in the Spirit World manifest visually as they see themselves and not as they currently are. Aang saw himself garbed in Air Nomad attire and with a shaved head within the Spirit World, even when he was wearing different clothes in the physical world and had hair.
It appears that the Avatar State is capable of nullifying the effects of bloodbending, as Aang dispelled Yakone's bloodbending by entering the state.
Ways the Avatar State works Edit
There seems to be two distinct ways to how the Avatar State works:
When the State works continuously, the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar, glow white constantly, and the spirits of the past Avatars actively channel their energy, skills, and knowledge through the body of the current Avatar, granting him or her great amounts of strength and power.
The State works this way almost exclusively when it is triggered as an instinctive, unconscious reaction, a 'defense mechanism' for when an Avatar is confronted with a threat beyond what they can deal with, or when their emotions, specifically rage and sorrow, reach a breaking point. So it may perhaps be more accurate to describe the State being used this way as 'reflexively' rather than 'continuously'. When the State is triggered this way the combined spirits of the past Avatars seem to take control of the Avatar's body and voice, thus the current Avatar has little to no control over the performed actions and may retain little to no memory of what happened, though this is not always the case.
Aang appeared to use the State this way against Fire Lord Ozai after the scar on his back was forced against a rock unlocking his final chakra. Just as Guru Pathik had said, this event led to Aang being able to control the State himself, and unlike previous times where he entered the State, he was not physically exhausted.
When the State is used non-continuously, the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar, glow only for a second, and during that time the current Avatar stores the knowledge and energy needed so that it can be released once exiting the State, taking only the power needed for a specific task. This reduces the danger of being killed in the Avatar State and enables a more willful, controlled use of the Avatar State's power. This can only be done by an Avatar who has mastered the State as it is a conscious use rather than an instinctual response. Mastery of this technique is part of what distinguishes an Avatar as "fully realized".
The Avatar State also allows an Avatar to join with certain spirits. This was demonstrated when Aang entered the Avatar State in order to aid the frantic Ocean Spirit. Both Aang in his Avatar State and the Ocean Spirit combined their abilities to defend the Northern Water Tribe after all waterbenders were rendered defenseless. All Avatars can make these contacts by spiritually calling to different spirits.
While the Avatar is all but invincible in the Avatar State, having millions of bending experiences, there is one grave weakness - while in effect, every Avatar, or the entirety of the earth's spirit, is present in the physical world while the current Avatar is in the Avatar State. If the Avatar were to be killed while in the Avatar State, every Avatar would die with them. This would break the cycle permanently and the Avatar would cease to exist.
Aang was fatally wounded by a lightning strike from Azula while entering the Avatar State. As a result, his connection with the Avatar Spirit was jeopardized, resulting in the Avatar Spirit's fall from the plane of existence. Fortunately, Katara was able to use the Spirit Water she received from Pakku to heal Aang, reviving Aang and consequently the Avatar Spirit. The strain of the revival caused Aang to slip into a coma for several weeks, and during that time, he managed to secure his connection to the Avatar State by meeting with the four Avatar incarnations before him. However, it took longer for his connection to his past lives to be completely restored.
Another downside to the Avatar State is the considerable mental strain it can cause to less experienced Avatars. Prior to his tutelage under Guru Pathik, Aang would often leave the Avatar State feeling horrified at what he had done under its influence. Furthermore, use of the state, at least in extraordinary circumstances, can place such a large physical strain on an Avatar's body such that their life span can be affected; thus, Aang's one hundred-year time in the iceberg contributed greatly to his eventual death at sixty-six years of age biologically, and 166 years chronologically.
Known incidents of use Edit
- Kyoshi entered the Avatar State in her battle versus Chin. Using the Avatar State masterfully (non-continuous usage), Kyoshi split her homeland from the mainland, creating Kyoshi Island. Kyoshi did this by breaking apart the land with earthbending, bringing up the lava in the ground with firebending and to break free of the mainland by airbending.
- Roku used the Avatar State on three known occasions: first when he initially learned to enter the state at the Fire Temple on the winter solstice, ending up destroying the temple, secondly in a short fight with Fire Lord Sozin, and thirdly in an attempt to stop a volcanic eruption.
Before 99 ASC Edit
- Aang used the Avatar State to save himself and Appa from their fall into the ocean. Both were sealed into an ice encrusted air pocket that eventually froze into an iceberg. Aang would remain in the State until he was released from the iceberg around one hundred years later, hinting at the incredible power available to the Avatar.
Winter 99 ASC Edit
- Aang used the Avatar State to escape another fall into the ocean and to stop Zuko. He waterbent a water spout in the form of a twister.
- Aang later went into the Avatar State after witnessing the skeleton of his former mentor Monk Gyatso. In his anguished-induced state, he generated hurricane-force winds. In this event, it is shown that depictions of previous Avatars (such as sculptures or murals) may react to the Avatar state, even when far away, glowing in the same manner that the Avatar in the image would.
- When Aang met Avatar Roku in the fire temple, Roku helped him and friends escape by directly taking over Aang's body and activating the volcano underneath the temple.
- Aang almost entered into the Avatar State while telling Katara that Monk Gyatso and he were to be separated.
- Aang entered the state after saving Sokka and a fisherman, rounding up everyone that fell into the ocean and pulling them out of the water into the calmness of the storm's eye.
- During the Siege of the North, Aang combined the Avatar State's power with the spirit of the Ocean, La, after all waterbenders were rendered powerless, and proceeded to lay waste to the Fire Nation fleet besieging the city.
Spring 100 ASC Edit
- Aang entered the Avatar State when General Fong used earthbending to bury Katara underground to force Aang into the Avatar State. He used airbending to knock the general to the floor, rose into the air on a tornado, and crashed down to the earth, releasing a powerful earthbending attack on the general, his guards, and his fortress. A small air sphere surrounded Aang before the spirit of Avatar Roku took him to the Spirit World to explain to him about the true nature of the Avatar State. In several flashbacks, Avatar Kyoshi, Avatar Kuruk, Avatar Yangchen, and an unnamed fire Avatar were seen in the Avatar State.
- Aang entered the Avatar State when infuriated at a group of sandbenders for kidnapping Appa. A large air sphere surrounded him, lifting him up into the air, but was brought down by Katara, who grabbed his arm and embraced him.
- While battling in Ba Sing Se, Aang finally was willing to give up Katara to open the last chakra and willingly go into the Avatar State, but he was soon struck by lightning from Azula.
Summer 100 ASC Edit
- Aang suffered a blow to the back while fighting Phoenix King Ozai in the same spot where Azula struck him with lightning, reopening his chakra and enabling him to effectively use the Avatar State. He collected all four elements and compressed them in a sphere around him, moving at incredible speed, plowing straight through obstacles whereas Ozai had to dodge said obstacles. The sphere could be used both for offense and defense. Since the sphere contained all four elements, it allowed Aang to earthbend and waterbend while away from a source. After the fight was over, Aang used it once again; pulling in the ocean to put out the fire at Wulong Forest, before lowering the tide back again, this time entering a momentary glow with realized control.
After the Hundred Year War Edit
- During a confrontation with Fire Lord Zuko over Yu Dao, Aang entered the Avatar State with intent to fulfill his promise to kill the Fire Lord if he became like Ozai, though was brought out of it by Katara.
- During the Battle for Yu Dao, Aang entered the Avatar State once more to stop the Earth King and Fire Lord's armies from reaching Yu Dao by creating a massive chasm around it. When he did this, he made a sphere with all four elements reminiscent of his fight with Ozai.
- Aang went into the Avatar State twice non-continuously to defeat Yakone and used his energybending to take the criminal's bending away.
Book One: Air Edit
- Korra entered the Avatar State after having her bending abilities unlocked by the spirit of Avatar Aang when "she was at her lowest point". She formed an air spout to lift herself into the air, and released air, fire and earth rings around her before forming a large wave from the ocean below her and sending it crashing against the cliff.
- Korra entered the Avatar State again while using energybending to restore Lin Beifong's earthbending abilities.
Book Two: Spirits Edit
- Korra uses the Avatar State (continuously) to win an air scooter race against Tenzin's children. Tenzin then admonishes her for abusing her power.
- Korra uses the Avatar State while encountering an unnamed spirit.
Aang did not enter the Avatar State during meditation and harmony with the spirits around him, but his tattoos and eyes glow in the same way. In this method, he visited the Spirit World with his own spirit, leaving his body a defenseless shell in the real world. An example of this was seen at the North Pole.
Known incidents of meditation Edit
- Roku meditated in the temple on Crescent Island to enter his Avatar State.
- Aang meditated into the Spirit World to find a way to save the North Pole.
- Aang meditated on Avatar Roku's home island to meet him in the Spirit World. Curiously, when Aang was shown from a non-Spiritual World perspective after crossing over, his tattoos were not glowing, which differed from previous occasions when his tattoos remained glowing.
- Aang meditated on the lion turtle to get some advice from his past lives on what he should do when facing Fire Lord Ozai.
- Aang meditated before meeting Zuko in Yu Dao to ask Roku for some advice when he sees Zuko.
- Korra meditated while kidnapped by Tarrlok to find out more about Aang and Yakone.
- The term "Avatar" comes from the Sanskrit word Avatāra, (Sanskrit: अवता), which means "descent". In Hindu mythology, gods manifest themselves into Avatars to restore balance on earth, usually after a period of great evil.
- The Avatar State was much more simplistic in the unaired pilot; Aang put himself in danger to activate it and seemed to be able to exit the state at will, seemingly indicating mastery. In the eventual show, the concept of the Avatar State was much more complex as the Avatar reincarnation is not born with mastery of the state and it activates only when the Avatar is in real danger or from extreme emotion.
- Stopping the Avatar State during its reflexive use might not represent mastery of the Avatar State but rather the ability to harness the Avatar State's power momentarily and enter and exit the State at will more freely. Aang stopped the State himself a few times throughout the first series, initially at the Southern Air Temple following soothing words from Katara, as well as in "The Storm" when his tattoos only briefly glowed. He did it again in "The Desert" when he realized he had nearly taken his wrath out upon Katara, and finally when stopping himself from killing Ozai at Wulong Forest. The Promise Part 1 supports this, as Aang enters the Avatar State when Zuko starts to act like Ozai, snapping out of it when Katara reminded him he could do things he would later regret.
- Aang demonstrated little to no realization or memory as to what he was doing at various times during usage of the Avatar State, though at other times he was shown to have had such understanding and cognitive awareness of his surroundings. This was demonstrated when Katara's words alone brought him out of the Avatar State at the Southern Air Temple, when he experienced haunting nightmares regarding his actions at the North Pole, and after stopping himself from nearly harming Katara in the Si Wong Desert.
- It is not certain why tattoos on an Avatar's chi line are able to glow, as they are simply colors infused into their skin. An Avatar's skin does not glow if no tattoos are present.
- It has been stated by the series creators that Air Nomad tattoos glow when in the Avatar State because they follow chi lines in the body. Curiously, however, several Air Nomad Avatars were shown with only their eyes glowing.
- The glow while in the Avatar State was influenced from the anime FLCL, of which the creators are fans.
- In "The Southern Air Temple" with Avatar Extras bonus commentary, one of the commentary bubbles stated that the next Avatar will be decided by the season that they are born in and the cycle. If this is the case, this could show how long the Avatar Spirit must wait before choosing its next host after the last Avatar's death.
- Avatar Extras for "The Avatar and the Fire Lord" noted a recurring joke regarding those who battle Fully Realized Avatars as ending up "looking stupid", as shown when Chin the Conqueror challenged Avatar Kyoshi and ended up having all his clothes blown off, leaving him standing in front of his army in his undergarments before he fell to his death. When Fire Lord Sozin fought Avatar Roku, Sozin was left hanging from a stone pillar by the back of his robe. During the Battle at Wulong Forest, Ozai was left powerless and could barely move, being insulted by Toph, Sokka, and Suki.
- Aang went into the "continuous" Avatar State nine times during the course of the first series, but only once into the "non-continuous" state. Aang entered the "continuous" Avatar State once in The Promise and twice "non-continuously" in The Legend of Korra.
- The biological parents of the known Avatars before Avatar Korra were never seen or mentioned, with the exception of a shadowed glimpse of Aang's mother at his birth.
- Aang was the father of another airbender, Tenzin, who in turn was the father of the airbenders Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo. Subsequently, the next airbending Avatar will almost certainly be descended from him, due to his former status as the last remaining airbender and the one responsible for starting a new line of airbenders.
- Both Avatar Aang and Avatar Korra were taught by descendants of the previous Avatar. In Aang's case, Zuko (Roku's great-grandson) taught him firebending; in Korra's case, Tenzin (Aang's son) taught her airbending.
- When Aang went into the Avatar State at the Southern Air Temple, Avatar statues across the world lit up, signaling the return of the Avatar. It is unclear what triggers this phenomenon, seeing as Aang had been in the Avatar State for a hundred years and the statues did not light.
- The only Avatars mentioned to have descendants were Aang, Kyoshi, and Roku. Kyoshi had a daughter, Koko, with an unknown husband; Roku had children with Ta Min, of whom Ursa is a descendant (thus making Zuko and Azula descendants as well); and Aang had children with Katara.
- Korra was the youngest known Avatar to have learned her status; most Avatars are not told until they are sixteen, but Korra discovered the truth by the age of four. The only other known exception was Aang, who was told at age twelve.
- The only Avatars known to have an animal guide are Aang and Roku.
- Only Avatars Aang and Korra are shown traveling and working with a group of friends. Previous Avatars seemed to have worked alone.
- Both Avatars Aang and Korra are the only known Avatars to have achieved full realization without having full mastery of every element; Aang at the time showed room for improvement in earthbending and firebending, as evidenced by comments from Zuko and Toph, his firebending and earthbending teachers respectively; and Korra mastered three of the bending arts but achieved realization shortly after having unlocked her ability to airbend for the first time.
- Besides descendants in the cases of Kyoshi, Roku, and Aang, and parents in Korra's case, the only other Avatar's family members to be shown in either series are Korra's uncle, Unalaq, and her cousins, Desna and Eska.
- Because Avatar Roku explained the Avatar State as the combination of past Avatar lives, it is unlikely that the first Avatar had access to it.
- If the current Avatar is perceptible to it, a past life can manifest themselves into the current Avatar and control their body.
- Aang, Roku, and Kyoshi are all known to have had their own island residence. Aang created and lived on Air Temple Island, Roku lived on his island, and Kyoshi created and lived on Kyoshi Island.
- ↑ Michael Dante DiMartino stated in Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Art of the Animated Series, page 14, that "In the series bible, we [he and Bryan Konietzko] wrote that 'the Avatar is the incarnation of the Spirit of the Planet in human form,' though we later dropped that idea for the series"; however, no mention of the Avatar spirit's origin is made in the released version of the series bible.
On page 28 of the art-book, DiMartino further elaborates on the status of the series bible, saying that it is sixty-five pages in length. Contrarily, the released version of the bible, entitled "Avatar: The Last Airbender I.P. Bible", is only nine pages long (a download link for the bible can be found here).
Despite these claims, the original assertion apparently found in both series bibles must be considered true if one takes stock in a statement on an archived Nick.com page of the Wayback Machine, which one must do as all that is revealed by Nickelodeon is canonical. At this URL, within the tab titled "THE LEGEND" is a subsection (in itself another tab) that reads "THE AVATAR". Its response to the question of "What is the Avatar?" is "The Avatar is the incarnation of the Spirit of the Planet in human form."
Due to the fact that the Nick.com statement was released while the series was running, the information was technically a part of the series as well. Therefore, although even one of Avatar: The Last Airbender's creators seems not to believe so, DiMartino's conceptional idea of the Avatar reigns true, if inadvertently.