Koh the Face Stealer is one of the most ancient and knowledgeable spirits in all of the Spirit World. Nearly as old as the Ocean and Moon Spirits, he is the only known individual to remember them crossing over to the physical world, where they took the forms of koi fish. He is a malevolent entity with the body of an enormous centipede-like creature and resides under an ancient tree in the Spirit World. His self-chosen name reflects his ability to literally steal the faces of other beings who express emotion and he can use them at will by "blinking".
When Ummi and Avatar Kuruk were getting married, Koh lured Ummi to the Spirit World, where he stole her face and trapped her forever as punishment for Kuruk's arrogant ways. Kuruk was determined to end Koh's life, but when the two met, the past Avatar could not go through with it as he realized that bringing an end to the spirit would also destroy the love of his life. Despite Kuruk's vindictive actions, Koh himself held no personal grudge against Aang, as he was a different incarnation of the Avatar.
Aang appealed to Koh for information regarding the Moon and Ocean Spirits, Tui and La, when Koh warned the Avatar of impending danger the spirits faced. Aang asked for their location in the mortal world, but the spirit would not provide a clear answer and merely stated that they were opposites, forever revolving. When he told Aang that the boy had already met the spirits, the Face Stealer barely missed Aang's expression of epiphany when he realized that the identities of Tui and La were the koi fish in the Spirit Oasis.
Before Aang left, Koh stated they would meet again, which they did when Aang found himself in the Spirit World after being struck by Azula's lightning in the Crystal Catacombs of Old Ba Sing Se. During that encounter, Koh attempted to steal the young Avatar's face before he reconciled with the other past Avatars, but failed.
Koh is a perilous force who can be dangerous to meet. He has the ability to steal the face of anyone or anything that shows emotion to him, which is why those who are aware of his power attempt to remain inexpressive while in his presence. He possesses a sadistic personality, constantly trying to goad the slightest bit of emotion out of his visitors by frightening them with his monster-like appearance, or taunting them with his many faces.
However, Koh's actions suggest he was amoral rather than purely evil. He stole Ummi's face to punish Avatar Kuruk for his arrogance, but willingly told Aang the location of the Moon and Ocean Spirits and the danger they were in, and led him to his past Avatar lives. He is cryptic and often speaks in riddles.
These are some of the millions of faces stolen by Koh. They are listed as they appear in the picture, from left to right.
- A female Noh mask, a white face with red lips and gray eye markings. This was the face that Koh wore most often.
- A curly-tailed blue nose face from the faceless monkey Aang noticed outside Koh's lair.
- Ummi, a Southern Water Tribe woman with long wavy brown hair and brown eyes, who was the fiancée of Avatar Kuruk.
- A bearded and mustached man's face. This is based upon another Noh mask.
- An owl's face with light brown feathers and emerald green eyes.
- A blue oni face, reminiscent of the Blue Spirit mask worn by Zuko. Koh shifted to this face when expressing extreme emotion.
- An old man's face with a white mustache and blue eyes. This is another mask used in Noh theater.
- A young man's face with brown hair and gray eyes. He was a Fire Nation soldier.
|Mother of Faces||
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book One: Water (水)
Escape from the Spirit World
- "Chapter 1: Avatar Roku"
- "Chapter 2: Avatar Kyoshi"
- "Chapter 3: Avatar Kuruk"
- "Chapter 4: Avatar Yangchen"
Book Three: Fire (火)
- 319. "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters" (flashback, no lines)
- Koh stated that he stole Ummi's face "nearly eight or nine hundred years ago", when in actuality Avatar Kuruk lived only about four hundred years before.
- Even after Koh steals an individual's or animal's face, the creature still survives, as seen with a monkey who was still outside Koh's lair despite losing its face. This also holds true for beings in the human world (such as Rafa), though they will enter a state "somewhere between life and death" that can persist for years.
- His name resembles the Japanese word kao (顔, かお), which means "face".
- Koh's abilities are diametric to his mother's; he has the ability to steal faces, whereas she has the ability to give faces.
- Legends say that while on strained terms, Koh steals faces as a way to be close to his mother.
- Gene Yang, who considers Koh to be "one of the best villains ever created," wanted to find a way to include him in The Search due to the trilogy's prevalent theme of faces, thus making him happy to connect Koh with the Mother of Faces.