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Kuei

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This article is about the 52nd Earth King, Kuei. For other similar uses, see Earth King (disambiguation).
Kuei
Kuei
Biographical information
Alternative name(s)

The 52nd Earth King

Nationality

Ba Sing Se, Earth Kingdom

Ethnicity

Earth Kingdom

Age

25 (in Avatar: The Last Airbender)
26 (in The Promise trilogy)

Born

75 AG

Reign

79 - 100 AG
(temporary deposition 100 AG)
100 - Unknown AG

Predecessor

The 51st Earth King

Successor

Hou-Ting (as earth monarch)

Physical description
Gender

Male

Hair color

Black

Personal information
Allies

Earth Kingdom, Council of Five, Bosco, Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Appa, Earth Kingdom Royal Palace servants, Royal Earthbender Guards, Order of the White Lotus, Earth Kingdom Army, Freedom Fighters

Enemies

Fire Nation (formerly), Long Feng, the Dai Li, Azula, Ozai, Zuko (formerly), Yu Dao Resistance (formerly)

Chronological and political information
Position

Earth King

Affiliation

Earth Kingdom government

First appearance
Last appearance

The Search Part 1

Voiced by

Phil LaMarr

The 52nd Earth King, born Kuei, was the last Earth King of the Earth Kingdom before the Fire Nation occupation in 100 AG. For most of his early reign he was nothing more than a figurehead, with the true power residing with the city's Grand Secretariat, Long Feng.[2] Although he briefly regained full power following the involvement of Avatar Aang,[3] he was forced to flee Ba Sing Se after a coup orchestrated by the Dai Li and Princess Azula.[4]

Kuei returned to take his rightful place as Earth King after the Hundred Year War, and afterward tried his best to be a strong and benevolent ruler for his people to redeem his past mistakes. However, his new-found determination almost led Kuei to renew the war with the Fire Nation because of Fire Lord Zuko's refusal to remove his colonies from Earth Kingdom territory.[1] However, Team Avatar's intervention allowed the crisis to be solved peacefully.[5]

History

Life as figurehead

Main article: Conspiracy of Ba Sing Se

Ascending the throne at age four following his father's death, Kuei became one of the youngest Earth Kings. However, due to the monarch's youth, it was deemed appropriate to appoint the minister Long Feng as regent, a position from which he quickly assumed total control over Ba Sing Se. As such, for much of his reign the Earth King was a mere puppet of Long Feng, relying totally on his advice and unable to make simple decisions. The King had no knowledge of the Hundred Year War or anything beyond the confines of the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace. Only the Avatar would eventually reveal to the Earth King all the lies that he had been fed by Long Feng.[3]

Excluded from the decisions of government, Kuei dedicated his time to the pursuit of several hobbies. With a love of animals, he collected an extensive menagerie of creatures from all over the world, brought to him by the many expeditions of the Ba Sing Se University. His favorite pet by far was a rare bear named Bosco, whom he kept with him most of the time and seemed to be his only real companion. Kuei dedicated much of his time toward the animal, feeding it expensive meats, hosting parties, and ordering several unsuccessful expeditions to find Bosco a mate.

100 AG

Brief restoration of power

Long Feng advises

The Grand Secretariat, Long Feng, unsuccessfully tried to turn Kuei against the Avatar and his friends.

The Avatar and his allies, Katara, Sokka, and Toph Beifong, launched an attack on the Earth King's palace, battling past the Dai Li and the Earth King's royal guards. After getting to the King's throne room, the four told the King about the Hundred Year War and Long Feng's treachery. At first, the King did not believe them, but after the Avatar showed the King Appa's bite on Long Feng's leg, the King agreed to go with Aang and company, to see if their statements were true.

The four first took the King to Lake Laogai where the Dai Li secret headquarters used to have been. However, the Dai Li had already destroyed their base, and the Earth King remained skeptical of the children's efforts, encouraged by Long Feng. However, Aang managed to convince the Earth King to go to the Outer Wall, in exchange for a ride on Appa, showing him the drill, a massive Fire Nation war machine. Long Feng tried to cover it up as a construction project, but the Earth King was completely unconvinced. He ordered the Dai Li to arrest Long Feng; they obeyed, and Long Feng was taken prisoner for crimes against the Earth Kingdom.[3]

Later, the Earth King stayed in Ba Sing Se with Katara while Aang, Sokka, and Toph departed to the East. During a Council of Five war meeting on the invasion of the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun, while the Earth King was out of the throne room, Katara rushed in to warn the Kyoshi Warriors that Prince Zuko was in Ba Sing Se, and learned that the "warriors" were none other than Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai, the Fire Nation princess and her consorts. Ty Lee disabled Katara's bending and the waterbender was taken to the Crystal Catacombs of Old Ba Sing Se.[6]

Azula captures Kuei

Princess Azula threatened to kill the Earth King.

When Sokka and Toph returned to warn the Earth King, Azula and her consorts were revealed when Ty Lee started flirting with Sokka, who admitted he was into Suki, which led Ty Lee to breaking their cover by admitting she did not know who Suki was. While she fought Sokka and Mai fought Toph, Azula sneaked up behind the Earth King and threatened to kill him with blue fire, and they too were captured. However, Toph used metalbending to get them out of the Dai Li prison while Aang and Iroh rescued Katara and Zuko in the Crystal Catacombs. Toph and Sokka prepared to evacuate the city with the Earth King, as the Dai Li were launching a coup, but the Earth King refused to leave without Bosco. Toph and Sokka faced Ty Lee and Mai in a battle and won, and took Bosco. The Earth King, his pet, and the two children fled Ba Sing Se, but not before picking up an injured Katara and Aang, who fought against Azula, the Dai Li, and Zuko, who turned to Azula's side in the end. As the quintet left Ba Sing Se, the Earth King remarked, sadly, "The Earth Kingdom ... has fallen."[4]

Deposition and return to power

Kuei and Bosco

After Ba Sing Se was conquered, King Kuei and Bosco opted to travel the world.

At the Southern Water Tribe warriors' camp at Chameleon Bay, the Earth King chopped up Bosco's dinner and fed it to the bear using chopsticks. The next morning, Kuei read an encyclopedia to Bosco, teaching the bear how to live in the wild. Sokka grabbed the encyclopedia and tore it up, saying he would personally teach Bosco how to live like a real bear. However, after a day of unsuccessful attempts to train him, Sokka called the whole endeavor a waste of time. Kuei remarked that he had learned something, though: he realized that there was a lot in the world he did not know about, just like how Bosco did not know how to be a "good bear". Kuei proclaimed that he would experience the world as a humble man, as he and Bosco ripped off their royal garments. Kuei jumped onto Bosco's back, and the two rode away.[7] Kuei spent the following a period of time after his deposition traveling around the world in exile with his bear. During this period, he hoped to come to better understand the life of peasants outside the palace.[8]

At the end of the Hundred Year War, Kuei returned to his rightful place as the Earth King after Ba Sing Se was liberated by the Order of the White Lotus and Ozai was defeated by Aang. As part of his new commitment to more hands-on ruling, he immediately began a project to dismantle the remaining Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom. This project, called the Harmony Restoration Movement, got off to a good start and was approved by the new Fire Lord, Zuko. However, a year into it, problems in Yu Dao, the first Fire Nation colony, led Zuko to withdraw his support from the movement, and created tensions that threatened to return the world to war.[9]

An escalating crisis

Kuei determined

Kuei declared that troops be sent to Yu Dao in order to enforce the Harmony Restoration Movement.

As the crisis developed, the Earth King met with Aang and Katara, who informed him that Zuko persisted in denying the movement, and thus Yu Dao was still a colony. After pondering the situation, the King informed them that he was done with feeling "weak" and hearing lies and thus refused to speak with Zuko as his change of heart prompted the King to view the Fire Lord's promise as another lie. Kuei subsequently declared that he would send troops to Yu Dao to "enforce" harmony, much to the couple's shock and horror. He ended the conversation by decisively telling Aang that if he did not support his decision, he could only assume that he was "against [him]".

Kuei came true to his word and led a large group of Earth Kingdom forces west to Yu Dao to prepare for an encounter with the Fire Lord.[1]

Katara convincing Kuei

Kuei accompanied Katara to face the people who would bear the weight of his decisions.

Kuei arrived at Yu Dao with an army led by General How, intending to reclaim the city in the name of the Earth Kingdom and to arrest the Fire Nation colonials. They arrived shortly before Zuko and his forces, who were intent on preventing Kuei's forces from uprooting the colonists. Kuei ordered How to engage Zuko while he observed the battle from the safety of his war balloon, once again demonstrating fear of confronting the conflict directly. Avatar Aang and his friends tried in vain to negotiate a truce between the two armies, but a four-way battle soon erupted as Zuko and How's armies, the Avatar, and the colonists fought for control of the city. After sending Aang off to meditate the crisis in a calm location, Katara propelled herself into Kuei's war balloon, only to find him cowering in fear and wishing for Bosco's company. Katara realized that Kuei, having lived his luxuriant lifestyle in the complete isolation of Ba Sing Se, had never confronted Yu Dao or its people, only knowing it as another Fire Nation colony. Katara compelled him to come down with her and to face the citizens directly to face the people who would bear the weight of his decisions. Despite his reservations, Kuei reluctantly accompanied Katara to the city below.

Kuei needs to see

Kuei declared that it was time to see for himself what Yu Dao was really like.

Just after that occurred, Aang entered the Avatar State and arrived to divide Yu Dao from its attackers, using earthbending to separate the grounds of the city from the battlefield, bringing a decisive halt to the battle. After saving Zuko from falling into a chasm, Aang confronted Kuei and admonished him for his actions, forcing him to stop and realize that he was not fighting one or two, but all four nations by laying siege to Yu Dao. Aang said Zuko was right in fighting for the citizens' choice to live together and by doing that, a "new kind of world" had flourished in where the nations no longer looked upon each other as separate peoples, but as one and that if Yu Dao could find common ground, the rest of the world could follow and compromise.

Realizing his rash decisions had almost plunged the world into another war, Kuei ordered all of his forces to lay down their arms and decided it was time to see for himself what Yu Dao was really like, bringing a decisive end to the conflict.[5] A little later, negotiations on the future of the colonies began. Though Kuei himself did not attend the meetings, he asked an academic to give a lecture in Yu Dao on ancient theories of government, believing that they could build a future on the wisdom of the past.[10]

Legacy

Some years after the Hundred Year War, Kuei had a daughter, who later succeeded him as earth monarch. However, Kuei's daughter thought poorly of him and his deal with Aang and Zuko which ceded Earth Kingdom territory to the United Republic of Nations.[11]

Personality

Kuei riding Appa

Earth King Kuei described riding on Appa as "both thrilling, and terrifying!".

The experience of coming to power young, as well as spending most of his life isolated from the outside world, with Long Feng encouraging him to ignore more and more of his royal duties, had an obvious effect on Kuei. For much of his life his closest friend was his pet bear, and thus he was very self-conscious around people, made only worse by his people's reverence of him. While a young adult, Kuei was naive and childlike, never being confronted with the responsibilities that his position requires and unaware of the complexities of political intrigue. Having been nurtured for much of his life, he had difficulty taking charge after arresting Long Feng, putting his faith in the Council of Five and never suspecting that the Dai Li would betray him. This tendency to trust proved to be his undoing when he allowed Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, disguised as Kyoshi Warriors, into the Royal Palace and informed them of the planned invasion, a plan which relied on absolute secrecy to succeed.[6]

Kuei's decision

Determined not to repeat his past mistakes, Kuei announced his decision.

Kuei began taking charge of his position after witnessing first-hand the underlying conspiracy within his government and the reality of the Hundred Year War that had reached the city walls. However, this newfound confidence was short-lived, as he was overthrown shortly after.[4] The constant betrayals and lies that Kuei experienced in his early life took a decisive toll on his personality after his return to power. Because it had been his weakness that had led him to lose his throne, he decided it was time to "become a man" and take control of things for himself. He took a much more decisive approach to ruling, and became uncompromising and untrusting. Very sensitive to perceived betrayals, he declared that he would not accept any more lies, and developed an absolutist mentality of people being "either with [him] or against [him]". This led to him taking an aggressive stance against Zuko when the latter withdrew his support for the Harmony Restoration Movement, and in doing so risked plunging the world back into war to ensure the removal of the Fire Nation colonists.[1]

Despite this more aggressive stance, during the battle for Yu Dao, Kuei was still unable to gain enough confidence to lead his men into battle, and ended up hiding in his zeppelin, fearful and confused. When confronted by Katara, Kuei seemed oblivious to the way the people of his kingdom lived due to his isolation. However, after Avatar Aang and the people of Yu Dao showed him who he was really fighting against, Kuei decided to see for himself for the first time what Yu Dao and its people were really like.[5]

Relatives

Appearances

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book Two: Earth (土)

Book Three: Fire (火)

Avatar comics

Book Two: Earth (土)

Graphic novel trilogies

Trivia

  • The Earth King's given name may be a transliteration variant of the word , meaning "chief", referencing his position as Earth King, or it may be a variant of , meaning "puppet", alluding to Long Feng who played Kuei like a puppet.
  • The Earth King heavily resembles Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Like Kuei, Puyi was made emperor at a very young age and was a puppet emperor during his early childhood and later under the Japanese occupation. Puyi was also trapped for years inside the Forbidden City, similar to how the Earth King never left the palace. The Earth King also wears spectacles, like Puyi did, and clothing based on the Chaofu, ceremonial clothing of the Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty.
    • In addition Puyi and Kuei also share a similar character development; both the Chinese Emperor and the Earth King tried to become more populist and gain a better understanding for common people after their deposition, but after becoming rulers again (as Emperor of Manchukuo and Earth King respectively), they adapted a more aggressive, almost fanatical mindset, determined to gain respect and authority.
  • The relationship between the Earth King and Long Feng strongly resembled Japan during the Edo period, where the emperor was a figurehead, and all governmental and military power lay with the Shōgun, a aristocratic generalissimo.
  • Kuei was the first Earth King to ever leave Ba Sing Se.[12]
  • When Toph made a sand miniature of Ba Sing Se on a beach on Ember Island, a very detailed and identifiable version of him and Bosco could be seen.[13]
  • His main interest was collecting rare animals from around the world, which were brought to him by zoological expeditions sent out from the University of Ba Sing Se.[14]
  • His name was not used by characters until The Promise trilogy.
  • Kuei is the only known monarch of the Avatar world who was forcefully deposed but able to regain his throne.
Preceded by
51st Earth King, eventually
46th Earth King
Earth King
79 - 100 AG
Succeeded by
Azula, as Earth Queen
[nb 1]

Preceded by
Interregnum until the return of Earth King Kuei in summer 100 AG[nb 2]
Earth King
100 AG - Unknown
Succeeded by
Hou-Ting

Notes

  1. Avatar Extras for "The Crossroads of Destiny" on Nicktoons Network refers to Azula as "Earth Queen Azula", meaning that she reigned in the nation as ruler beginning from Long Feng's second incarceration and likely until she left Ba Sing Se. However, Azula was never offically crowned, and thus she can only be considered a usurper.
  2. After Azula left Ba Sing Se, the throne of the Earth King became vacant, while Joo Dee was appointed the de jure ruler of Ba Sing Se as "Supreme Bureaucratic Administrator" and Fire Lord Ozai became the de facto ruler of the Earth Kingdom. However, Earth King Kuei eventually returned to his rightful position in summer 100 AG, after the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai, therefore ending the interregnum.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene (w), Sasaki of Gurihiru (p, i), Kawano of Gurihiru (col), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (let). The Promise Part 2 (May 30, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
  2. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & MacMullan, Lauren (director). (September 22, 2006). "City of Walls and Secrets". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 14. Nickelodeon.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 O'Bryan, John (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (November 17, 2006). "The Earth King". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 18. Nickelodeon.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Ehasz, Aaron (writer) & DiMartino, Michael Dante (director). (December 1, 2006). "The Crossroads of Destiny". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 20. Nickelodeon.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene (w), Sasaki of Gurihiru (p, i), Kawano of Gurihiru (col), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (let). The Promise Part 3 (September 26, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
  6. 6.0 6.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (December 1, 2006). "The Guru". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 19. Nickelodeon.
  7. Hamilton, Joshua; Matte, Johane (w), Matte, Johane (a), Dzioba, Wes (col), Comicraft (let). "It's Only Natural" (September 18, 2007), Nick Mag Presents: Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  8. Ehasz, Aaron (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (September 21, 2007). "The Awakening". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 1. Nickelodeon.
  9. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene (w), Sasaki of Gurihiru (p, i), Kawano of Gurihiru (col), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (let). The Promise Part 1 (January 25, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
  10. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene (w), Sasaki of Gurihiru (p, i), Kawano of Gurihiru (col), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (let). The Search Part 1 (March 20, 2013), Dark Horse Comics.
  11. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & Graham, Ian. (June 27, 2014). "The Earth Queen". The Legend of Korra. Season 2. Episode 3. Nickelodeon.
  12. Avatar Extras for "The Earth King", on Nicktoons Network.
  13. DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (July 19, 2008). "Sozin's Comet, Part 1: The Phoenix King". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 18. Nickelodeon.
  14. From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com (link). No longer updated.

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