Avatar Kuruk was the Water Tribe-born Avatar immediately succeeding Avatar Yangchen and preceding Avatar Kyoshi. He died 412 years before Avatar Aang's liberation from the iceberg. Kuruk was a gifted, but brash and arrogant Avatar, who professed to having a "go with the flow" attitude with his position. Unfortunately, due to this attitude and his pompous ways, Kuruk lost his fiancée Ummi to a malevolent spirit, Koh the Face Stealer.
Living in a world at peace with no major conflicts, he spent most of his days searching both the physical and Spirit World for worthy opponents to challenge to bending contests, usually for no other reason than for the fun of it. He also liked showing off grand displays of his bending ability to others, especially beautiful women. He was shown airbending lotus tornadoes for young Air Nomad women, challenging random Fire Nationcitizens to Agni Kai, and engaging in earth-lifting contests with earthbenders.
Kuruk was a "go with the flow" Avatar. During his time, the world was generally at peace, with no wars or disputes at all, due to the efforts of Yangchen, the Avatar before him. This allowed him to step back from his responsibilities as the Avatar and let the four nations resolve their own differences. Although there was peace, Kuruk's carefree lifestyle would eventually cost him dearly.
Never having even the slightest thought of settling down, Kuruk carried on with his casual way of life up until the day he met the love of his life. At the New Moon Celebration, a meeting of the two Water Tribes, he met a woman named Ummi from the Southern Water Tribe. Kuruk fell in love with her at first sight and presented Ummi with a customary betrothal necklace shortly after their meeting, which she accepted. The two were to be married at the Spirit Oasis.
As they approached the altar on the night of their wedding, Ummi fell into the pond, pulled in by an unseen force. She had been lured to the Spirit World by Koh, the Face Stealer, to punish Kuruk for his past arrogance. Every year, on the anniversary of their wedding, Kuruk traveled to the Spirit World in the hope of saving Ummi, but failed on every occasion. His attempts were what gave Koh his grudge against the Avatar. Avatar Kuruk continued the search for his wife even after his death, with recent information on Ummi's whereabouts that he acquired during a brief encounter with Aang. He eventually managed to find Koh and intended on killing him, but was unable to as the spirit had stolen Ummi's face and trapped her forever, preventing Kuruk from killing Koh without killing his wife as well.
Appearances in Aang's life
Aang first learned about Kuruk when the young Avatar was in the Spirit World. Koh informed him that he had attempted to slay the Face Stealer in a previous life, though the spirit did not mention Kuruk's name.
Later, while Avatar Roku was telling Aang of the Avatar State, Aang saw an anonymous glimpse of Kuruk performing advanced waterbending in a vision.
Aang finally learned Kuruk's name when he was in a coma after Azula's lightning attack. Aang met Kuruk in the Realm of Koh, where he asked Aang if he had seen a beautiful woman with long, brown hair. Aang responded by inquiring about Kuruk's dilemma, at which time Kuruk proceeded to tell him his history as the Avatar. After the tale, Aang realized that during his encounter with Koh, one of the spirit's faces was that of the woman Kuruk had described. Heartened by the knowledge of where his wife was, Kuruk set off to track down Koh once again. However, as Yangchen had predicted, he retained no memory of this meeting.
Avatar Aang channeled Kuruk and summoned his spirit to ask how he could defeat Fire LordOzai without killing him. Kuruk told Aang to actively shape both his destiny and the destiny of the world, as it was Kuruk's own arrogance and inaction that cost him his beloved wife. Aang took this to mean that Kuruk, like the other Avatars, believed it was necessary to use lethal force in order to protect the world. However, Kuruk's answer was much more open to interpretation, since "actively shaping your destiny" could have various meanings, including Aang's decision to strip Ozai of his bending.
Appearences in Korra's life
Kuruk, alongside the other Avatars, appeared to Korra after she lost her bending to Amon. This appearance was representative of Korra establishing a connection with her spiritual side and for the purpose of having her bending restored. It gave her the ability to restore others' bending as well.
In the last episode of the series, Kuruk was seen in Aang's vision before he entered the Avatar State.
During his airbending training, Avatar Kuruk was seen with a customized Air Nomad uniform that was similar to Aang's, but in varying shades of blue.
Kuruk is the Pawnee Native American word for "bear". His name may be related to the bearskin pelt he is frequently seen wearing.
Koh stated that Kuruk attempted to slay him some eight or nine centuries prior to the episode, but for that to have happened, he would have had to be older than his immediate successor, Avatar Kyoshi, who was the oldest Avatar in history.
Kuruk and the other past Avatars appeared in the vision Korra had prior to Aang restoring her bending abilities.
Kuruk's favorite mode of transportation was by sea, surfing on a raft using waterbending.
Avatar Kuruk's most memorable quote was, "Just go with the flow," mirroring his personality before Koh's punishment.