- This article is about the location in the series. For the location in the film, see Northern Water Tribe.
The Northern Water Tribe is an independent state located within the realms of the North Pole, ruled by a hereditary monarchic chiefdom. As the oldest division of the three Water Tribes, the Northern Water Tribe dominated both the North Pole as well as the South Pole for centuries. Its capital city, notable for being made almost entirely out of ice, is referred to by the same name. Even though much of its territory encompasses largely inhospitable tundra terrain, the Northern Water Tribe always thrived in its isolation, and grew into a major political and economical power after the Hundred Year War. Unlike its counterpart, the Southern Water Tribe, the North never succumbed to foreign invasions like the massive Siege of the North by the Fire Nation.
The people of the Northern Water Tribe are traditionally conservative and very spiritual, but still open to change and reform. The Northern waterbending style is the most widespread form, practiced by waterbenders at both poles and in the United Republic of Nations, as raids on the Southern Water Tribe led to the southern style becoming nearly extinct during the Hundred Year War.
Origin and division
Long before the Hundred Year War, the predecessors of the Water Tribe relocated to the North Pole from the tropical regions they originally inhabited. There, they formed several independent tribes. Eventually, a group of waterbenders united to build the capital city of the Northern Water Tribe in an attempt to bring all the tribes of the North Pole together. The waterbenders used their icy environment to create the various temples, villages, and canals that comprise the city. After a time of civil unrest, this newfound unity declined, and a group of secessionists journeyed to the South Pole to engender a new tribe. Despite these initial difficulties, the relations between the Northern Water Tribe and the secessionist Southern Water Tribe improved over time. The South reaccepted the authority of the Northern chiefs as long as it was granted autonomy and a Council of Elders to govern itself. To strengthen the tribal ties and political harmony, the Northern ruling family began to take Southerners as their spouses. Additionally, the New Moon Celebration was established in order to reunite the two Water Tribes. This status quo was maintained until the outbreak of the Hundred Year War centuries later.
Around 345 BG, Avatar Kuruk was born into the Northern Water Tribe.[nb 1] When Kuruk wanted to marry Ummi at the Spirit Oasis, Koh the Face Stealer lured her into the Spirit World to punish Kuruk for neglecting his Avatar duties. Over 250 years later, Roku learned waterbending at the Northern Water Tribe during his Avatar journey.
Hundred Year War
Prior to the Hundred Year War, the Northern Water Tribe was an open port city that was accessible to any visitors. However, when the Fire Nation declared war on the Water Tribes, a thick wall of ice was erected at the mouth of the city as a means to keep the Fire Nation out of the Northern Water Tribe. When the War began, the Northern Water Tribe became increasingly isolated, cutting off most of its contact with the outside world and eventually losing touch with the Southern Water Tribe, leaving the battered tribe to fend on its own.
While the Northern Water Tribe did fall under attack from the Fire Nation, the attacks did not succeed as they did against the Southern Water Tribe. After a while, the attacks ceased entirely. The last time Northern warriors recovered Fire Nation uniforms was eighty-five years before Team Avatar's arrival, and Chief Arnook referred to an impending attack as the day feared for a very long time.
In the Siege of the North, the Northern Water Tribe was nearly destroyed when Admiral Zhao led a massive naval assault on the capital city in an attempt to destroy the Water Tribes and kill the Moon Spirit, Tui, in an attempt to eradicate waterbending. The tribe was saved when Avatar Aang, merged with the Ocean Spirit La, destroyed the Fire Navy fleet and when Princess Yue gave up her life to revive Tui, thus becoming Tui's successor.
Prosperity and reunification of the Water Tribes
In the aftermath of the Fire Nation's siege of the North Pole, select benders and healers from the Northern Tribe left for the South Pole in an effort to rebuild their ravaged sister tribe. They succeeded, and eventually the North restored its rule over the Southern Water Tribe, even though the South maintained its autonomy under jurisdiction of the Northern chief. At the same time, the Northern capital city began to grow significantly, becoming a large metropolis in the process. The tribe went through a social reform as well, as women were no longer restricted by law. After the foundation of the United Republic, the Northern Water Tribe was given a seat on the United Republic Council. Many Northerners migrated into the republic in course of the following years, becoming a significant minority in Republic City.
After undergoing a surgery to alter his physical appearance, Republic City's most notorious crime boss, Yakone, made his way to the Northern Water Tribe to start life anew. There, he married a woman and had two children, Noatak and Tarrlok. After Yakone forced his children to bloodbend each other, Noatak ran away. Yakone and Tarrlok assumed that Noatak had perished in the ice. However, Noatak survived and made his way to Republic City, where he assumed the alias of "Amon", and started the Anti-bending Revolution in an attempt to rid the world of bending.
By 151 AG, the tribe came under attack by a horde of barbarians. Tonraq, general of the troops at the time, defended the city and expelled the invaders. However, by destroying a sacred spirit forest in his quest to apprehend the Barbarians, he brought the wrath of the spirits in the city, and the entities laid waste on the capital city. The metropolis was saved by his brother, Unalaq, though Tonraq was banished by their father, chief at that time. As a result, Unalaq took over his older brother's birthright, and became chief after their father. In 158 AG, Chief Unalaq and Fire Lord Zuko collaborated to build a secret maximum security prison in the western tundra of the North Pole to hold the criminal P'Li.
Over time, the Southern Water Tribe became prosperous, with its economy growing remarkably. As its suzerain, the Northern Water Tribe urged the South to share its wealth, referring to the North's support after the war. The Southern tribesmen yielded, but these taxes remained unpopular, and resentment began to grow. By the time Unalaq ascended to the throne, many Southerners questioned the Northern authority.
In 170 AG, Tarrlok served as the Northern Water Tribe's representative in the United Republic Council, and was crucially involved in the Anti-bending Revolution. Later, he revealed Amon's history in the Northern Water Tribe to Avatar Korra and Mako. Following Tarrlok's death, and the dissolution of the United Republic Council, the North lost its direct influence in the republic.
Water Tribe Civil War
- See also: Water Tribe Civil War
In 171 AG, under Unalaq's leadership, the Northern Water Tribe's Navy began an invasion of their sister tribe, ostensibly to protect the spirit portal at the heart of the South Pole and to prevent the South from falling into spiritual decay. The occupation was not welcomed by the Southerners, who had already resented Northern rule for many years and felt that Unalaq's actions threatened their sovereignty. Eventually, these tensions boiled over when Team Avatar broke a group of rebels out of prison after learning that Unalaq had not only fixed their trial, but also organized the barbarian invasion of the North that led to Tonraq's banishment. This event officially ignited the Water Tribe Civil War. Unalaq used the chaos of the conflict to prepare for the Harmonic Convergence, during which he freed Vaatu and merged with the spirit. The Northern troops were eventually defeated and Unalaq killed, ending the civil war with the South's victory. Soon after, Avatar Korra declared the Southern Water Tribe independent from the North, and Desna and Eska, Unalaq's children, returned to their tribe to rule in their father's stead. Two weeks after Harmonic Convergence, P'Li escaped prison with the help of the Red Lotus.
Government system: Unitary hereditary monarchic chiefdom
Head of State and Government: Tribal chief
The Northern Tribe is a hereditary monarchy with its monarch called chief by tradition, though the modern government has abandoned many of the tribal aspects that dominated the tribe for centuries. The chief can be either male or female, and is commander-in-chief of the tribe's military and has almost autocratic authority over political affairs. However, he or she officially has no influence on judicial courts, though Chief Unalaq was able to control the courts by bribery. The chief can order martial law and banish anyone as punishment for endangering the tribe. In regard of succession, absolute primogeniture is practiced in the Northern Water Tribe, unless the firstborn heir is disinherited. When the firstborn children of the chief are twins, both can jointly inherit the chiefdom.
By the latter stages of the Hundred Year War, the tribal aspects were still strong: Even though the chief was powerful, politics were often personal and determined by the authority of individuals. Normally, the chief made decisions based on advice given by a small council of the respected individuals in the tribe. It was this council that was responsible for making laws and organizing the tribe. Political rise was driven more by the right connections and descent than by performance. Because of these politics, marrying the chief's daughter, the Tribal Princess, was considered to be a significant step in a person's political career. If the chief only had a daughter as heir, she had no right to inherit the chiefdom. The Northern Water Tribe was infamous for upholding extreme sexist views before the end of the Hundred Year War; the tribe had a law that did not allow women to learn martial waterbending. Labor division was generally dependent on gender: men typically worked as hunters, fishermen, teachers, or warriors, and women usually served as homemakers, healers, or teachers. These patriarchal and sexist traditions were abandoned after the Great War. By 171 AG, a Tribal Princess can not only become chief, but is also allowed to be a waterbending master and take an active role in times of war.
Status of the Southern Water Tribe
Traditionally, the Northern chief was the official head of state of both Water Tribes, even though the Southern Water Tribe had its own autonomous government. To ensure that both tribes felt adequately represented by the central government, however, the Northern ruling family began to take Southerners as their spouses, so that the chiefs were often of mixed ancestry. When the Hundred Year War broke out, however, the North lost contact to its sister tribe, and the South became effectively independent. In the war's aftermath, the Northern chiefs resumed their rule over the South, but as the chiefs still reigned from their capital at the North Pole, their political power was great in the North, but limited to ceremonial and representative tasks in the South. In times of crisis, however, the chief could dissolve the ruling southern Council of Elders, assuming almost dictatorial power over the South in the process. The Southern Water Tribe gained full independence after the civil war in 171 AG.
Located at the North Pole, the Northern Water Tribe city is huge and multi-tiered, built into the icy landscape. Looming over the city are giant ice cliffs from which it was originally built. The city rests on the shores of the Northern Sea, and behind it is an enormous frozen tundra.
Unlike the obliterated Air Nomads and their southern sister tribe, the Northern Water Tribe survived a century of war with the Fire Nation, due to the defenses their icy terrain provided. Resting on the shores of the Northern Sea, behind high walls of ice and an ice gate and canal lock system passable only by the use of waterbending, there lies a large and bustling monarchic nation-state. Ruled by a supreme chief, the capital city features a palace, an army, and many skilled warriors, healers, waterbenders, and a hidden oasis which houses Tui and La, the Moon and Ocean Spirits.
Powered by waterbending, gondolas are used to navigate the city's expansive system of canals. These interconnecting waterways play a crucial part in the tribe's defenses. Water-locking chambers act as the only entrances into the main city; boats travel through the gates, and, once the boats are in, waterbenders raise the water levels, lifting the boats until the vessel finally reaches the waterways of the Northern Water Tribe. This special entrance ensures that no unwanted ships can make it into the city. Because of these special security features and the city's location, the Northern Water Tribe was able to fend off numerous Fire Nation attacks.
Located on the warrior training grounds, the Water Tribe armory is where Water Tribe weapons are stored and kept in pristine condition. The armory doubles as a war planning room where orders are given to the warriors. Some Fire Nation uniforms, which were captured about eighty five years prior, are also kept there.
Northern Water Tribe Royal Palace
The Northern Water Tribe Royal Palace is a large structure built on top the highest tier of the capital city and is one of the most recognizable landmarks. It can be seen from most anywhere in the city and stands like a monument, representing strength and power. In here, the chief and his advisers sit and make decisions regarding the tribe.
The palace's design mimics that of a tiered pyramid. Leading up to the front entrance is a large staircase which is bordered on either side by a decorative pillar. A pool of water and a number of artificially designed waterfalls surround the building, giving it a unique ambiance; the liquid for this system is supplied by various pipelines that pour water into the pool from directly below the temple. During special events after nightfall, the interior of the temple is lit up, so that light shines through the front entrance and the central windows up to the top floor of the structure. When Team Avatar arrived at the Northern Water Tribe, a celebration was held in front of the palace.
The interior of the building is intricately designed, featuring a decorative arch with four pillars, two cauldron-shaped ice sculptures, carvings of Water Tribe symbols, a rug adorned with the insignia of the nation, and an artificial waterfall behind the arch.
- Main article: Spirit Oasis
The Spirit Oasis is a verdant and lush garden located in a cave in the Northern Water Tribe's capital city at the North Pole. Although the land outside is perpetually frozen, the Spirit Oasis itself is warm. This is where the mortal incarnations of the Moon and Ocean Spirits live. The water of the oasis is said to contain unique healing properties. It is a place where the Spirit World overlaps with the mortal world. It is known to be one of the most peaceful places in the bending world.
Underground ice cavern
These interconnecting ice caverns are located underneath the city and were naturally created by the ocean water eroding away the ice. Seals and other animals live in these ice caverns, and the only way to get to them is to swim through the freezing water. Zuko traveled through these caverns when trying to capture Aang during the Siege of the North.
- Main article: North Pole
This massive stretch of arctic tundra covers most of the North Pole. The inland tundra is mostly mountainous and inhabited by a diverse fauna. The valleys of the arctic mountain ranges also host small settlements, such as Yakone's village.
However, the coastal arctic plains are extremely treacherous. Only highly skilled arctic hunters travel on the open plains, hunting the animals that live there, and they never stay longer than a few days at a time. Heavy winter blizzards constantly pelt the tundra, and unstable ice sheets often give way under the slightest pressure. Even experienced waterbenders and warriors think twice about venturing into this dangerous environment.
- Main article: Spirit Wilds
Deep in the tundra of the Northern Water Tribe lies a sacred forest, which many spirits called their home. During the barbarian invasion of the Northern Water Tribe, Tonraq and his men chased the barbarians into the forest. The barbarians thought they would be safe there, believing the Northern Watertribesmen would not dare to attack on holy grounds. Tonraq, however, had no such concerns, and subsequently attacked, destroying the forest in order to capture the barbarians.
The forest is also the site of one of two ancient portals to the Spirit World. The portals were closed by Avatar Wan following his battle with Vaatu, but later reopened by Avatar Korra prior to Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG.
This village served as Yakone's new home after he left Republic City and assumed a new identity. Here, he met his wife and had two children, Noatak and Tarrlok. He lived out the remainder of his life in this village, teaching his children bloodbending until Noatak ran away and assumed his new identity as Amon.
Women become marriageable at the age of sixteen. Some marriages are arranged, with the bride in particular having no say in the matter. Engaged women wear "betrothal necklaces", navy blue chokers bearing blue stone pendants carved by their husband-to-be. Until after the Hundred Year War, it was forbidden by custom for female waterbenders to learn waterbending for fighting purposes. Instead, they were trained as healers, able to use bending to heal wounds and at least some illnesses and mental disturbances.
While the Southern Water Tribe seemed to have similar traditional roles, they were apparently much more strict in the North, as Katara, who was raised in the South, expressed surprise and anger when she was initially denied equal treatment in waterbending training. As a result, it can be concluded that female waterbenders are allowed to learn waterbending for fighting purposes in the Southern Water Tribe. Kanna, Katara's paternal grandmother, Hakoda, Katara's father and Bato, a Southern Tribe male and a friend of Katara's father, also showed no signs of disapproval when observing Katara's waterbending skills; Southern female waterbenders once used their bending to attack Fire Nation soldiers.
Like the Fire Nation, Northern schools include subjects such as history, strategy, reading, writing, music, waterbending, and others. This is apprent due to the fact that the population has shown to know quite a lot about these subjects. The city also boasts numerous medical schools and science institutions that teach young female waterbenders to hone their healing abilities and medical skills. Northern schools and institutions teach other subjects, like geography; this is apparent from the fact that they can read maps.
Natural resources and foods
Inhabiting frozen poles near the seas, the Water Tribes inherently are dependent on the oceans for a majority of their natural resources as well as the bounty of the frozen tundra. Sea prunes are a favorite, while giant sea crabs are considered a delicious delicacy to those in the Northern Sea. Squid and seaweed can be used to make a wide variety of dishes, including soup, seasoning, and even bread and cookies.
Skins from seals are used to create tents, while pelts from polar bears and other furry animals are used as clothing and to cover barren surfaces. Naturally, hunters and fishermen of the Water Tribes are some of the best in the world in their field.
One of the most prevalent natural resources of the Northern Water Tribe is ice. Ice is used as the main building material used to make buildings, walls, dikes, locks, and other structures, as well as a medium of bending.
- Like its sister tribe in the south, the Northern Water Tribe has several villages outside the main city.
- By 151 AG, the Northern Water Tribe capital city had expanded to areas atop the cliffs that surround the city.
- The canal system in the city was inspired by the canals found specifically in Italy. The design of the bridges connecting the two sides of each canal resemble that of Venice, and the architecture of most of the city is strikingly European.
- Even though the ice wall in the harbor of the city was constructed exclusively for the purpose of keeping the Fire Nation Army from entering the city, the wall was not taken down after the end of the Hundred Year War.
- Aang and Korra have both been reminded about their spiritual connection as the Avatar by individuals tied to the leadership in the Northern Water Tribe; Princess Yue reflected on the spiritual connection with Aang and Katara during the invasion of the North, and Korra was later told of and trained on her spiritual connection by Chief Unalaq.
- ↑ Kuruk was said to be born almost 500 years before Avatar Korra, who was born in 153 AG, making his date of birth around 345 BG.