- This article is about the battle. For the episodes in which the battle took place, see "The Siege of the North, Part 1" and "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
The Siege of the North was a massive battle fought between the Northern Water Tribe and the Fire Nation at the North Pole. The Northern Water Tribe forces, led by Chief Arnook and Avatar Aang, defended the tribe's civilization from the besieging navy and infantry of the Fire Nation, led by Admiral Zhao. Thanks mainly to Avatar Aang and La, the ocean spirit, the battle ended in a humiliating defeat for the Fire Nation, and a vital strategic victory for the Water Tribe and, to a lesser extent, the Earth Kingdom. The outcome of the battle greatly contributed to Iroh and Prince Zuko's becoming Fire Nation fugitives.
Many months before the battle, Avatar Aang and his sky bison, Appa, were awoken by Sokka and Katara of the Southern Water Tribe from one hundred years of sleep within an iceberg. After learning that Aang was the Avatar and telling him of the Hundred Year War waged by the Fire Nation, the four befriended one another and decided to travel to the Northern Water Tribe together to find Aang a waterbending master. As the Avatar, Aang had a duty to master the four elements, put an end to the Fire Nation invasion, and restore peace to the world. After several months of traveling and evading Fire Nation pursuers across the Earth Kingdom, Aang and his friends reached the Northern Water Tribe where he and Katara began instruction in advanced waterbending.
The ambitious Admiral Zhao, in competition with the exiled Prince Zuko, tracked the Avatar across the Earth Kingdom. Discovering Aang's plans to master waterbending at the North Pole, Zhao amassed a huge invasion fleet and, in the footsteps of Fire Lord Sozin before him, sought to eliminate both the Water Tribe and the Avatar in a single blow.
Zhao, after discovering the identity of the treacherous Blue Spirit to be Zuko, secretly ordered his assassination. Unbeknownst to the admiral, Zuko survived and posed as a guard on the admiral's ship, accompanied by Iroh, who took up Zhao's offer to become his military adviser.
Admiral Zhao revealed to Iroh that he had discovered the mortal identity of the Moon and Ocean Spirits years prior the siege, and intended to obtain victory over the Water Tribe by "removing the moon as a factor", as its power gave waterbenders the ability to bend and therefore defend their civilization.
On a winter morning, Zhao and his Fire Nation Navy armada arrived at the gate of the Northern Water Tribe. Arriving in Empire-class battleships, Admiral Zhao and his fleet used trebuchets to launch a barrage of fiery projectiles in order to break through the icy front wall.
The Water Tribe countered by freezing and destroying numerous Fire Nation ships. Zhao sent a single vessel to demolish the great ice walls defending the city, but this vessel was quickly disabled by Avatar Aang and the waterbenders. Aang decided to fly into battle against the warships, disabling at least a dozen before retreating into the city at sundown from exhaustion. Meanwhile, Chief Arnook organized a secret mission to eliminate Admiral Zhao by tasking his future son-in-law, Hahn, with boarding the Fire Nation's flagship and capturing or killing its commander. The effort turned out to be futile due to Hahn's incompetence.
After a day of heavy fire, Iroh advised Zhao to hold fire and resume the invasion the next day, due to the moon augmenting the waterbenders' abilities. After nightfall, Aang entered the Spirit World, seeking the aid of the Moon and Ocean Spirits. However, shortly after entering the Spirit World, Prince Zuko arrived at the Spirit Oasis, and, after defeating Katara, abducted the Avatar and ventured into the isolated tundra.
After daybreak arrived, Zhao resumed fire and, within minutes, managed to breach the outer gate of the Water Tribe and deploy a massive number of infantry, cavalry, and tanks. The battle at this point seemed almost hopeless for the Water Tribe with the Fire Nation advancing rapidly through their defenses.
On the night of the second day, however, the waterbenders launched their counterattack. Drawing power from the full moon, they advanced toward their enemy invaders and successfully began to destroy their foothold on the beachhead. Realizing the difficult situation, Zhao revealed his plan to kill the Moon Spirit in order to permanently render the waterbenders helpless.
Aang, meanwhile, had been rescued from Zuko by his friends and had learned the location of the Moon and Ocean Spirits. Upon returning to the Spirit Oasis, however, the team discovered that Zhao had captured the Moon Spirit from the koi pond, causing a lunar eclipse and rendering the waterbenders powerless as the Fire Nation charged. Zhao threatened to kill the Moon Spirit to which Aang and Iroh both warned the admiral that doing so would throw the entire world out of balance. Despite this, Zhao slayed the Moon Spirit with a large blast of fire, removing the moon and stripping the waterbenders of their powers.
At this point, Iroh abandoned his allegiance to the Fire Nation and effortlessly struck down Zhao's men, driving Zhao away from the sacred pond. Aang subsequently entered the Avatar State and merged with the Ocean Spirit, who, in an act of revenge, single-handedly destroyed the invading forces and drove what was left of the Fire Nation fleet away and heavily damaged. Zhao himself was intercepted by Zuko, who wanted revenge for Zhao's previous attempt to murder him.
Initially, the two firebenders fought on equal terms, but Zuko eventually gained the upper hand and overwhelmed the admiral. Before their battle could be concluded, the Ocean Spirit, who had separated from Aang, dragged Zhao underneath the water. The Moon Spirit itself was revived by Princess Yue's sacrifice, restoring their bending powers. By this point, the few surviving Fire Nation warships abandoned the siege and retreated from the North Pole.
In the end, the Water Tribe achieved what appeared to be a Pyrrhic victory, having lost many civilians and large amounts of infrastructure. The leaders of the Northern Water Tribe decided to reestablish relations with their sister tribe and initiated plans to reunify the two tribes. This included sending a team of select healers and waterbenders to rebuild the ravaged Southern Water Tribe.
Although a tremendous victory, the loss of Zhao's Fire Navy fleet was not enough to end the War, and it was merely a few months after the battle that the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se fell to the enemy. However, the success of this battle ensured that the Northern Water Tribe survived the remainder of the war.
Although the loss of the invasion fleet was a huge blow to the Fire Nation, the Fire Navy still maintained its power and several key units remained operational, including the Southern Raiders and the blockade defending the Fire Nation.
Admiral Zhao wound up being dragged into the Spirit World and placed in a prison known as the Fog of Lost Souls, where the fog spirit slowly drove him mad by trapping him in his own darkest memory.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book One: Water (水)
Book Two: Earth (土)
- 201. "The Avatar State" (dream)