- This article is about the episode. For the play created by Pu-on Tim and performed by the Ember Island Players, see The Boy in the Iceberg (play).
|"Aang, how long were you in that iceberg?"|
|— Katara to Aang.|
While fishing, siblings Katara and Sokka discover Aang, a young boy frozen in an iceberg. After freeing him and his flying bison named Appa, they learn his identity as an airbender, long thought extinct, and bring him back to their village in the Southern Water Tribe. After witnessing the beam of light that shot through the sky after the two broke through the ice, Zuko, exiled prince of the Fire Nation tasked with finding the long lost Avatar to restore his honor, becomes intent on capturing him. While playing, Aang and Katara mistakenly trigger a booby trap in an ancient Fire Nation ship, revealing Aang's whereabouts to the nearby Zuko.
Long ago, the legendary Avatar kept the world and its four nations at peace with each other. However, the Avatar disappeared one hundred years prior and has not been seen since. During that time, the tyrannical Fire Nation used the opportunity to wage war with the other three nations, seeking to conquer them. One hundred years passed and people began to lose hope that the Avatar would ever return and bring peace back to the world. Even the Southern Water Tribe, located in the distant South Pole sea, has been affected by the Fire Nation's war. The men of the tribe all sailed abroad to fight, leaving behind the women and children. Sokka and his younger sister Katara are the oldest of the tribe's children in the South Pole.
Two siblings, Katara and Sokka, are out fishing in a small canoe. While Sokka prepares to spear a fish, Katara attempts and succeeds to catch one by bending the water around it, lifting the bubble above the canoe. Sokka, oblivious to his sister's success and ignoring her pleas to look at her catch, readies his spear to strike and accidentally hits the bubble with the back of the weapon, knocking the fish back into the ocean and drenching himself with the water of the now-pierced bubble. Angry, he scolds Katara, complaining that he always ends up soaked whenever she plays with "magic water". She corrects him, pointing out that it is waterbending and not magic, though before she could delve deeper into the specifics of the art, Sokka interrupts her and concludes that if he had "weird powers" he would keep his "weirdness" to himself. The siblings start to bicker, though their verbal exchanges are cut short when the sea currents suddenly pick up speed. Sokka tries to steer the canoe to avoid collision with the chunks of floating ice, while Katara frantically shouts to "go left", though the boat ends up being crushed between three ice floes, leaving Sokka and Katara stranded on the ice in the middle of the sea.
After gathering their bearings, Katara blames her brother for failing to "go left" as she had instructed, though Sokka counters by pointing out that Katara should have waterbent them to safety if she did not like his steering. When he concludes that it could be "[left] to a girl to screw things up", Katara loses her temper and yells at her brother that he is sexist, immature, and "nut-brained". While she continues to rage about all the things that she does for him as part of her chores, she involuntarily waterbends, cracking a large iceberg and eventually causing it to break and plunge into the ocean. As they are pushed back on their ice float, another iceberg, basking in blue light and containing two forms, rises to the surface. Deducing one of the forms to be that of a living human, Katara instantly grabs Sokka's club and makes her way over to the iceberg, despite Sokka's order to stay back as they do not know who they are dealing with. As they both arrive at the iceberg, she resolutely starts chopping at it. After several strikes, she is blown back by a gust of air escaping from the hole she managed to make. The two siblings watch in astonishment how the ice breaks from that point and, when the iceberg cracks in two, a bright column of light shoots high into the sky.
Prince Zuko, a Fire Nation teenager who has been hunting the Avatar for two years, sees the bright light from his ship. His uncle, Iroh, who has accompanied the young prince on his journey, dismisses the event as completely natural. Zuko orders his crew to head toward the light, insisting that the light was emitted by the Avatar.
After Katara breaks through the ice, she finds the person is a young boy with strange arrow-shaped marks on his head and hands. Sokka, jarred by the bizarre events occurring around him, immediately points his spear at the boy, but the boy simply collapses into Katara's arms. She lays him down and tries to help him. Sokka pokes the boy in the head with the blunt side of his spear, still skeptical, but an annoyed Katara shoos him away. The mysterious boy drowsily opens his eyes to see Katara staring down at him, her own eyes a deep blue. He quickly recovers from his dazed condition, abruptly and cheerfully asking Katara if she wants to go penguin sledding with him, to which she confusedly agrees. The boy rises to his feet swiftly, the sudden movement taking a wary Sokka by surprise, prompting him to become defensive with his spear. When the boy, himself surprised by Sokka's aggressiveness, inquires as to what is happening, Sokka angrily demands to know how Aang became trapped in the ice, only to hear the boy say that he does not know as he nudges the point of Sokka's spear, now pointed directly at his face at close range, aside casually.
Hearing a growling noise from within the crater of the hollowed iceberg, the boy climbs back over the rim to find a large, furry, six-legged creature lying motionless within; it takes a moment for him to enthusiastically rouse it. Sokka asks, unsure, what the thing is and the boy replies that it is Appa, his flying bison. Sokka expresses disbelief over the purported ability of the large bison to fly; Appa sneezes on Sokka, covering him with bison snot. A thoroughly disgusted Sokka reacts by trying frantically to rub the offending substance off himself onto the snow, while the boy assures him that it washes out. The boy, looking around at his surroundings, asks if they live nearby, which triggers Sokka to tell Katara not to answer, as he is convinced that the mystery boy is a Fire Nation spy, a notion that Katara rejects sarcastically. Introducing herself, she asks the boy what his name is, though as he tries to answer, he sneezes, launching himself into the air. Drifting deftly back to the ground, he rubs his nose and tells them happily that his name is Aang. Katara, astonished by the distance Aang rose into the air by sneezing, muses that he must be an airbender, which Aang confirms.
Sokka, convinced that he is going crazy, decides aloud to go home and leave behind the nonsensical world he has stumbled upon; he takes all of three steps before realizing, unfortunately, that he is stranded on an iceberg in the middle of the ocean. Aang, seeing the problem, offers to fly the two back to the Southern Water Tribe; Katara happily agrees, while Sokka refuses at first, agreeing after a few seconds only when he realizes he has no other choice. The group gets on Appa's saddle, with Sokka still grumpily refusing to believe that Appa can fly. Aang says, "Yip-yip!", and Appa leaps into the air, though immediately comes crashing back down into the water and starts swimming. While Sokka crows sarcastically about Appa's inability to fly, Aang decides Appa is still too tired to fly just yet. He turns around and stares at Katara with a huge smile on his face, causing her, after a few long, awkward seconds, to ask, "Why are you smiling at me like that?" He replies, "Oh, I was smiling?" Sokka lifts his head back, groaning, while Katara, at first smiling at Aang's response, frowns back at Sokka.
On the deck of the ship, Zuko stands looking out over the water alone. Iroh briefly tries to convince him to sleep, telling him that he will, like his ancestors, fail to capture the Avatar even if they do find him. The prince refuses to accept it, believing that he will succeed because he seeks to regain his honor through the endeavor, a trait none of his ancestors shared with him.
After some time on the water, a curious Katara asks Aang if he knows the fate of the Avatar; being an airbender, she knows that the Avatar was supposed to be an Air Nomad. Aang awkwardly states that he knew people that knew the Avatar, but did not know the actual Avatar himself. A disappointed Katara drops the subject, leaving Aang looking guilty.
Falling asleep on Appa's back, Aang has a dream, in which he recalls his last moments before being encased in the ice. In it, he and Appa fly through a terrible storm near the South Pole. He remembers the both of them being buffeted by the full fury of the gale, struggling vainly to escape and eventually being forced under the waves. As Aang began to lose consciousness, however, his eyes and tattoos began to glow and he created a bubble around himself and Appa, which he froze solid. As the ice thickened, Aang is abruptly jolted awake by Katara, finding himself in a tent in the Southern Water Tribe. Katara is eager to introduce him to the rest of the tribe and Aang dresses quickly with Katara watching. She notices with surprise the arrow markings running along his body and gasps. She does not say anything, however, and as soon as Aang is completely dressed, she pulls him along and introduces him to the entire population, which is composed of a small number of women and children. Sokka watches from a short distance away.
Aang bows to the villagers respectfully, accidentally eliciting a response of fear from them, and they hurriedly take a few steps away from the airbender, to the unhappy surprise of Aang and Katara. Aang asks Katara, in a hushed voice, why they are looking at him this way and wonders if Appa, unnoticed by him, has sneezed on him. As he checks his clothes for bison snot, an elderly woman steps forward and addresses him, explaining that, owing to the hundred-year absence of airbenders from the world, they believed them to be extinct. The use of this specific word does not escape Aang, who repeats the word in disbelief before Katara introduces the woman as her grandmother; she herself insists on being called "Gran-Gran." Abruptly interrupting the conversation, Sokka redoubles his interrogation of Aang, snatching his staff and examining it closely; viewing it through the lens of war, he assumes it is a weapon and somewhat derisively deems it a failure, having blunt ends which are incapable of stabbing.
Snatching the staff back from Sokka with a quick burst of airbending, Aang tells him that its purpose is not stabbing, but airbending. He promptly opens the wings on the staff, causing Sokka, his terror renewed, to reel back from it as a young girl, thrilled, asks Aang to repeat the "magic trick." Aang gently reminds her that it is airbending, not magic; moving the staff around himself with his arms, he mimics flight as he explains that, by manipulating the currents of air around the glider, he can use it to fly. Sokka immediately counters with a burst of sarcastic skepticism: "You know, last time I checked, humans can't fly!" Aang, with a calm but confident reply of "Check again," proceeds to launch himself into the air, raising a gust of wind that makes the villagers cover their faces, and he begins to fly circles around them. After a few seconds, emboldened by the adulation of the astounded villagers, he attempts to fly with his eyes closed and collides head-on with a watchtower made of snow and ice, causing it to collapse.
As Katara and a few of the children rush to Aang's aid, Sokka rushes to the base of the fallen structure and tries vainly to save it. As a mass of snow buries him, he grumbles aloud about Aang and Katara both being time-wasting benders and storms off. Aang is thrilled to learn that Katara is a waterbender, though Katara is only able to tell him that she is only "sort of" a waterbender before her grandmother calls her away, telling Katara she has chores to do. Out of earshot of Aang, Katara ecstatically tells Gran-Gran that she believes that she has found a bender who can teach her waterbending. Gran-Gran seems skeptical of Aang's potential and warns Katara not to place too much stock in a person she has only just met. Katara brushes the request aside, replying, as she strikes up a meditative pose, that she believes Aang is "filled with much wisdom." At that very moment, they happen to glance over at Aang, who is showing the village toddlers, to their deep amusement, his ability to stick his tongue to his staff.
Meanwhile, on the Fire Nation ship, Prince Zuko practices his firebending techniques with Iroh as instructor by sparring against two soldiers. After a quick firebending exchange between them, Iroh stands up with a sigh and stops the fight, somewhat impatiently correcting a mistake which Zuko has made. Becoming impatient, Zuko wheels on his uncle, demanding to be taught the next, more advanced, set of moves, though Iroh merely brushes his demand off, stating that Zuko must first master the most simple and basic moves. Flying into a rage at Iroh's words, Zuko attacks one of the soldiers with a blast of fire, knocking him off his feet, before once again rounding on Iroh. He repeats his demand, reasoning that the Avatar had hundred years to master the elements and could thus not be beaten with basic firebending. Mulling his nephew's words over for a few seconds, Iroh concedes, though only on the condition that he be allowed to finish eating his meal of roast duck, which he placidly proceeds to do in front of a dismayed Zuko.
Sokka gives the six young boys of the tribe a stern lecture on their military practices, emphasizing that they are the "warriors" of the tribe, but is interrupted by one of them when he innocently raises his hand and says that he needs to pee. After a brief attempt at getting his point across, Sokka unhappily asks how many of them need to do the same and all the boys raise their hands. As the kids leave, Sokka facepalms and Katara walks up, looking for Aang. Aang himself is leaving the outhouse as she talks to Sokka and, as the boys arrive at the outhouse, Aang enthusiastically declares, "Wow! Everything freezes in there!" While the boys laugh, Sokka becomes angry and demands that Aang leave, as they are in the middle of a lesson for "warriors only." To his further distress, he, hearing more laughing children, discovers some of the boys and Aang playing on Appa; they are taking turns sliding down the bison's tail and off the end, which has been propped up so that it points into the air. In addition, they have taken his spear and are using it to measure the distance they have flown. Rushing over and demanding that they stop, Sokka berates them and rails on Aang once more, accusing him of distracting his "warriors" with fun and games, things which have been pushed aside in light of the ongoing war. To both Sokka's and Katara's shock, Aang slides down from Appa's head and, somewhat curiously, reveals that he has no knowledge of any such war. Sokka, utterly disbelieving, asks Aang if he is kidding and Aang opens his mouth to reply, but his attentions are abruptly stolen by the sudden appearance of an otter penguin standing behind the siblings. He races off toward the animal, raising a cloud of blowing snow with airbending as he departs, leaving Sokka, still dumbfounded, to ask the same question of Katara; they exchange looks of uncertainty and slight confusion.
Some time later, Katara tracks Aang to an icy waste populated by a flock of otter penguins; the airbender is in the process of trying to catch one, but the creatures are proving to be too fast and slippery for him. Katara approaches and agrees to teach him how to catch one, on the condition that Aang teach her waterbending. While he likes the idea, Aang points out reluctantly that he knows nothing about waterbending, being an airbender, and he asks if there are any other waterbenders from whom she could learn. Katara responds despondently that she is the only waterbender in the whole of the South Pole; Aang is struck by the injustice of the situation and suggests the Northern Water Tribe as an option, certain that the other tribe should have waterbenders to teach Katara. Excited by the thought of finding a waterbending master for Katara, he offers to fly her to the North Pole himself. Katara, however, expresses uncertainty at the thought of leaving her tribe and Aang suggests that she consider the matter later, teaching him to catch penguins in the meantime. She gives Aang a pensive speech about the method of catching penguins being "an ancient and secret art" before simply pulling a fish from her sleeve and tossing it to Aang, who laughs as he is mobbed by otter penguins.
Aang and Katara go penguin sledding afterward; racing through the varied terrain, they eventually enter a tunnel in the ice. Emerging on the other side, they find themselves on a wide, icy plain dominated by an old abandoned shipwreck, which is elevated by a rough outcropping of ice. Aang asks what it is and Katara tells him it is a Fire Navy ship, the source of a dark episode in the tribe's history. Aang makes as though he would investigate the ship, but Katara, afraid, expresses her reluctance to do so. When Aang tells her that being a bender involves letting go of fear, she joins him and they walk toward the ship, making their way inside. As they explore the ship, Katara explains that the ship is as old as her grandmother and that is was a part of the Fire Nation's first assaults on the tribe. As they investigate a room full of spears, Aang stops her, saying that he has friends all over the world, the Fire Nation included, and that he never saw any war at all. Katara asks him how long he was in the iceberg and Aang, unsure of his own words, guesses that it could have been a few days. Katara, astounded, tells him that it must be around a hundred years. When Aang objects to the suggestion, Katara clarifies that, since he has no knowledge at all of the war with the Fire Nation that has been raging for nearly a hundred years, it only makes sense that he must have been trapped in the iceberg for that time. Horrified, Aang collapses to the metal floor and Katara tries to comfort him, telling him there might be a bright side to his situation. Aang, perking up upon hearing this, says in a somewhat happier tone that he got to meet Katara. He takes her hand and they walk back to the hallway. As Aang investigates another room, he accidentally triggers a tripwire. The booby trap imprisons them in the room by obstructing the doorway with metal bars and fires a single flare high into the sky above the ship. Noticing a hole in the ceiling, Aang grabs Katara and, telling her to hold on tight, launches them with airbending through the opening.
From the deck of his ship, Prince Zuko, having seen the flare, watches through a spyglass as two small figures jump down the side of the ship. Realizing he has found the last airbender, he comments that the bender is "quite agile for his old age" and yells to a soldier standing behind him to wake his uncle and tell him that he has found the Avatar. Looking through the spyglass again, he tracks the two figures and scouting ahead in the direction they are running toward, his eye lands upon the tiny village in the distance. As he lowers the spyglass, squinting into the distance, Zuko adds quietly that he has also found the Avatar's hiding place.
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- Main article: Transcript:The Boy in the Iceberg
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book One: Water
- In "The Storm", Aang's flashback shows that the iceberg is under the sea. Due to Katara's violent waterbending, however, she unconsciously cracked the ice formation causing it to rise to the surface of the ocean.
- The abandoned Fire Navy ship Aang and Katara explore is the same one Hama and the other waterbenders were shown uprooting decades before in a flashback in the episode "The Puppetmaster".
- The subtitle of the last episode in the series, "Avatar Aang", and this episode's title both refer to Aang himself. They also highlight how he has changed. In the beginning, he is a young Avatar who has not mastered the elements. By the end, he is a fully realized Avatar.
- Katara reveals that she is the only waterbender in the South Pole.
- During Aang's dream, it is revealed how he came to be frozen in the iceberg.
- When Katara attempts to catch a fish using waterbending, she takes off her glove. However, in a later shot, when she is seen waterbending, her glove is back on again.
- After Sokka and Katara's boat gets crushed and they land on a slab of ice, they are surrounded by other slabs of ice floating on the water, with seemingly no icebergs around them. In the next aerial shot, however, the water around them does not have any slabs of ice but one line of them to the right and a few icebergs around them.
- During the scene where Zuko is trying to get Iroh to teach him an advanced set of firebending moves, Zuko's belt is momentarily silver instead of the usual gold.
- When Sokka and Katara first see Aang in the iceberg, there is nothing in the water between them, but in the next frame there are many floating icebergs in the water.
- When Sokka and Katara see the iceberg floating up, it appears to be merely an icy sphere with no ground surrounding it. Katara, however, seems like she can stand on the iceberg with ease and the iceberg does not seem to move with the added weight, even though in the previous shots the ice looked relatively light since it bobbed in the water.
- After Appa sneezes on Sokka, the latter's entire right side is shown covered in bison snot. A few seconds later he is clean again, as if the incident never occurred.
- When Aang is letting the kids use Appa's tail as a slide, the first scene shows his tail propped up on Sokka's spear. The next scene shows Appa a few feet away, with his tail on the ground. In the scene after that, Appa's tail returns to its original position atop the spear.
- When Aang and Katara stand next to the abandoned ship, they look up at the tattered flag still waving atop the mast. In that shot, they are about five feet away from the shadow of the boat. In the next shot, however, they are standing right next to the shadow.
- When Aang crashes into the watch tower at the Southern Water Tribe, he is covered in snow, but when Katara pulls him up, he is lying on top of the snow.
- When Kanna turns around to lead Katara away, saying "Come on, Katara, you have chores," her lips are not moving.
- When Katara and Aang are walking toward Appa, they are about a few feet away from him. However, after they walk for about another few yards, they are still in the same place.
- The Netflix description for the episode is incorrect; it states "Waterbenders Sokka and Katara make a startling discovery while fishing: a boy frozen in a iceberg, perfectly preserved and, amazingly, alive". However, only Katara is a waterbender.
- This is the only episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender to feature a different and extended opening sequence.
- Though this is the first official episode of the series, the unaired pilot was created beforehand, but never aired on television.
- Sokka said he might have "Midnight Sun Madness" because during summertime in the South Pole, which is the wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun remains in the sky into the night, due to the Southern Hemisphere facing the sun.
- This is one of only two episodes that shows "To be continued" before the ending credits. The other is "The Boiling Rock, Part 1".
- The creators of the show like to think that Aang and Appa were "floating in a ball of energy" instead of being frozen solid.
- This episode and "The Avatar Returns" are the only episodes of Book One: Water not to have aired on a Friday.