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Tienhai

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"Yes, humankind falters every now and then, but you know how to learn from your past mistakes. You've done it before, and you can do it again. I believe that ultimately, you will create a civilization that preserves and protects even as it grows. Do you understand? The spirits will always have a place in this world, as long as you -- and humans like you -- create a place for us."
— Tienhai assures Aang human and spirits can coexist.[1]

Lady Tienhai is a giant humanoid spirit who once tended to a seashore in what would later become Earth Kingdom territory, under the watchful eye of her friend and protector, General Old Iron. She became the guardian of the city erected on that same shore, resulting in a rift between her and General Old Iron.[2] Afterward, she took on a human form to venture into the city one night per year, but assumed it permanently after falling in love with the city's prince. Following her human death, Tienhai assumed the form of several cranefish which flew around her statue.[1]

History

During the era of Raava, Tienhai tended to the seashore as if it was her garden.[2] When a tribe of humans appeared, she became fascinated with them and allowed them to flourish on the land, believing that while it was beautiful, it was stagnant, lacking character, and unchanging.[1] The spirit took on the role of their protector, entertaining their requests. When General Old Iron attempted to destroy the settlement out of fear for her safety, Tienhai stopped him, forsaking her friendship with the spirit as a result. Over the course of centuries, the people prospered under Tienhai's guardianship, their city growing into the most powerful of its time.[2]

After Old Iron left her, Tienhai began her own tradition, venturing into the city one night per year as a human, marveling at everything the settlers had created. On one visit, she met the city's prince and became enamored with his curiosity and endless energy, specifically in the making of machines, books, sculptures, and building designs. As a result of her budding love for the future king, Tienhai gave up her immortality and assumed a permanent human form, living with him in happiness for many years. After her death, she took on the form of cranefish which surrounded her statue. Avatar Yangchen, in a deal with Old Iron, constructed a statue of Tienhai on the hill overlooking the city and led the Air Nomads in a festival honoring her, which the peaceful people continued after Yangchen's death as Yangchen's Festival.

Tienhai reveals herself

Tienhai appeared to Aang to reassure him that coexistence of spirits and humans would always be possible.

In 102 AG, after Avatar Aang defeated General Old Iron in battle, Tienhai appeared before him in her original form, emerging from one of the cranefish. She explained her mortal life to him and told him that spirits do not die, but instead take on new forms. She also corrected her old friend's belief, stating that human nature is to create rather than dominate. Tienhai assured the Avatar, saddened over his failure to protect the sacred ground her statue was on, that humanity knew how to learn from its past mistakes and that it would create a civilization that preserves and protects even as it grows. Reassuming her cranefish form, she asked him if he understood that spirits would always have a place as long as he and humans like him created a place for them. Asked how she knew this would happen, the spirit simply stated her hope for such an occurrence.[1]

Appearances

Graphic novel trilogies

Trivia

  • Tienhai is inspired by the Chinese goddess Mazu, sometimes called Tianhou, a goddess of the sea usually depicted with two guardian generals.[3]
  • In appearance, she is also similar to Guanyin, a Buddhist deity known as the Bodhisattva of compassion.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Rift Part 3 (November 5, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Rift Part 2 (July 2, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.
  3. The Rift Library Edition, page 146.

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