But one thing keeps coming time and time again to my mind about Iroh, and surprisingly, it's not his weight. This thought keeps frustrating me, and I can't seem to come to a conclusion about it. That is why I wrote this article (no, not because I want to elaborate on the fact that he is obese). I want to see everyone else's thoughts on this mind-boggling topic. Together, maybe we can think of an idea. The problem I have with Iroh is that the creators never quite finished telling us his story. Normally, I let these things slide gradually, like I did with the incomplete story of Zuko's mother. But this one is a bit more major. It all stems from one line said by Zhao to Iroh in the episode The Siege of the North:
I've even heard rumors about your journey into the Spirit World...
This line is quite a shocker, especially since this seems like a major subject the creators would want to explore in-depth. However, the episode shys away from this line after it is said, which is a significant disappointment. It's strange how so many loose strings were conveniently tied up at the end of the series, but this one was left hanging. I would have loved to see a Zuko Alone style episode about Iroh's journeys, but no!
Some may argue that Zhao was mistaken, and Iroh never really traveled to the Spirit World. I dispute these theories. There is too much evidence that supports Zhao saying the truth. For example, in the episode The Winter Solstice, Iroh is seen gasping at the sight of Fang, Avatar Roku's deceased pet dragon, as it flies high above him in the skies. The dragon was from the Spirit World, which means it should have been invisible to him (the Earthbenders who were with Iroh at the time did not see the dragon). This suggests the fact that Iroh had a pre-existing connection to the Spirit World. Other, more subtle hints include his mysterious acknowledgment of Princess Yue's connection to the Moon Spirit (people, please don't call Iroh a stalker) and the fact that he did not deny Zhao's bold statement about the journey to the Spirit World.
So, now that we know Zhao was not wrong, we are left with a bizarre eleven-word line to decipher. Feel free to write your own theories or opinions. For your enjoyment, here's my take on all this:
Iroh was born just like any other member of the Fire Nation's royal family. He grew up just like his brethren, parents, and the rest of his family. Iroh was taught from a very early age that the War was a way of communicating to the rest of the world the Fire Nation's greatness and their supreme right to dominate over other races. Pleasured by the belief that he could one day be the world's ruler, Iroh gladly accepted this and moved on. Once he became a teenager, he was sent out of the Fire Nation to begin his training. However, this is where his life branched off from the childhood of most Fire Nation nobility. Children were typically trained in the safety of the Fire Nation, far from the harsh cruelties of the War. Iroh, with much annoying begging, was able to convince his parents to let him experience the War as part of his training. He believed that the unique path he was taking was the only real path to power. However, Iroh's time in warfare at such an early age left him mentally scarred for life, an unforeseen side affect of his decision. For the first time, he saw the crippling realities of warfare. He did not think his own people were so abusive to other races. From this point on, he could no longer see Firebenders as saviors of the world. Instead, he began to see his country as one big huge weapon that could not quench it's thirst for blood, exactly what he had been taught to never believe. Iroh felt sympathy for the victims of the War, whom he wanted to support.
Iroh was smart enough to know that if he rebelled, he would be executed, with little hesitation from his father, Fire Lord Azulon. Therefore, he kept his thoughts to himself. Iroh had once been his father's favorite, but with the mental problems that arose after he left the Fire Nation, Azulon now began to favor Ozai. He saw his youngest son as most capable for the pressures of holding the throne, in part due to his reckless brutality during training. Eventually, Iroh came back home and married; it was a very happy marriage, and it produced one child - Lu Ten. Iroh's wife died shortly after Lu Ten's birth, leaving him with only one more person he truly cared about - his newborn son. Although traumatized by the sudden loss of his spouse, he eventually recovered. This recovery was complete in the sense that it healed his old mental issues. Lu Ten gave Iroh hope for a better future. He wanted his son to learn about the world from his own point of view, not the Fire Nation's extremist beliefs. Iroh believed that Lu Ten could change the country if he was raised properly. He taught him that all life is fragile and beautiful, so it needs to be protected with absolute delicacy. Iroh told Lu Ten of the Fire Nation's evil acts, too.
This did not go quite as planned. Lu Ten quickly became conflicted between the two views of his world - one from his uncle and the other from his instructors. Often, he preferred the extremist view, because it supposedly put him at the top of the world. Iroh lost favor in his son and his mental issues arose once more, in part due to the disgust he felt toward his only hope for a better future. Iroh realized that if his son could not change the world, only he could. He now realized the importance of becoming Fire Lord; it would allow him to completely reform society and end the War. However, Iroh was no longer destined to become Fire Lord, as his brother Ozai had been rising in popularity over the past few years. Desperate to claim his rightful title, Iroh became a general in the War and initiated a huge siege on Ba Sing Se. If the attack was successful, it would undermine Ozai's accomplishments and allow Iroh to capture the throne. He took his now-grown son with him, as he felt he should undergo the same experiences he had when he was a child. Maybe then he would understand why his father thought the Fire Nation was evil. That turned out to be a disastrous move, as his son died just six-hundred days into the siege. He died because Iroh had become angered by Lu Ten's incompetence and fear. In a quick and rash decision, he forced his son into the front lines, in which he spent his final moments of life. Iroh became depressed after this tragic event. He blamed himself entirely for what had happened, claiming in tears and cries of pain that he had, without noticing it, become what he vowed never to become after his premature experience in the War. He had become the typical Firebender he had despised for so long. Iroh realized that if he could not rescue his son from becoming a victim of Iroh's conflicted emotions, then he had no chance of rescuing the world. Wanting to die, he attempted suicide. Attempted...
I am not done writing this story. It is long so please be patient and wait for me to finish it.