- This article is about the first Avatar. For the spirit, see Wan Shi Tong.
"This is my mission: to use Raava's light spirit to guide the world toward peace."
Wan was the first Avatar, having lived ten thousand years prior to Avatar Korra's time. After being banished from his home, he learned to coexist with the spirits, deciding to help bring balance between them and the rest of mankind, a quest that eventually led to him becoming the first Avatar.
Living in poverty, Wan stole to survive and feed his friends. To achieve that goal, he regularly stole from the Chou family. However, one day, after snatching food from them, he was chased down the streets of the city by the three angry Chou brothers. He managed to outrun them at first by making his way across rooftops, though when he stopped to eat, the brothers caught up to him. Wan attempted to escape again, but was tripped by one of the Chou brothers and subsequently captured. His sack of food was taken away from him, and he was thrown into a muddy pen with hybrid pigs. Wan returned to his family's tree house, bringing Jaya and Yao what little food he had managed to salvage in his tunic. He gave away his own portion to several hungry animals, lamenting their impoverished lifestyle and wishing they could live like the Chous. During that time, however, he devised a plan to gain more power so he could change his life.
Wan joined the group of four hunters that were preparing to leave the city and venture into the Spirit Wilds to collect food for the city. Although the lead hunter was skeptical at first to let Wan join, Wan was allowed to accompany them since there were no other willing volunteers. As such, the young man traveled with the hunters to face the fire lion turtle, the guardian of their city, to receive the power of firebending, which enabled them to defend themselves against the hostile spirits living in the Spirit Wilds. Soon after the group set off, Wan pretended to chicken out and was subsequently ordered to go back to the lion turtle to return his newly acquired ability. However, Wan did not return to the lion turtle and instead returned to the city directly, keeping his firebending. With it, he inspired several other poor people to disguisedly join him on a raid on the Chou palace. Although the raid was going smoothly at first, the Chou brothers called in reinforcements and Wan was captured and unmasked. He was brought before the lion turtle, and although the creature permitted him to keep his firebending at his request, Wan was banished to the Spirit Wilds for his crimes.
Befriending the spirits
As he wandered the Spirit Wilds, Wan was on edge, shooting at every spirit he encountered. While running away from a large frog spirit that wanted to trample him, Wan got eaten by a plant, though managed to save himself with his bending. He ran on until he collapsed from exhaustion on an open grassy spot. However, much to his surprise, the grass started to wrap itself around him and pulled him under. He used his fire to save himself from a certain death by suffocation and continued his journey through the wilderness. Afraid to lower his guard in the hostile environment, he remained awake the entire night.
By morning, his hunger and exhaustion prompted him to stop at what he perceived to be a fruit-carrying tree. As he tried to sink his teeth in what he thought was a fruit, the fruit turned out to be a swarm of bees hurdled together that promptly attacked Wan for his disturbance. Wan's desperate attempt to get away from the angered insects led him to fall off a cliff. As he landed, he found himself looking at a peaceful island-like oasis with more fruit trees. Still hungry, he made his way over toward the little island, though found his path blocked by an aye-aye spirit, who appeared out of nowhere before him and told him he was not welcome at the oasis. Wan tried to reason with the spirit, telling the entity that he was hungry and in need of sleep. However, when the spirit coldly told him that it was not his problem, Wan attempted to force the spirit aside by firebending at him. Enraged, the spirit met Wan's challenge, easily evading his attack by teleporting behind him, grabbing him, and throwing him aside in the nearby bush. Wan walked away in defeat, but when he noticed that several other spirits were granted access to the oasis, he covered himself in leaves and branches, disguising himself as "Bushy, the Bush Spirit". He briefly managed to fool the oasis guardian, but the latter was able to discover his deception through his human scent. When ordered to return home, Wan revealed that he was banished. The other spirits took pity on him and suggested he find other lion turtle cities, but the guardian refused to give him directions.
Wan subsequently set out to find these mentioned cities on his own. While traveling through the wilds, he spotted a cat deer caught in a net. Still hungry, he approached it with the intent of eating it, though after seeing the creature up close, he climbed the tree in an attempt to free it. At that moment, however, the group of hunters he was supposed to accompany arrived and they intended to kill the cat deer. Wan firebent at the hunters and ran off, hoping the men would forget about the animal and chase him. Having discovered the dangers of the Spirit Wilds for himself, he used the wilds' hazards in his advantage to get rid of two of his pursuers. Before he could free himself completely from the hunters, Wan was knocked unconscious by a fire blast. However, before the men could do anything, the aye-aye spirit, touched by Wan's selfless act, intervened and saved him. Wan was brought back to the oasis by the spirit, where he was placed in the spirit waters, healing him. Deciding he had had enough of humans, Wan chose to stay at the oasis and learn the ways of the spirits, which earned him the nickname "Stinky" from the aye-aye spirit.
As time went by, Wan befriended the spirits and honed his firebending skills by learning the Dancing Dragon form from a white dragon, training himself to the point where his bending became an extension of his own body, not just a tool. He used his abilities to protect the spirits and drive off hostile humans.
Two years after his banishment, Wan wanted to travel the world to find the other lion turtle cities. During his journey, he was disturbed by a stampede of fleeing spirits, who ran away from the raging fight between the "all-powerful spirits". He went to investigate, as the battle risked wiping out the entire valley. Concerned about the destruction of the environment, Wan approached the two raging spirits, oblivious to their identity, and ordered them to stop. The white spirit, Raava, told him off, saying that the fight did not concern him. However, when he objected, telling her that it was his concern when the lives of spirits and animals were at stake, the dark spirit, Vaatu, begged him for help. Upon hearing that the dark entity had been tortured by his counterpart for ten thousand years, Wan used his firebending to break the hold Raava had on Vaatu. It was only after Vaatu had already fled that Wan learned the error of his actions, as Raava explained who she was and what her purpose was.
Becoming the Avatar
Feeling bad about his mistake, Wan offered to help Raava track down Vaatu, but was told to stay out of the conflict. After the light spirit flew away, he resumed his goal of finding the other lion turtle cities. Along the way, he came across harvesters with the ability to control the air, and followed them to their city, which was built atop a flying lion turtle. Having no ability to naturally ascend to the flying lion turtle city, Wan constructed a catapult from a living tree to fling himself toward the creature. While conversing with the people living there, Vaatu arrived and his presence turned the peaceful spirits living in the town into raging dark entities. Wan used his firebending ability to protect the people until Raava showed up and knocked Vaatu down. After Vaatu left, Wan noticed that Raava was growing weaker. To rectify his previous mistake, he promised to help Raava despite her disdain for him. In order to do so, Wan requested the airbending lion turtle to grant him the ability to control air. Although no human had ever held two elements before, Wan insisted that he was unlike other humans and could learn to do so. The lion turtle decided to give him the power of air; however, Raava would have to hold the power for him until he mastered it. Together, the two set out to train. Eventually, Raava gave the element of air to Wan by passing through his body and combining their energies. Although a dangerous undertaking, Wan survived the ordeal, and the small alliance set out to find the waterbending and earthbending lion turtles to receive the last two elements.
Over the course of a year, Wan and Raava worked together, training to master the four elements in order to be ready to face and defeat Vaatu by the time of the Harmonic Convergence. As the event drew near, Wan and Raava came across a village in the Spirit Wilds near the fire lion turtle that was inhabited by Wan's former friends. However, the hostile attitude of the settlers fomented the ever-increasing discontent between mankind and the spirits. When a gathering of spirits led by the aye-aye spirit approached the village, Wan attempted to resolve the conflict peacefully. However, Vaatu's arrival caused the spirits to turn dark and the conflict escalated, prompting Wan and Raava to intervene. In order to be powerful enough to control the four elements simultaneously, Wan and Raava merged their energies, but this strained Wan's body, one that he could not keep up with, and he passed out. When he woke, he found the village destroyed, and Vaatu informed him that all the humans had been killed. As Vaatu left, Wan found a severely weakened Raava behind a rock. He gently picked her up, placed her in his teapot for easy transportation, and set out toward the Southern spirit portal.
As they drew near to the portal on the day of the Harmonic Convergence, Raava apologized for her prejudiced view of Wan, as she had been unaware that humans had the capability of displaying nobility and courage. In response, he reassured her that they would be able to defeat Vaatu by working together. Wan and Raava traveled through the portal to the Spirit World, while Vaatu emerged from the Northern portal. The dark spirit challenged Raava, but Wan stepped forward to defend her. Using his firebending, Wan attacked Vaatu, though the spirit easily evaded his blasts and retaliated with his tendrils and energy beams. Realizing he was no match for Vaatu, he called upon Raava to help him by merging their energies. Although the merge put him in mortal danger, Wan refused to give up and kept fighting Vaatu. However, the spirit managed to knock him down and pin him to the ground near the Southern spirit portal. When the Harmonic Convergence began, Wan placed his hand on the spirit portal, permanently bonding his spirit with Raava's. This bond created the Avatar Spirit, making Wan the first Avatar. With his newfound strength from the Avatar State, Wan managed to trap Vaatu in an elemental cage and imprisoned him in the hollow of the Tree of Time in the Spirit World and subsequently closed the Northern spirit portal in order to prevent any human from ever physically entering the Spirit World and releasing him. After guiding the spirits in the mortal world to return to the Spirit World via the Southern portal, Wan closed that portal as well, announcing that he would be the bridge between the two worlds and keep balance while teaching the world to respect the spirits.
As time passed, Wan tried to maintain the balance in the world, urging the different groups of people to coexist peacefully. However, this proved to be a daunting task, one that he would work at his entire lifetime without ever seeing it come to an end. Years later, an armored and elderly Wan lay resting in the aftermath of a battlefield. Before passing away, Wan apologized to Raava for failing to bring peace to the world. However, the light spirit reassured him that they would always be together through all his lifetimes and would never give up. With that, Wan exhaled his last breath and his spirit, accompanied by the Avatar Spirit, left his body to be reincarnated, thus beginning the Avatar Cycle.
Wan's story, along with most knowledge of his time, was lost in the succeeding centuries. However, the few who knew his legend met his decision to close the spirit portals with criticism, deeming his actions as either foolish or misguided; even his current incarnation, Avatar Korra, despite her initial intent on closing the portals, kept them open to usher a new era where humans and spirits live in harmony.
The Red Lotus came to learn of his story, spreading it among its members, including Unalaq and Zaheer. It became the organization's goal to open the spirit portals, in hopes of releasing Vaatu, believing that the disorder this would cause would ultimately bring balance to the world, although Unalaq later betrayed the organization to pursue his personal goal of fusing with Vaatu to become a Dark Avatar.
A statue of Wan remained inside the hall of Avatar statues in the Southern Air Temple sanctuary. The statue is unusual in that it is wooden and has deteriorated over time, whereas most of the others are stone, and depicts Wan being embraced by an image of Raava. Jinora, while on a family visit to the Southern Air Temple, found herself drawn to the statue. Concurrent with Korra's success in bringing back the southern lights, Wan's statue, which was stored in a shadowed alcove deep in the sanctuary, shone brightly.
Appearances in Korra's life
In 171 AG, Avatar Wan appeared in a vision to an amnesiac Korra, who had to reconnect with her deepest Avatar memories and find Raava. Wan helped her do this by showing her how he became the first Avatar.
Later, while Unalaq was attacking Raava during Harmonic Convergence, Korra saw Wan at the end of a lineup of Avatars in a vision. After the chief dealt the final blow to the Light Spirit, dissipating her, Wan was the last Avatar to disappear, signifying Korra's connection to all her past lives being severed. However, due to the Tree of Time's connection to the cosmic energy, Korra's memories of Wan were displayed inside the tree's hollow when she entered it to meditate.
Wan was initially reckless and quick to anger when he felt that he or those close to him were being treated unjustly, although he preferred to use trickery to get what he wanted as opposed to violence. He kept an open mind though, not afraid to envision things being different and going against the advice of others in pursuit of doing what he felt was right or necessary. Nonetheless, when he did make mistakes, he felt remorseful, even to the point where he willingly risked his life to make things right. Though initially not concerned with the outside world, he developed a curiosity and a desire to learn about nature, spirits, and other human cities. Although he trained to be one of the most powerful humans of his time, he was humble, learning the ways of the spirits despite their early disdain for him, and establishing the position of the Avatar in an act of duty rather than to assert his own will over others.
In his later life, Wan was much less impulsive, and though willing to fight for peace, he preferred to settle disputes between different groups through diplomacy, believing that people needed to learn to live together in peace. He spent his whole life trying to maintain balance in the world, showing himself to be a compassionate, optimistic, and courageous individual who primarily put the needs and safety of others; spirits, humans, and animals above his own.
Originally, Wan could only bend one element at a time when unaided by Raava, but upon merging with her, he became capable of bending all four elements simultaneously. He also gained the ability to open and close the spirit portals, as well as to access the Avatar State to augment his bending.
As the abilities the fire lion turtle gifted upon the settlers living on his back were only kept temporarily, Wan initially had little skill in firebending, limited to simple fire blasts. However, during his time living with the spirits, Wan developed the Dancing Dragon firebending form, and was the first human to use fire as an extension of his body, rather than as merely a tool to forage for food. He became capable of redirecting fire back at his opponents as well as higher-level firebending techniques such as flame deflection, jet propulsion, and the ability to produce bigger plumes of fire.
Guided by the desire to aid Raava, Wan traveled to other lion turtles, intent on receiving the ability to bend the other three elements. After extensively training with Raava over the course of a year, he became proficient in the use of each individual art form. With airbending, Wan was able to produce massive air blasts, maintain an air spout, and use an air cloud as a means of transportation. His waterbending skills extended to mastery over basic forms such as streaming the water, to classic techniques involving the use of water whips. With earthbending, Wan primarily used the element to hurl boulders at his opponents and launch himself in the air.
Wan was both agile and skilled in acrobatics, as he was able to swing off a clothesline, land on an adjacent block, and run across rooftops. He was also able to leap large distances.
The Legend of Korra
Book Two: Spirits (神靈)
- 207. "Beginnings, Part 1" (vision)
- 208. "Beginnings, Part 2" (vision)
- 213. "Darkness Falls" (vision, no lines)
- 214. "Light in the Dark" (vision)
- In Mandarin Chinese, "Wan" ( ) means "ten thousand", the number of years he lived before Korra, and can be used non-literally to mean uncountable or infinite.
- "Wan" is also phonetically similar to "one" in English, which is interesting to note considering that he was the first Avatar.
- The order in which Wan received the elements became the order of the Avatar Cycle: fire, air, water, and earth.
- Wan gained control over three elements within a year's time, similar to Aang.
- During his final battle against Vaatu, different pieces of Wan's outfit included a main color from each of the eventual four nations: his robes were shades of orange and yellow, which are associated with the Air Nomads; his sash was dark blue with light blue embroidery, which are associated with the Water Tribes; his armbands were light green, which is associated with the Earth Kingdom; and his scarf was bright red, which is associated with the Fire Nation.
- Wan was the sixth of seven people to be seen using firebending to propel themselves into the air, and the third person to do so in The Legend of Korra; the others were Azula, Jeong Jeong, Ozai, Iroh, Mako, and Korra.
- Wan is the third person to die on screen in The Legend of Korra. The others are, in chronological order, Amon, Tarrlok, Unalaq, Hou-Ting, P'Li, Ming-Hua, Ghazan, and Hiroshi.
- Wan's physical design was based on The Legend of Korra co-creator Bryan Konietzko.
- The site of Wan's death is the same field of large earth coins that Prince Zuko passes through millennia later before arriving at the plains village.
c. 9,829 BG
| Succeeded by|
Unknown; eventually unnamed fire Avatar