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Zuko

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This article is about the character. For other similar uses, see Zuko (disambiguation).
Zuko
蘇科
Zuko
Biographical information
Alternative name(s)
Nationality

Fire Nation Capital, Fire Nation

Ethnicity

Fire Nation

Age
Born

83 AG

Reign

100 AG – 167 AG (67 years)[4]

Predecessor

Ozai (as Fire Lord)

Successor

Izumi (as Fire Lord)

Physical description
Gender

Male

Hair color

Dark brown (white in old age)

Personal information
Allies

Iroh, Ursa, Izumi, Ikem, Aang, Appa, Azula (formerly), Katara, Momo, Sokka, Suki, Toph, Ozai (formerly), Hakoda, Mai, Ty Lee, General Iroh, Jin, June, Kiyi, Lu Ten, Fire Nation military, Kyoshi Warriors, Order of the White Lotus, Druk, Tonraq, Korra, Desna and Eska, Tenzin, Lin Beifong, Team Avatar, more ...

Enemies

Azula, Ozai, Jet, Combustion Man, Zhao, Gow, the Rough Rhinos, Team Avatar (formerly), Red Lotus, more ...

Weapon of choice

Fire, dual dao swords

Fighting style(s)

Firebending, dual dao swordsmanship

Chronological and political information
Profession
  • Ambassador
  • Blue Spirit (formerly)
  • Fire Lord (formerly)
  • Firebending instructor[6]
  • Tea shop assistant (formerly)
Position
Affiliation
First appearance

"The Boy in the Iceberg"

Last appearance

"The Coronation"

Voiced by
Zuko is a firebending master, born as a prince in the Fire Nation Royal Family, who held the title of Fire Lord from 100 AG to 167 AG. Initially Team Avatar's primary enemy, Zuko's early life revolved around trying to capture the long-lost Avatar to end his banishment and regain his honor as Crown Prince of the Fire Nation.

Zuko is easily recognized by the distinctive scar on the left side of his face. It was given to him by his father, Fire Lord Ozai, shortly before his banishment as a result of an incident in which he unintentionally disrespected his father by speaking out of turn and refusing to duel him.[9]

With support from his uncle, General Iroh, and after much internal struggle and turmoil, Zuko rejected Ozai and his model of the Fire Nation. He instead joined the Avatar's group to become Aang's friend and firebending teacher[10] and was determined to end the war and restore both his and the Fire Nation's honor.[11] While Aang defeated Ozai, Zuko, with the help of Katara, defeated his prodigious younger sister Princess Azula and took his place as Fire Lord, declaring the end of the Hundred Year War and the start of an era of love and peace.[7]

At the beginning of his reign, Zuko had to overcome great difficulties and solve several crises, especially those caused by the Harmony Restoration Movement[12] and the New Ozai Society.[13] Nevertheless, he succeeded in maintaining peace and eventually became one of the founders of the United Republic of Nations.[14] Zuko retired from his position as Fire Lord in 167 AG and became an ambassador of peace, relinquishing the throne to his daughter, Izumi.[4][15]

When he learned in two weeks after Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG that the Red Lotus had escaped their prisons, Zuko once again set out to help the Avatar to protect the world.

History

Early life

Born in 83 AG, Zuko was the first born child of Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa. From a young age, he was disdained by his father, an animosity that began shortly after the prince's birth. As the infant lacked the "spark in [his] eyes" that is typical for most firebenders, the royal family was unsure if Zuko was a bender at all. Ozai, viewing a nonbender as firstborn as "shame", planned to cast his son over the palace walls. Only when Ursa and the Fire Sages intervened did the Fire Prince give his newborn son a chance.[16] Later on, it turned out that Zuko was a firebender, and peace returned to the young family.

Zuko rescuing turtle crab

Even as a three-year-old child, Zuko already displayed a strong morality, as he wanted to save both the eagle hawk and the turtle crab.

Zuko's family made frequent vacations to Ember Island in the following years, and Zuko would later consider this time the only one when his family was "actually happy".[17] When he was three, Zuko saw an eagle hawk attacking a turtle crab while playing at the beach. The little prince immediately rushed to rescue the crab, feeling the urge to help the weak. However, when he had the animal safely in his arms, Zuko realized that the hawk would die of hunger without its prey. Unsure which side he should take, the prince was eventually surprised by a wave and carried out into the ocean. Zuko almost drowned before he was saved by his father. The little prince spent the remainder of the day in the care of his mother, recovering from the experience while vomiting sea-water.[18] Zuko and his family also often watched the play Love amongst the Dragons at the Ember Island Theater. Afterward, the prince and Azula usually reenacted the final duel of the play at the beach. To his frustration, Zuko normally had to take the role of the Dark Water Spirit, the evil antagonist. Nevertheless, Zuko happily recalled these memories many years later.[16]

In his early youth, he was also schooled by Piandao in the art of fighting with dual dao swords.[19]

However, as they got older, Zuko and Azula eventually grew apart and he became the object of his sister Azula's manipulation, ridicule, and deception. His mother, however, loved and favored him over his sister.[9] Especially Azula let her brother feel her increasing animosity, as apparent when Zuko, Ursa, and Azula walked in the royal garden around 94 AG. Zuko happily talked with his mother until the prince saw his sister burning a flower of the garden. He promptly told on her to their mother, as he thought that Azula's action was wrong. When Ursa scolded the princess due to this, she burned Zuko's bottom in retaliation. After sending Azula to her room, Zuko was consoled by his mother. Zuko tearfully lamented that he did not understand why Azula had "to be so mean", as he had just did what he thought was the right thing to do.[16]

Young Azula and Zuko

Zuko was completely devastated upon hearing his father say that he was "lucky to be born".

A few months later, Zuko and his family ate together at the palace dining hall. Azula soon began to brag about opposing their firebending teacher, Kunyo, calling his techniques "the dumb way" to firebend. After hearing this, Ozai agreed with Azula that the teacher seemed to be incapable and declared to send him to the colonies as punishment. When the princess expressed her satisfaction about this, Zuko objected. The young prince said that Kunyo was not "a dummy" and proceeded that the teacher just thought that good firebending has to begin with proper forms, but was promptly silenced by his father. Outraged about Zuko's behavior, Ozai scolded the boy about "[daring] to lecture" his sister on firebending. When his father angrily asked Zuko how many more firebending forms his sister had already mastered than him, the intimidated prince meekly answered that his sister had mastered fourteen more forms. Ozai continued to recount how he would have almost discarded Zuko because he thought that he was a nonbender when the prince was born. Finally, Ozai told Zuko that "[Azula had been] born lucky", while "[he had been] lucky to be born," leaving his son completely devastated.[16]

Ursa's disappearance

When Zuko was eleven years old, his cousin, Lu Ten, was killed in battle. General Iroh, devastated by the loss of his only child, abandoned his 600 day siege of the Earth Kingdom capital city, Ba Sing Se. During an audience with Fire Lord Azulon, Ozai showed off Azula's prodigious firebending skill and knowledge of military strategy, both outstripping Zuko's. Azulon was unimpressed by these exercises and demanded Ursa and her children leave and Ozai be frank about his reasons for wanting the audience. Azula and Zuko eavesdropped on their conversation as Ozai voiced his desire to be made heir in Iroh's place, justifying this course of action by pointing out that Iroh's overwhelming grief and subsequent erratic behavior made the date of his return from war uncertain and he had no remaining heirs to carry on his line. Azulon, however, was outraged and declared angrily that Iroh had suffered enough, but Ozai's suffering had just begun.[9]

Ursa hugs Zuko

Ursa visited Zuko before her mysterious disappearance.

Frightened, Zuko ran away while Azula stayed to watch. Later, he was in his room trying to sleep when Azula came in and mockingly told him that Azulon's punishment for Ozai is that Ozai must kill Zuko, as he wanted him to know what it felt like to lose a first-born child. Ursa, hearing the commotion, came in and took Azula away, declaring it was time that they talked. Zuko, left behind, chanted quietly to himself, "Azula always lies." Later, he was awakened again, but this time by his mother. She told her sleepy son that everything she had done, she had done to protect him, and instructed him not to forget who he was no matter how much things may change. The next morning, he immediately remembered what transpired the night before and ran frantically through the halls searching for his mother. He found Azula, who blithely told him Azulon died the previous night and their mother was missing. As she played with his pearl dagger (a gift from his Uncle Iroh), she mocked him and noted their mother was not there to make her give it back. Eventually, he found Ozai in the gardens of the palace and demanded to know where his mother was. Ozai did not answer and he hung his head in sorrow. At Azulon's funeral, the Fire Sage conducting the ceremony named Ozai the new Fire Lord upon Azulon's dying request.[9]

Banishment

Zuko begs

Zuko pleaded to his father for forgiveness.

Two years later, Iroh allowed a persistent, thirteen-year-old Zuko into a war council with Ozai and some of his generals. The young prince was instructed by his uncle not to speak during the meeting; however, when one general outlined a plan to sacrifice an entire division of new recruits in a diversionary maneuver, Zuko fiercely spoke out against the general's suggestion, seeing it as a betrayal of the recruits' patriotism. The insubordinate outburst was seen as a grave insult and Ozai demanded the prince participate in an Agni Kai. He agreed, unaware of the reality that it was his father and not the general whom he had insulted. Upon turning to face his opponent, Zuko surprisingly found himself against his father, he immediately became penitent and fell to his knees, refusing to fight and tearfully begging for his father's forgiveness. Ozai declared his refusal a sign of cowardice and another display of disrespect, affirming that "[he] will learn respect, and suffering will be [his] teacher".[20]

Ozai burned Zuko by permanently scarring the left side of his face, stripped him of his birthright, and exiled him from his beloved homeland, declaring that he could return only after having found and captured the Avatar, who had disappeared one hundred years prior. It was a fool's errand by all accounts, but one to which Zuko clung desperately as his only hope of regaining his honor and everything he had lost.[20]

Zuko and Iroh at the Western Air Temple

Zuko and his uncle visited the Western Air Temple in search of the Avatar.

Zuko spent the next two years at sea,[21] fruitlessly and desperately searching for the Avatar. He searched the four air temples, beginning with the Western Air Temple, and scoured the world, searching even the most remote locations for his prize.[10] Iroh accompanied Zuko during his exile, and the pair spent more than two years at sea with a small ship and crew. They were not royal guards or special forces and may well have been banished themselves, or were foolishly intent on serving under the popular General Iroh. They were often unhappy under Zuko but obeyed his orders.[20] Iroh often considered the search an extended vacation.

Winter 99 AG

Main article: History of Zuko (83 AG - 100 AG)

Spring 100 AG

Main article: History of Zuko (Spring 100 AG)

Summer 100 AG

Main article: History of Zuko (Summer 100 AG)

Reign as Fire Lord (100 AG - 167 AG)

Harmony Restoration Movement

Zuko and the promise

Zuko asked Aang to make the promise to end his life if he became like Ozai.

After the Hundred Year War, Zuko was crowned Fire Lord and subsequently aided the Harmony Restoration Movement in order to move the colonials back to the Fire Nation. During the Earth King's official announcement of the plan to the people of Ba Sing Se, Zuko and his friends took a ride on Appa to watch the celebratory fireworks. While on the sky bison, the concerned Fire Lord asked the Avatar to make a promise: If Aang saw that Zuko was becoming like Ozai, as the Avatar, Aang would end Zuko's life. Initially disbelieving, Aang sought advice from Katara, who nodded in approval, and in seeing this, he hesitantly accepted.[12]

Furthermore, Zuko began to actively change the Fire Nation government; he removed most of Ozai's loyalists from their offices, making only a few exceptions, including Mai's father. Because of this and his policy of reconciliation, some in the Fire Nation and the colonies developed a deep hatred for him. Underground rebel organizations were formed in attempts to restore Ozai back to power, and several attempts on his life took place, though ultimately, all these attempts failed.[12][22]

Zuko attacking Morishita

Fire Lord Zuko attacked Mayor Morishita after the latter called him a coward.

A year later, following five attempts on the Fire Lord's life, Kori, daughter of Morishita, Mayor of Yu Dao, broke into the Royal Palace to assassinate Zuko. Although she overcame the bodyguards, she was not able to defeat Zuko, who took her as a prisoner and learned the truth behind the attack. The Fire Lord traveled to her home colony to speak with the mayor; however, when Zuko explained that the movement was to bring peace to the world, Morishita reacted poorly and began arguing, using Ozai as an example of a Fire Lord who would not betray his people, causing Zuko to remember a visit he made to his father in prison. Ozai had warned him that he was going to return, as the young man would need help being the ruler of a nation that he could not handle on his own. The Fire Lord threatened Mayor Morishita, claiming that he was not like his father, and the mayor agreed: He was not like his father, who had many faults but was never a coward or a traitor. At this, Zuko ordered the mayor seized, but the guards were attacked by an earthbender, Mrs. Morishita, who asked the Fire Lord to forgive her husband for his statements. Zuko, surprised to see that she was an earthbender, as was her daughter, learned that the people had already been established in the city strongly enough to even form families between people from different nations. It was for this reason that Zuko allowed the Fire Nation colonials to remain in the city and announced his rejection of the Harmony Restoration Movement.[12]

Zuko stopping Katara

Zuko subdued Katara in order to protect his soldiers from her fury.

After Team Avatar heard about Zuko's withdrawing of support for the Harmony Restoration Movement, they traveled to Yu Dao, where Zuko was staying. Aang and Katara flew over the city's walls to meet the Fire Lord; however, some Fire Nation guards informed them that no one could enter without the Fire Lord's permission, not even the Avatar, to which Aang claimed that he just wanted to talk to him. The guards responded by attacking Aang and Katara with firebending. After the pair defeated all the guards, Katara was grabbed by Zuko, who admonished her for attacking his people. Aang, angry at Zuko's action, warned him to let her go, but he insisted that she first had to agree to stop attacking; Aang separated Zuko and Katara with airbending, prompting Zuko to retaliate, and Aang to enter the Avatar State. Katara, telling him that he would not be able to control himself in an altered emotional state, managed to calm him down. The Fire Lord agreed to talk and gave the couple a tour of Yu Dao, pointing out how heavily integrated the lives of the citizens were in the colony. At this, Katara proposed a conversation with Kuei concerning the matter, to which the Avatar and Fire Lord both agreed.

Zuko asking his father advice

Zuko asked his father for advice regarding the Harmony Restoration Movement.

Returning to the Capital City, Zuko met Mai, who tried to console him after noticing his tiredness and lack of sleep, and asked him to talk to her if he had problems, to which Zuko agreed and said it would not happen again. Mai informed him that she had brought the Kyoshi Warriors for better protection of the palace. That night, Zuko woke up in the middle of the night, convinced that he heard something. Going outside to investigate, he was informed by Suki and Ty Lee that it had been quiet all night. Confused, he went for a drink of water, hoping that the walk would do him some good, though ended up preparing tea to take to his father in prison. There, he knelt before him, and asked him for advice.[12]

Zuko kept struggling to find the right path and to overcome his insomnia. Turning to Ozai for guidance, he was told that no matter what he chose to do, it would always be the right thing for he was the Fire Lord and therefore whatever he said goes. Zuko refused to believe that, stating there was a greater good beyond his own decisions. Enraged over Zuko's beliefs, Ozai demanded him to leave his presence, as Zuko was still weak because of that.

Mai confronting Fire Lord Zuko

Mai broke up with Zuko shortly after becoming aware of his meetings with Ozai.

While Zuko was pondering over what to do, Mai confronted him about his secret meetings with Ozai and blamed him for not confiding in her. He apologized to her and admitted that he loved her, but she retorted that it became apparent that he loved his secrets more than her and thus ended their relationship. Suki arrived immediately after Mai's departure, bowing before the Fire Lord while apologizing to him as she felt responsible for their breakup. She told him that she was the one who had informed Mai about his nightly talks in hopes of helping Zuko, as she and the Kyoshi Warriors were worried about him. However, when General Mak arrived to inform Zuko that Earth King Kuei was preparing to invade Yu Dao, Zuko pushed his relationship troubles aside and deployed his fleet to defend the colony from the Earth Kingdom Army.[18]

Aang and Zuko dream

Zuko witnessed Aang enter the Avatar State in the dream the two of them shared.

While asleep in the ship, Zuko and Aang shared a dream in which the spirits of Ozai and Roku stood behind them as he tried to explain to Aang his conflicting feelings about the Harmony Restoration Movement: the need to protect his people against his initial promise to see the Harmony Restoration Movement through. Ozai's voice echoed in his mind, telling him that the Fire Lord's will determined what was right. Convinced that he would never find the right path on his own, he offered himself freely to Aang. As the Avatar entered the Avatar State in order to fulfill his promise to Zuko, the Fire Lord noticed his mournful mother standing behind the spirit of Roku and asked her not to cry. Meanwhile, Aang unleashed an elemental attack on him, but before he could fulfill his promise to kill Zuko, both teenagers woke up with a shock.

Zuko and picture of Iroh

Zuko talked to a picture of Iroh after becoming conflicted about his actions.

Conflicted about his actions, Zuko sought advice by talking to a painting of his uncle, Iroh. His monologue was interrupted when a soldier alerted him that the fleet had arrived on Earth Kingdom shores, prompting Zuko to dress for battle and leave to lead his army.

The Fire Nation forces reached the gates of Yu Dao at the moment the Earth Kingdom forces were given the command to start the assault. Right before the battle ensued, Toph disabled all of the Fire Nation tanks by metalbending all their screws out. While the Fire Nation troops were in disarray, confused about what happened, General How ordered his Earth Kingdom troops to enter Yu Dao and arrest the colonials, a move Zuko countered by commanding his ground troops to defend the people of the Fire Nation in the colony, causing both armies to clash.

When How and his men were about to assault Kori, Sokka, and Sneers, Zuko came to their rescue, and commenced in a duel with the general. However, they were soon interrupted by Aang, who had entered the Avatar State. Convinced that Aang was going to fulfill his promise, Zuko shortly pleaded to reconsider, but immediately reconciled with the thought that his own demise was for the best. Zuko removed his helmet and watched as Aang displayed a strong feat of earthbending to create a chasm between Yu Dao and the fighting armies. However, as he was standing too close to the rim of the newly created abyss, the stone crumbled underneath Zuko's feet and he plummeted down, but in the nick of time, he was saved from death by Aang. Upon hearing the Avatar's reasoning with Earth King Kuei and realizing his own actions were right, Zuko collapsed.

Zuko in Jasmine Dragon

Iroh hosted both Zuko and Aang at the Jasmine Dragon after the end of the battle for Yu Dao.

Zuko awoke four days later at Iroh's Jasmine Dragon, where his uncle chided him for not visiting him any sooner. Aang joined Zuko at his table and together they discussed the future of Yu Dao, acknowledging that it could no longer be a Fire Nation colony or an Earth Kingdom town. They both also touched upon the dream they shared, causing Zuko to relieve Aang of his promise, as he realized that he could not put that burden on the Avatar's shoulders. He mentioned the sight of his mother in the dream and his desire to find her, believing that it would solve his problems by connecting himself to a part of his heritage that was not murky and confusing for him. However, every search attempt up to that moment to find his mother had turned out empty handed. Zuko realized that he needed more information about what happened the day Ursa left, though he knew Ozai would never help him. Determined to find his mother, he turned to the only person who he believed could help him coax the needed information out of Ozai: Azula.[23]

Searching for Ursa

Zuko thinks about family

Despite the appeasements of his friends, Zuko still wondered what his ruined family meant for his nation.

Some time after the battle for Yu Dao, Zuko attended a meeting together with his friends and several government officials at the home of the governor of Yu Dao to discuss the future of the city. A professor gave a lecture on ancient Earth Kingdom philosophies regarding the four nations, though it was of little interest to him, as he slowly zoned out as the man droned on. However, he snapped back to attention when the professor mentioned the word "family". Not having caught the entire statement, he requested the man to repeat what he had said, and he listened attentively to how there is a comparison to be made between how one treats one's family and how one rules. He pondered over the words, and when Aang asked if everything was all right, he wondered what the banishment of his mother for years along with his own actions of putting his father in jail and his sister in an institution meant for his nation.

Inspired by the philosophy regarding family and a nation, Zuko returned home and placed his father and sister in adjoining cells in order to facilitate conversation between the two in hopes of gaining information about Ursa's whereabouts. When he was told by Suki that Ozai and Azula had not said a word to each other, he entered the room to bring tea in an attempt to ease the tension. However, Azula perceived his attempt to friendliness as a way to mock the fact that she was restraint and subsequently knocked him over by grabbing the tray out of his hand with her teeth, much to Ozai's amusement. Zuko tried to prevent Ty Lee from chi blocking Azula, though he acted too late. He called the two Kyoshi Warriors back and gently positioned a now paralyzed Azula back into her chair. He explained to her that he just wanted to bring them a little dignity by giving them some tea. His sister sent him off, however, saying that the only way he could really bring them dignity was to let them have a conversation in private.

Azula burning Ursa's letters

Azula burnt Ursa's letters, much to Zuko's shock and horror.

After half an hour, Zuko returned to collect Azula in order to wheel her to her old room in the palace, where she would be staying from that point on. Suki and Ty Lee accompanied him, though he sent them off in order to have a private conversation with his sister. Once alone, he asked what she and their father talked about, though Azula dodged the question and asked in return whether or not he had ever experienced the sensation of being chi blocked. When Zuko said he had not, she proceeded to meticulously describe the feeling, mentioning that one becomes extremely flexible right before regaining their full control. To prove her words, she twisted her arm out of her straitjacket and fired a lightning bolt at her brother. Zuko commanded her to stop, aiming a fire blast as her as she ran away, which ended up freeing her completely. Zuko was forced on the defense as Azula threw a blue fire blast at him, though saw how she made her way into an adjoining building. Zuko followed his sister into one of Ozai's secret chambers that was hidden by a firebending-triggered door, where she was rampaging about their father overcoming control to tell her the truth, while rummaging through a chest. Zuko demanded Azula hand him the letters Ursa had written that she had found; however, Azula burned them all in front of him – save one, though Zuko did not know that. In order to receive the information, Zuko complied with Azula's request to allow her to accompany him unbound and with dignity on his quest to find their mother.

Zuko called on his friends to accompany them as well, though when they came to the palace and noticed Azula there, he had to explain to them how things had gone down and how she was going to accompany them to Hira'a, eventually winning his reluctant friends over for the idea.

Right before their departure the next day, Zuko put Katara's concerns about Azula's presence at ease by saying that his sister should be guarded at all times. A first scuffle immediately followed when Azula zapped Sokka with her lightning, prompting the others to intervene. Zuko threatened her with his firebending, reminding her of the deal they struck.

Zuko holding Azula back

Zuko held Azula back from continuing her attack, snapping her out of a psychotic episode.

Some time later, nearing nightfall, Zuko forcefully had to hold Azula back once again, snapping her out of a psychotic episode. Upon nearing Hira'a, he commented that they should make camp as he did not want to enter Hira'a like a gang of bandits in the middle of the night. Zuko became distracted when Aang made a gruesome face, commenting that it was due to the presence of a spirit. However, when Zuko looked down, he could not see the wolf spirit Aang was referring to. Azula had used the commotion to stand on the rim of Appa's saddle and jump off, much to Zuko's shock since they were too high up for her to survive the fall. Due to Aang's intervention, Azula made it down safely and made a break for it, with Zuko on her trail.

He found her muttering to herself by a river, asking whom she was talking to. He reluctantly prepared to defend himself, however, when Azula made it clear that she no longer needed him, assuming a battle position. Their fight was cut short though due to Katara's intervention. At that moment, the wolf spirit of before appeared by the river as well, and Zuko noticed that the markings on its chest were the same as the gruesome face Aang was making. When the spirit became hostile and snapped at Aang, Zuko launched a fire attack at the creature, though was taken aback when it swallowed his fire and burped. After a brief scuffle with Appa, the spirit threw up a swarm of moth wasps that attacked the team. Azula asked Zuko to free her as she could help, which he dismissed stating that they did not need any help. However, when she pointed out that she could not possibly make things worse for them and stated that if he could not even trust his own family, than there was no one left for him to be trusted, he melted her icy restraints, freeing her so she could save them.

Zuko reading Ursa's letter

Zuko read a letter from his mother directed to Ikem, whom she stated to be Zuko's father.

At nightfall, the team had set up camp, and Zuko was sitting around the campfire together with Sokka, while Azula slept uneasily away from the group, Aang meditated, and Katara slept next to Appa with Momo. Answering Sokka's question, Zuko told him that he let Azula sleep with her hands unbound, as he was giving her a chance since she did save them all from the moth wasps. He also expressed his confidence that everything would turn out okay since Katara and Aang had agreed to guard her in shifts. When he asked why Sokka was still up, the Water Tribe warrior comically mentioned that he had bladder issues since he drank too much water to get rid of the moth wasps' taste, which was more than he needed to know. Zuko was surprised by Sokka's actions as the warrior commented about the cold weather and subsequently covered Katara with a blanket, leaving the Fire Lord wondering why he still cared so much about Katara after she had thrown so many snowballs in his face. Upon receiving the simple answer that Sokka did not mind getting the short end of the deal with his sister, Zuko was inspired to treat his own sister better and covered her with a warm blanket as well. However, as he went to return to his seat, he noticed a letter sticking out of her boot. He cautiously reached for it, being careful not to wake her, and read it, his shock growing with every word, as it was a letter written by his mother to Ikem, alluding that he might be his son as opposed to Ozai's.[24]

Zuko and Aang arguing about the letter

Zuko admitted to Aang that he actually felt hopeful about the possibility of not being Ozai's son by blood.

The next morning, Zuko discussed the letter's content with Aang privately near a cliff. While Aang was visibly shocked to learn of his friend's apparently illegitimate lineage, Zuko confessed that he felt hopeful and relieved over the supposed truth of not being Ozai's son by blood. He believed that his alleged illegitimacy led Ozai to banish and mistreat him as a young child.

When Aang questioned Zuko as to why Ozai did not just eliminate him immediately once he learned Zuko was not really his son, he recounted the story Ozai told him during their confrontation at the Day of Black Sun: how Fire Lord Azulon ordered him to kill Zuko to experience the pain of losing a firstborn son after he had infuriated Azulon for suggesting he revoke his brother's birthright of succession following the death of Iroh's only child Lu Ten and his intention of doing so, but that his mother interceded on his behalf somehow thus sparing his life. Aang tried to dissuade Zuko from thinking and being relieved of his alleged illegitimate lineage, understanding the ramifications to Zuko's hold of the throne should the contents of the letter be revealed. Their discussion was interrupted by a psychotic Azula who demanded to know where her letter was.

Zuko had enough

Zuko held Azula over a cliff, wondering why their relationship had to be one of constant battle.

Zuko and Aang engaged Azula in a vicious firefight, but the Avatar became concerned over Katara and Sokka's well-being, so Zuko told him to go and check on them. He continued to hold Azula off, while the princess screamed at him to tell their mother that she was destined to become Fire Lord. Zuko attempted to break Azula's footing and gain the upper hand in their battle, but he was caught off-guard as his sister dodged his attack and hit him in the chest, thus knocking him off-balance. Azula received the opening she needed and snatched the letter from the pocket of Zuko's tunic. As she was about to give the final blow, Zuko grabbed his sister by her ankle while she was still airborne and flung her to the ground. He proceeded to dangle her over the cliff, asking why they always had to be fighting. He was answered with Azula's mutterings about their mother inducing Zuko to throw her over the cliff, when Azula realized that her brother did not burn the letter despite having it all night. Zuko stares at her sadly before letting her go, leading Azula to wonder if her brother actually wanted her to have the letter. Zuko replied that they should continue searching for their mother.

The siblings came to an understanding and went back to camp, where the others had just put out the fire made by Azula. They boarded Appa and flew to the direction of Hira'a. When they got there, Zuko suggested that they don disguises, and thus they were able to enter the town unnoticed, where they witnessed the final scene of Love amongst the Dragons. Zuko fondly reminded Azula of the times they would reenact the same part after watching the Ember Island Players, though Zuko wondered why he always had to play the part of the Dark Water Spirit.

After the play ended, they asked around about Ursa. The director of the acting company, Noren, invited them to his home to talk about Ursa privately, and Zuko gave thanks to him. At Noren's house, Kiyi, the director's daughter, asked Zuko and Azula if they would like to see her doll, to which he happily accepted, and he later chastised Azula for frightening the girl by threatening to cut off Kiyi's doll's head. Soon enough, they learned that Ursa was taken from town many years prior on official business, and Ikem, her broken-hearted boyfriend, left to Forgetful Valley to forget his past life.

Aang and Zuko talk

Aang talked to Zuko about the importance of the letter regarding Zuko's possible heritage.

Later on, Team Avatar bowed to the family in appreciation for their help, and they left. While walking back, Aang apologized to a quiet Zuko for reacting the way he did before, and suggested that they burn the letter, forgetting about finding Ikem, to which the young Fire Lord confessed that he did not have the letter anymore; he had let Azula keep it, and said that they should focus on the task at hand, and later take care of what he should do and be. Upon hearing this, Aang told Zuko to listen to him, and began explaining that when people come to the Fire Lord's throne, they did not bow down to him, but to the peaceful new era he represented, and therefore, no matter who his real father was, he should remain on the throne. Sokka interrupted their conversation to ask how much longer they would go on with the mission, as tensions between Katara and Azula were continuing to rise. Zuko declared that after going to Forgetful Valley, the search would come to an end.

Shortly after, the group arrived at Forgetful Valley, and Zuko halted Azula from burning everything around her to create a distinct path. After some more bickering, the group arrived at a pond of clear and quiet water. Zuko commented on how calm everything was, like a perfect pane of glass, and Aang told everyone that it was a spiritual place that needed to be respected. Zuko was forced to calm tensions once again after Azula saw her mother's reflection in the pond and subsequently disturbed its peacefulness by shooting lightning in it. Before the conflict could be settled, the group was attacked by vines and other plant life. After Aang freed Zuko from being pinned to a tree, Katara ended the fight, deducing that they were facing other waterbenders.

Azula attacks Misu and Rafa

Zuko placed himself in the path of Azula's lightning to save Rafa and Misu.

Rafa and Misu revealed themselves, and the two siblings set up a small camp together with Team Avatar to talk things out. As Misu told their life's story, how she had devoted her life to take care of her brother and how she would do anything to help her brother, Zuko and Azula looked away from each other. Aang wanted to help the siblings by going into the Spirit World, though that was not to Azula's liking who started to walk away. Zuko attempted to halt her, stating that Aang was the Avatar, and since he was all about helping people and they were his friend, helping people was what they would do, too. Azula responded by pointing out that she now understood that Zuko preferred to travel the world helping poor people as opposed to become Fire Lord. Zuko tried to answer and deny what his sister had said, but Azula entered into another of her episodes, claiming that her mother had sent the Water Tribe siblings to slow them down. When she angrily ran back, preparing to shoot a lightning bolt at Rafa and Misu, Zuko ran to their aid and put himself in between them and his sister's attack.[16]

Having successfully redirected his sister's attack, Zuko called on Katara and Sokka to take her down, but Aang had them stop after he was able to bring the Mother of Faces to the surface. She was willing to grant, however, only one request, and Zuko decided to give up his chance to learn his mother's fate from the ancient spirit so Misu could ask for a new face for her brother. Before she could finish, Azula interrupted, demanding information on Ursa. The spirit revealed that Ursa had a new identity as Noriko. Azula took off to confront her mother while Sokka and Zuko decided to give chase, taking a shortcut.

Zuko revealing the truth

After being convinced by Ikem to do so, Zuko revealed to Noriko that he is her son.

Upon arriving at Noren's house and seeing that Azula had not yet arrived, Zuko joined the family for dinner at the insistence of Kiyi and Noren. Focusing on Noriko, he asked if she was happy, and after she responded that she was, the Fire Lord got ready to leave, however, Noren stopped him. The actor convinced his guest to reveal who he was, which he did directly to Noriko. Noren explained that he recognized Zuko from his scar, and apologized for not telling him the truth about Ursa. After reminding Ursa about her past and alteration of both face and memory, Noren revealed to Zuko his true identity of Ikem. The firebender declared that Hira'a was where he belonged, with his "mother, sister, and father". Ikem was dumbstruck at the declaration, saying it was not possible. Before the conversation could continue, Azula burst through the roof, set on killing her mother. Zuko fought against his sister trying to stop her, only for her to pin Ursa to the wall. Zuko separated his sister from their mother, and they fought a moment longer. Azula wondered why Zuko continued to fight, knowing he wanted to be free of the burdens of the throne, and also wondered why he didn't throw both her and the letter off the cliff the other day. Zuko answered by saying the throne was his destiny, and that although his relationship with his sister was messy, Azula was still his sister. At this, Azula blasted an opening through a house wall and ran toward Forgetful Valley. Zuko tried to tell her to come back so he could help her, but she ran off and left the letter behind.

Ursa begins her tale

Zuko listened as Ursa began to recount the story of her life.

At that time, the Mother of Faces appeared, asking if Ursa wanted to regain her former life. Zuko tried to tell his mother that she did not have to, reminding her of the life she had made. Despite this, Ursa accepted the spirit's offer. The next day, Zuko and Ursa talked about their past, the latter apologizing for not loving them enough and for forgetting about him. Zuko insisted she did not have to, saying he had a life to be proud of, regardless. He handed Ursa the letter showing Ikem as his father, to which she replied that what she wrote on it was not true. Zuko was upset to learn that Ozai was indeed his father, but still felt like things were what they were meant to be. The Fire Lord said he wished to know everything about his mother's past, and Ursa told him she would start from the beginning.[25]

Zuko later delegated his Fire Lord duties to his uncle once more, sending him to Yu Dao instead to attend the announcement of the city's new coalition government, in order to be able to support Ursa and her family when they came to visit the Capital City for the first time since her banishment.[26]

Later reign

Zuko's commitment to allow the older Fire Nation colonies to remain in the Earth Kingdom and regulate the balance of power between them, rather than to forcefully remove them, eventually led to the creation of the United Republic of Nations with Republic City as its capital.[27]

At some point in his life, he married and had a daughter named Izumi. In 134 AG, he also became a grandfather to Iroh, who grew up to serve as a general of the first division of the United Forces.[28] Zuko and Aang remained lifelong, best friends, with Aang regularly turning to Zuko for advice.[29] Zuko, in turn, would always trust the Avatar's instinct.[30] According to his grandson, Zuko also remained a good friend and important ally of the Southern Water Tribe.[31]

In 158 AG, Zuko joined forces with Southern chief Sokka, Tenzin, and Tonraq to deal with Zaheer, Ghazan, Ming-Hua, and P'Li, four criminals who desired to kidnap the new Avatar, Korra. The group was able to defeat the four and send them to specially-constructed White Lotus prisons, which would serve to neutralize their bending abilities.[32] Zuko collaborated with Northern chief Unalaq and ordered the construction of a top-secret prison in the western tundra of the North Pole, specially designed to hold the firebender P'Li.[33]

Zuko continued to remain in power until 167 AG when he abdicated the throne of the Fire Nation to his daughter, Izumi, at which point he chose to leave the Fire Nation Capital in favor of living on Ember Island.[34] He retained his formal title of "Lord Zuko" and became an ambassador for world balance, albeit in an unofficial capacity, all the while making sure the new Avatar's safety was not compromised.[4]

171 AG

Lord Zuko

Lord Zuko, alarmed about the escapes of Zaheer, Ghazan, and Ming-Hua, traveled north to warn Chiefs Desna and Eska of an imminent attack on P'Li's prison.

Two weeks after Harmonic Convergence, Zuko learned of the escape of the criminals Zaheer, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan from their custody under White Lotus sentries and was particularly disturbed to hear that Zaheer had become an airbender.[35] After sending a notice to Lin Beifong of their escape, he traveled to the Northern Water Tribe, where he and Chief Tonraq met with Desna and Eska, the new Northern chiefs. Zuko told them that they needed to check up on P'Li's prison in the western tundra. While riding the elevator to the bowels of the prison, Zuko explained that P'Li possessed the ability to create explosions with her mind and casually remarked that ironically he once sent an assassin with similar abilities to kill the Avatar, but that it did not work. Eska shared with Zuko her own experience trying to assassinate the Avatar after the latter spoiled her wedding.[33]

Zuko soon scouted the area around the prison atop his dragon, Druk, and only found what he thought to be a snowstorm. When he pointed this out to Tonraq, however, the Southern chief recognized it as Zaheer's doing. The two groups clashed, with Zuko finding himself matched against Ghazan. The old firebender was able to dodge his opponent's attacks for a short while, but was ultimately knocked down by a large fragment of rock. Zuko was only left to watch as the fugitives made a successful escape with P'Li in tow.[32]

Sometime later, Zuko flew toward the Misty Palms Oasis on Druk with Tonraq in tow after the latter received word from Lin to meet her there. They awaited Korra's return in a local cantina, where he was pleased to make his reacquaintance with the Avatar. He learned that Zaheer and his friends were called the Red Lotus and that their murder of Earth Queen Hou-Ting was only the beginning of their actions.[36]

Upon Mako and Bolin's return to the Misty Palms Oasis, Zuko came out of the cantina, where he was greeted by a starstruck Bolin, who could barely form a coherent sentence. As Mako excused his brother and bowed respectfully, stating they were honored to meet him, Zuko returned the gesture.

Zuko and Korra

Zuko was glad to serve as Korra's advisor, just as he had done years ago for Aang.

Zuko followed Team Avatar toward Zaofu to use the Metal Clan's radio transmitter to reach the Northern Air Temple to warn Tenzin of the Red Lotus' approach. However, as the others prepared to head toward the temple, he prepared Druk to head back home toward the Fire Nation to protect Izumi in case Zaheer would target her next. Before he could leave, he was approached by Korra, who asked him for advice as Aang's best friend on what Aang would have done if Zaheer had given him the choice between giving himself up or letting a nation be attacked. Zuko answered that it had been Aang's dream to rebuild the Air Nation, though that he also knew that in times of turmoil, the world needed the Avatar the most. Zuko grew surprised when Korra thanked him for his advice, saying that Iroh had been right to go talk to him, as he had been unaware that she had met his late uncle. Before he could ask any more about Iroh, they were interrupted by Mako, who alerted them that they had finally been able to contact the Northern Air Temple, prompting Zuko and Korra to follow him toward Zaofu's communication's room.[29]

As the team departed for the temple, Zuko went home to his daughter, though two weeks later, he journeyed to Republic City, where he bowed respectfully to a recovering Korra. As she left, Zuko voiced his concern, along with President Raiko about the lack of information concerning the Red Lotus and their true numbers. He subsequently went inside the temple, where he attended Jinora's anointment as an airbending master now that she had received her tattoos.[37]

174 AG

After Kuvira had nearly stabilized the entire Earth Kingdom, Zuko traveled to Republic City with his daughter to attend Prince Wu's coronation as the nation's Earth King. However, after Kuvira was bestowed the Kyoshi Medal of Freedom for her service, Zuko bore witness to her declaration of usurping power in the Earth Kingdom, renaming it the "Earth Empire".[38]

Legacy

Central City Station

A statue of Zuko was erected in Central City Station.

Well-respected as one of Republic City's founders, a statue was erected in Zuko's honor at the center of the plaza outside Central City Station in Republic City to commemorate his many accomplishments.[4] However, his and Avatar Aang's creation of the United Republic of Nations earned the animosity of Earth Queen Hou-Ting and Kuvira, who both considered the state to be on illegally occupied territory.[33][39]

Personality

"I've struggled for so long to do what's right; to even know what's right. [...] But asking you to end me if I went bad; that was like asking you to figure out right and wrong for me. [...] I understand now. The struggle isn't something a Fire Lord can escape."
―Zuko to Aang.[23]


During his exile, Zuko was a bitter, impatient, and complex young man, akin to a tragic villain. More than anything, he wanted his place as heir to the Fire Nation throne and his father's love.[40] Zuko believed, or forced himself to believe, that capturing the Avatar would make these wishes come true, making him one of Aang's most determined enemies. His motivation was focused on him redeeming himself which stood in contrast with other pursuers; Zhao and Azula were motivated by political ambition or cruelty.

Young Zuko speaks

As an adolescent, Zuko demonstrated empathy for others despite his pompous attitude.

Zuko believed one becomes strong by struggling and fighting for what they want. However, he expressed contradicting mindsets; he did not want good luck because he felt he could control his fate, but also believed he was marked unlucky and that the world was against him.[41] His reaction to the perception of the world always set against him is an iron-willed defiance and inflexible determination. He was clever, yet hot-headed, often letting his temper get the best of him. He seemed averse to the thought of harming others without any motive or benefit, having consented to Aang's request to spare the Southern Water Tribe in exchange for himself as his prisoner, and left the village unharmed.[42] He rarely thinks his situations through, causing him to get in trouble; he captured Aang at the North Pole, but chose to make his getaway through the perilous tundra,[41] and he casually took the Sunstone off its pedestal in the Sun Warriors' temple only to fall into a trap.[6] Said traits were criticized by his uncle,[43][44] urging Zuko to try to control himself and think things through more often toward the end of season three.

Zuko had other contradictory traits, beliefs, and behaviors. He was domineering and controlling, a result of his upbringing as Fire Nation royalty, and disdained working with people he believed were inferior; yet he adamantly refused to view people as expendable. He believed it was wrong to sacrifice able-bodied and willing troops as a diversionary tactic. During his banishment, he displayed zeal in pursuing the Avatar, using whatever means he thought necessary. Although he had said capturing the Avatar was a greater concern to him than the safety of his crew or himself, he showed compassion to those close to him, choosing to rescue Iroh when he was captured[45] rather than pursue Aang, and risking his own life to save a member of his crew during a fierce storm. When the crew spotted Aang, he ordered the ship and crew to safety instead of chasing the Avatar.[20] Even after all the hardship he suffered at the hands of his sister, Azula, he was still willing to vouch for her, giving her several chances for them to work together in order to find their mother. He even went as far as to show brotherly affection for her, inspired by Sokka's actions toward Katara.[24] He was liable to commit brash actions against his sister, however, despite his best efforts to stop fighting her, even going as far as almost throwing her off a cliff.[16]

Zuko was able to show mercy, even to his enemies. When fighting an Agni Kai with Zhao, he decided to spare him unscathed, though Zhao had expressed every intention to hurt Zuko.[21] Even after Zhao had arranged for Zuko to be murdered, Zuko offered his hand in order to save Zhao's life when the Ocean Spirit was about to drown him.[41]

Zuko's breakdown

Zuko experienced substantial turmoil due to the events in his life.

The prospect of returning home and earning forgiveness was Zuko's sole motivation. After losing his first chance at the Northern Water Tribe, he was filled with abject despair. He found himself in the most dire situation possible—being hunted by his younger sister, the ruthless and relentless Azula,[46] while attempting to survive[47] as a penniless fugitive in the Earth Kingdom.[48] Apart from his ever-supportive uncle, Zuko had nothing. At first, he lashed out and turned to robbery,[49] even stealing from those who were kind to him.[47] After some time, however, partially in thanks to a talk from Iroh, he gained a more reasonable outlook. Theft was still necessary from time to time, but he refused to steal from needy people or people who showed him kindness. He defended an Earth Kingdom village against a group of thugs who terrorized its people.[9] He became more patient, kind, precise, and calculating; said traits necessary to evade Azula's pursuit while staying incognito from local authorities. He set Aang's pet bison and primary mode of transportation, Appa, free from Dai Li captivity at Iroh's suggestion.[43]

These traits became dominant after Zuko's fever dreams and hallucinations,[50] as afterward he displayed an optimistic attitude toward life and the world.[51] However, Azula successfully manipulated his desire for love and approval from his father, convincing him to betray Iroh and become her ally.[1] He continued to insist that he had truly changed, but felt conflicted about his choices afterward, uncomfortable with his betrayal of Iroh, a father figure to him.

Zuko at a loss

Upon realizing that Avatar Roku was his maternal great-grandfather, Zuko became increasingly insecure about his destiny.

After his return to the Fire Nation, Zuko thought he had everything he ever wanted: a position of honor, respect, and his father's love. However, he still felt angry and confused. His triumph was nothing like he imagined it would be. His temper went out of control; he became suspicious of Mai and got into fights with several people. Later, he stated he was angry with himself, saying he did not know right from wrong.[52] He received a letter telling him his great-grandfather's death would reveal his destiny. He found Sozin's last testament and learned of his history with Avatar Roku. Assuming the letter was sent by his uncle, he visited him in prison, demanding to know the message's meaning. Iroh explained Avatar Roku was his mother's grandfather, and Zuko's inner conflict was part of the legacy of his forefathers' conflict. Iroh presented him with the Crown Prince headpiece, an ancient royal artifact, traditionally worn by the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation and given to Roku by Sozin in their youth.[53]

Zuko became upset when he was not informed of a war meeting his sister was invited to, and showed happiness when a servant later came and asked him to head to the war room, as Ozai would not start the meeting without him. He told Mai he found himself unhappy, even when his father treated him as the perfect son. He said during the meeting, he had acted the perfect prince, the son his father had always wanted, but he was not being himself.[54]

During the events of Day of Black Sun, Zuko realized it was his duty as the heir to the Fire Nation throne to restore peace to the world by joining the Avatar and fighting his father's (and forefathers') tyrannical regime. His zeal and resolve resurfaced in an entirely different direction. He resolved to confront his father and his many evils. He revealed in a discourse his banishment made him a firsthand witness to the misery and pain the Fire Nation has inflicted on the World. He discovered sharing the Fire Nation's greatness had nothing to do with the war – only fired by a ruthless desire for power. He swore to his father he will do everything in his power to see his defeat. He attempted to free Iroh from prison, but when he escaped by himself, Zuko followed Aang and the others as they fled to the Western Air Temple.[40]

Happy Zuko

Zuko was finally at peace upon joining Team Avatar.

While at the Western Air Temple, Zuko showed a complete change in personality. After a flashback of his banishment, he was regretful about his former disrespect and ruthlessness. For the first time, he showed a comical side to his personality while practicing a speech to a badgerfrog. After questioning what Iroh and Azula would do, he tried impersonating them. He later admitted his wrongdoings to Team Avatar and apologized for the things he did. Out of resentment, his request to join them was initially rejected; he humbled himself and offered himself up as a prisoner—a stark contrast to the proud young man shown at the beginning of the series.

Rather than trying to capture the Avatar for the Fire Nation's benefit, Zuko joined him to end their tyranny. He even defended him from the assassin he hired to kill the Avatar, signifying his genuine loyalty to the team. He realized his father could never restore his honor, and he had to restore it himself. He was happy when the Avatar finally accepted him as his firebending teacher and group member.[10] Though he still had some issues to work through, he was far more composed and receptive. Since coming to terms with his own true feelings, he was more laid-back and empathetic, though remained strict and uptight when training Aang. After joining the group he smiled a lot more than usual, even when jokes were made at his expense,[6] and he seemed very happy as Fire Lord during a break in his uncle's tea shop.[7] Nonetheless, he was one of the more serious members of the group; whenever a situation got worse, such as when Sozin's Comet was near and when Aang went missing, Zuko did not put up with any antics or mistakes.

Zuko rebuking his bodyguards

During his first year as Fire Lord Zuko temporarily became aggressive and conflicted due to night-terrors, chronic insomnia, and paranoia.

At the start of his reign as Fire Lord, Zuko was assertive of having the Fire Nation pay for its crimes and having its colonies disbanded. However, after viewing the situation at Yu Dao and how the lives of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom citizens had deeply intertwined themselves, Zuko became conflicted about his duties, and after being called a coward by Mayor Morishita, he sided with his people, devoting himself to protecting them and their way of life, withdrawing his support of the Harmony Restoration Movement and even fighting his friends, Katara and Avatar Aang, because of this.

During this time, Zuko developed night-terrors, chronic insomnia, and a somewhat paranoid attitude. This would have increased further when he discovered that (at least some of) the assassins attempting to take his life were his own unhappy people, as he cared so much for his country. Zuko eventually became so desperate and conflicted over the duties and pressures of being Fire Lord that he turned to his imprisoned father Ozai for advice on how to deal with the pressures of the title.[12] Despite this, he continued to deny Ozai's claims that a Fire Lord's decisions were right by default. However, when being informed of the Earth Kingdom's impending attack, he begrudgingly admitted to himself that his father was right and prepared himself to go to war again.[18]

Eventually, Zuko came to realize that his emotional instability over his position as Fire Lord was not caused by the pressures of being a ruler or by the choices he made for Yu Dao, but due to his fear of ultimately becoming the same tyrant as his father was. However, he eventually came to terms with the fact that there was a side to himself and his personality that he could not understand.[23]

After an Earth Kingdom professor pointed out the similarities between governing a nation and taking care of a family, Zuko began doubting his own qualities as a leader again as his family was completely broken and a large part was due to his actions. However, he did show remorse and the will to fix past mistakes by trying to mend the rifts between his family. He freed Azula from the mental institution and asked for her help in his search for their mother, even allowing her to travel unbound and with dignity. After a conversation with Sokka about siblings, the latter noted how, despite their bickering, he and Katara were family and as an older brother, he would always look after her. Inspired by those words, Zuko, who never truly attempted to connect with his younger sister, Azula, tried to do the same.[24]

During the search for his mother, and upon finding out that Ozai may not be his legitimate father, he realized that he might not be the true heir to the throne. Despite knowing that he must stay Fire Lord, Zuko felt the most hopeful and relieved in the group upon hearing the news. He believed that he could start anew and "gallivant" around the world helping people, as Azula remarked, much to Aang's dissatisfaction; he believed that Zuko must stay as the leader of his nation to continue ushering a new era of love and peace.[16]

When their search brought Zuko in contact with a young child, Kiyi, he displayed the characteristics of a good father, reflecting the parenting style of his mother and Uncle Iroh, by displaying an inquisitive and doting attitude toward the girl. When she showed him her doll, he kindly played along, and chastised Azula for her violent commentary, showing a protective and paternal side. He also seemed quite at ease around the child, showing genuine friendship and politeness during their interactions, seemingly truly enjoying the girl's company.[16]

In his old age, Zuko displayed a more calm and wise demeanor,[33] as well as a strong sense of protecting his family and the Avatar.[29]

Abilities

Firebending

Zuko firebending

Zuko developed a new foundation of firebending after visiting the Sun Warriors.

While growing up in the Fire Nation, Zuko showed no extraordinary skill in firebending. In his teen years, however, his ability began to develop significantly under his Uncle Iroh's tutelage, most noticeably during the last year of the Hundred Year War. He became able to fight on par with much more experienced firebenders, showing himself to be a late bloomer. Having continuously refined his skills, he has reached the point of becoming a firebending master, but despite his skill and fast development as a firebender, he has noted on more than one occasion that he is not as skilled or as powerful as his younger sister, Azula.

As a child, Zuko could only create small bursts of flame and was by no means focused or controlled in his bending,[9] but by the time he was thirteen, he was confident enough in his abilities to readily accept a challenge of Agni Kai against General Bujing.[20]

Around the time of Aang's discovery at the South Pole, Zuko was still learning the basics from Iroh yet was skilled enough to momentarily knock Aang off his ship, but he was defeated when Aang went into the Avatar State.[55] He utilized what he had been taught to defeat Zhao, an older and more experienced master firebender.[21] Throughout his pursuit of Aang, he demonstrated his skill often; he defeated multiple foes on two occasions.[45][56] Later, his skill grew. He fared well in a duel against Aang, delivering multiple fire blasts for a sustained period without tiring, but was defeated when he was paralyzed by June's confused shirshu.[57] He created a shield of fire to protect himself from a massive explosion on his ship.[58] During the Siege of the North, he fought Katara while the moon was nearly full. He held his own against her while she was strengthened by the moon, but needed the power of the sun to gain the upper hand and defeat her with one fire blast.[59] He also landed a decisive victory in a rematch against Zhao.[41]

After the Siege of the North, Zuko's firebending became more advanced and powerful. At first, he was unable to land any blows against Azula, and was defeated rather easily.[46] He fought somewhat better during the Confrontation at Tu Zin; in a three-way battle with Azula and Aang, he traded several fire blasts with his sister and kept the Avatar on the defensive.[60] As his travels in the Earth Kingdom continued, however, he learned more advanced firebending techniques from Iroh, such as lightning redirection, becoming more efficient and refined.[61] During a battle with the Rough Rhinos, he sent a small bolt of fire through Vachir's bow, breaking the string.[62] He demonstrated the ability to fire multiple small blasts through two fingers, rather than his whole fist.[63] During the battle in the Crystal Catacombs, he demonstrated how far his prowess had grown. His fire blasts were more powerful, and he charged his attacks before releasing them, creating enormous blasts of fire. He also demonstrated the ability to create two fire-whips. He battled evenly with Aang, even though he had skillfully used airbending and earthbending. After switching opponents with Azula, he battled evenly with Katara, a waterbending master who had the upper hand against Azula.[1]

Zuko absorbing lightning

Zuko was able to absorb lightning from Ozai in order to redirect it.

Little was seen of Zuko's firebending after he returned to the Fire Nation; however, he was confident enough in his abilities that he offered to teach Aang. He utilized a wall of flame to stop an attack from Combustion Man, and was capable of dodging many of Toph's rocks which she hurled at him, though her earthbending was impeded due to Zuko accidentally burning her feet.[10] Later, he temporarily lost his firebending from a corresponding lack of rage, the former source of his power. In order to reconnect with the original source of firebending, he and Aang traveled to the ancient city of the Sun Warriors together. There, Zuko learned "The Dancing Dragon", an ancient firebending form that he performed alongside Aang. Learning this form appeared to have influenced his style of firebending to be more fluid, creating a more dancelike form as opposed to the rigid, militaristic forms commonly used by Fire Nation soldiers. He was also challenged by the Tribesmen to carry a piece of the Eternal Flame all the way up to the cave of the masters. Zuko and Aang performed their newly learned technique in unison with the dragons, who engulfed them in a spiral of multi-colored flames. After viewing this, Zuko found a new source of power in reverence for fire's power as a source of life and energy: "the sun inside you".[6] His stylistic differences and skill are demonstrated at the Boiling Rock where he briefly battled against Azula alongside Sokka. During the fight, he deflected many of Azula's fire blasts with only his arms or his own fire, and traded fire balls with her.[64] He later faced Azula again and dueled her evenly for several minutes. He fired several large and powerful fire blasts, deflecting many of her attacks.[65] Later, he attacked Aang with powerful fire blasts to make him fight back. When he chased him into Ozai's old family vacation home, Zuko created several lashes of fire to envelop his surroundings and augmented them to the shape of the hallway Aang was running through.[66] Furthermore, he used his firebending in conjunction with his broadswords,[9] demonstrated use of fire daggers,[46] and limited use of breath of fire.[59][67]

During his training with Iroh, Zuko attempted to learn how to create lightning. His inner turmoil, however, rendered him unable to achieve the required peace of mind, and his attempts to produce lightning would only explode in his face. Instead, Iroh taught him how to absorb and redirect lightning.[61] He later employed this technique against his father[40] and Azula to protect Katara.[68] In the latter engagement, Zuko redirected the blast in an improper stance, as he had jumped into the lightning's path, and so failed to redirect it completely and resulted in serious injury. Though he seems to have overcome his inner turmoil, he does not create lightning for the remainder of the series.

Zuko blocks attack

Zuko displayed the extent of his bending skills with the arrival of Sozin's Comet.

With the power of Sozin's Comet, Zuko's firebending was tremendously enhanced. He fought Azula one final time in an Agni Kai, unleashing extremely powerful sheets of flame. This time he held the upper hand, not showing any visible strain in exchanging and blocking Azula's attacks while she was pushed toward exhaustion and increasing mental instability. He displayed several incredibly powerful techniques: blocking an enormous stream of fire with a short fire-blast, spreading to take the shape of a wall and split the stream, unleashing an enormous charged-blast, which Azula was unable to block, forcing her to dodge, propelling himself into the air, charging his fire and sending down a fire attack as he came. His final attack was a fire tornado he created with his feet while spinning, knocking Azula off her feet.[68]

After the War and assuming the mantle of Fire Lord, Zuko's firebending remained as sharp as before and under strict control, despite the mental and emotional turmoils he was struggling with due to his new position. He evaded several attempts on his life, particularly the attempt of Kori Morishita, an earthbender and skilled weapons user, whom he disabled in a matter of minutes. During the battle for Yu Dao, Zuko's skills were again on display as he managed to single-handedly overwhelm a large number of Earth Kingdom soldiers with minimal effort and stand on equal footing against General How.[23] The flames he produced were also hot enough to instantly melt metal chains.[24]

He handled Azula quite well during their fire fights throughout the search for their mother, blocking her fire blasts and defending his friends simultaneously, especially during her psychotic episodes.[16]

At the age of 88, Zuko still proved to be a capable fighter, although less agile.[32]

Swordsmanship

Zuko with his swords

Zuko is a highly proficient swordsman.

Aside from his bending, Zuko also developed masterful skill in swordsmanship, and he specialized in dual wielding swordplay, using a set of dao blades, skills he gained after being trained by the sword master Piandao.[19] He would use these skills as his primary tactics whenever he was in his Blue Spirit disguise,[49][69] unable to firebend, or when he needed to fight but also needed to conceal his firebending.[9] He was able to defeat multiple foes using only his swords, including experienced firebending soldiers.[69] He also dueled evenly with Jet and his dual hook swords until the fight was broken up by the Dai Li.[70] Zuko was able to defeat several Earth Kingdom soldiers with minimal effort by employing his swordsmanship skills in combination with unarmed combat and, in the same confrontation, demonstrated the ability to combine his sword skills with his firebending, allowing him to deliver more powerful and destructive attacks.[9] His skill was such that his father, Fire Lord Ozai, opted not to face him during an eclipse, when neither of them could firebend.[40] He also defeated Sokka, a very proficient swordsman in his own right and a fellow student of Piandao, with ease in multiple sparring matches.

He also had some experience with knives, being able to pierce a small object, like a horn, from a distance.[69]

Other skills

Blue Spirit sneaks

Disguised as the "Blue Spirit", Zuko made apparent the scope of his abilities without having to rely solely on his bending.

In addition to his firebending and swordsmanship skills, Zuko is highly skilled in unarmed combat, able to break apart oncoming spears with his hands and legs,[42] and disarm, subdue or defeat opponents. Zuko was able to defeat several armed Earth Kingdom soldiers in rapid succession. Zuko is very physically capable, able to almost nonchalantly send a person flying with a single hand and smash through iron shackles with a single kick. He is also quite fast and agile, able to perform great acrobatic feats, such as running across walls,[6] doing mid-air twirls, scaling vertical faces with great efficiency and climbing speed, and jumping large distances to avoid enemy attacks with noticeable agility and free-running skills.[10]

Zuko is stealthy, allowing him to be skilled in the art of infiltration. He was able to sneak into heavily-defended fortresses and conceal himself effectively for long periods of time.[59][65][69] All of these skills would serve him while he was disguised as the Blue Spirit. Zuko was also a skilled tracker, able to track the airborne Avatar all across the world, something that his friends later acknowledged in hopes of finding Aang when he disappeared.

While not as naturally adept at strategy and academics as his sister, Zuko is quite intelligent. Throughout his travels, he proved himself to be a skilled strategist, able to exploit any situation to his advantage. Zuko used his ship's damages as a smokescreen to conceal his movements from Zhao.[71] He is also able to form alliances with people with special skills, such as June,[57] and use them to his advantage.[72] Initially, Zuko had a hot-headed nature that caused him to never fully think his actions through. For example, he was able to his exploit advantages in the Northern Water Tribe, and get into the Spirit Oasis to capture Aang, but he did not plan a way to extract the Avatar from the city, which led to him being trapped in a blizzard and almost frozen to death.[41] However, as he continued to mature, Zuko began to think things through and plan ahead to avoid placing himself into predicaments. When he and Aang needed to get into a specific room in the Sun Warrior ruins, Zuko was able to outsmart the Celestial Calendar by using his dual dao swords to reflect the sun's rays at the correct angle, as the calendar would otherwise only allow the room's doors to open during a summer solstice.[6] He also displayed good military, organizational and leadership skills when he became Fire Lord, as seen when he re-organized the Fire Nation Army into a more compact and effective force and later commanded it in the battle for Yu Dao.

As a prince, Zuko proved to be quite popular with the ladies.[54] His speech to redeem the name of the Fire Nation at his coronation was warmly embraced, not only by his own people, but by people of the other nations as well.[7] Despite a very tumultuous start, Zuko eventually became known as an excellent, benevolent Fire Lord, with his actions in helping create Republic City being recognized for many years.

Relationships

Main article: Zuko's relationships

Relatives

Main article: Fire Nation Royal Family
Sozin
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Roku
   
   
Ta Min
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Azulon
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Ilah
   
   
Rina
   
   
Jinzuk
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Iroh
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Ozai
   
   
   
   
   
   
Ursa
   
   
Ikem
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Lu Ten
   
   
Unknown
   
   
Zuko
   
   
Azula
   
   
Kiyi
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Izumi
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Iroh
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Appearances

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book One: Water (水)

Book Two: Earth (土)

Book Three: Fire (火)

Avatar comics

Book Two: Earth (土)

Book Three: Fire (火)

Graphic novel trilogies

The Legend of Korra

Book Three: Change (易)

Book Four: Balance (平衡)

Trivia

Film - Zuko headshot

Zuko was played by Dev Patel in The Last Airbender.

  • Zuko's first major act as Fire Lord was to send out search parties for his mother.[23]
  • Zuko is the first character to have an entire episode, "Zuko Alone", completely to himself with no other regular characters appearing except in flashbacks, the second being Korra and the Book Four episode "Korra Alone".
  • Zuko's name was listed on a Fire Nation wanted poster as 祖寇, which translates as "ancestors robber".[62] Later, in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", his name was written as 蘇科 on his segment's title card, which is the phonetic transcription based on the official guide for foreign names, and which can also be translated as "resurrected rule". In The Search Part 1 however, when Ursa writes a letter to Ikem, she writes Zuko's name as 豎髙 meaning "vertical high" with the second character being a variant of "".[53]
  • According to Iroh, Zuko is a bad tea maker, though he seemed to have gotten better by the time of "The Boiling Rock, Part 1", as he was seen serving tea to the members of Team Avatar, and they drank it without any apparent disgust.
  • Zuko successfully used his uncle's lightning redirection technique twice, against his father and his sister.[40]
  • Zuko had above average abilities that helped him to survive certain situations. In "The Waterbending Master" with Avatar Extras bonus commentary, when the pirates infiltrated Zuko's ship, one of the commentary bubbles said that Zuko had above average hearing abilities, waking up when he heard one of the pirates opening a rusty door. In "The Siege of the North, Part 1" with Avatar Extras bonus commentary, when swimming through the underwater tunnels one of the commentary bubbles said that Zuko can hold his breath for an unusually long amount of time. In addition, it is stated by Uncle Iroh in "The Avatar State" that they had survived for three weeks without food or water.
  • In the pilot episode, it is shown that Zuko was originally supposed to have a pet hawk, but it did not make it into the show. A pet hawk did make it into the show as Hawky, Sokka's pet, though it only appeared for one episode.[73]
  • While Zuko was a fierce warrior, he was shown multiple times in the series to be skilled and highly trained in stealth, infiltration, and espionage. Zuko single handedly broke into a heavily fortified Fire Nation fortress.[69] He was shown as being skilled, not leaving any traces of his presence, or any hints that it was him. He has demonstrated these talents in "The Blue Spirit", "Lake Laogai", "The Avatar and the Fire Lord", "The Southern Raiders" and "The Serpent's Pass".
  • Zuko took part in all three Agni Kais shown in the series: the first between him and Ozai,[21] the second between him and Zhao,[20] and the third between him and Azula.[68]
  • The name Zuko is phonetically similar to suko, a Cebuano word meaning "angry". This derivation corresponds to Zuko's ill-tempered personality portrayed in all three books.
  • According to the Avatar Extras bonus in "The Cave of Two Lovers", Zuko's story throughout the series is similar to that of the Buddha.
  • Zuko is the only person from the Fire Nation known to use dao swords to firebend.[9]
  • According to the Avatar Extras for "The Waterbending Master", Zuko was gifted in playing the tsungi horn, in contrast to Aang, who was terrible at it.[74]
  • Zuko was shown to cry five times, in "The Storm", "Zuko Alone", "Bitter Work", "The Day of Black Sun, Part Two: The Eclipse", and finally, in "Sozin's Comet: Part 2, The Old Masters".
  • Zuko was the first of only two characters to bleed on the series. He bled for the first time in "The Avatar State" when Azula scratched his forehead with her nails. The second character to bleed was Appa in "Appa's Lost Days".
  • Throughout Book Two: Earth, Zuko visibly started losing muscle, as he was forced to live off the land of the Earth Kingdom as a refugee. This changed in Book Three: Fire, when he was reaffirmed as a prince; as seen in "The Beach" and "The Ember Island Players", his body was much fitter than it was in Book Two.
  • Zuko is the youngest known prince to be crowned, becoming Fire Lord at the age of sixteen. He is also the only known Fire Lord to leave the throne of his own choice.
  • Zuko's voice actor, Dante Basco, also voiced General Iroh, Zuko's grandson.
  • Zuko is the second of three characters to have joined a Team Avatar and to have a father who is antagonistic toward them and their allies. The other two are Toph Beifong and Asami Sato.
  • There are many parallels between Zuko and Asami Sato. Both were born to upper-class families and lived under the influence of their ambitious fathers. Both characters had experienced the loss of at least one family member, a loss that eventually turned their respective fathers into dangerous enemies for the Avatar: the loss of Lu Ten as Iroh's possible successor gave Ozai a lust for the power and authority of being a Fire Lord, while the loss of Asami's mother caused Hiroshi Sato to develop a hatred for benders and join the Equalists. Zuko also lost his mother, and like Asami after him, was forced to live under his father's manipulative influence. Both characters eventually spoke out against their fathers after realizing that their only remaining parents had little regard for righteousness and could no longer feel actual affection toward anyone. Their reactions to this acknowledgment were also similar, as both Zuko and Asami had to make a choice between joining the Avatar to stop their fathers or serving their fathers, and both characters made the former choice, turning against their parents with quick lightning-based attacks. Lastly, both characters were temporarily reduced to greater poverty and isolation as a result of following their beliefs. Both Ozai and Hiroshi were imprisoned for their actions.
  • The Blue Spirit mask used by Zuko was among the collection of masks from the play Love amongst the Dragons that Ursa kept hidden in her quarters behind a painting of her and Ozai.[24]
  • Zuko has a close relationship with his grandson, General Iroh.[8]
  • In his old age, Zuko holds the title of "Lord".[8]
  • Zuko is the first character in the entire Avatar universe known to have been scarred by a close relative, the second being Lin Beifong in The Legend of Korra. However, he was scarred deliberately, whereas Lin accidentally.
Preceded by
Ozai

(Usurped from Iroh)

Heir to the Fire Lord
95 AG – 97 AG
Succeeded by
Azula

(Zuko banished/betrayed)


Preceded by
Ozai
Fire Lord
100 AG – 167 AG
Succeeded by
Izumi


Preceded by
Jeong Jeong
Avatar's firebending master
100 AG
Succeeded by
Unknown

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  53. 53.0 53.1 Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (October 26, 2007). "The Avatar and the Fire Lord". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 6. Nickelodeon.
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  63. Estoesta, Joann, Wahlander, Lisa, Huebner, Andrew, Scheppke, Gary, MacMullan, Lauren, Mattila, Katie, Ridge, Justin, Volpe, Giancarlo (writers) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (September 29, 2006). "The Tales of Ba Sing Se". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 15. Nickelodeon.
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  69. 69.0 69.1 69.2 69.3 69.4 DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Filoni, Dave (director). (June 17, 2005). "The Blue Spirit". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 13. Nickelodeon.
  70. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & MacMullan, Lauren (director). (September 22, 2006). "City of Walls and Secrets". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 14. Nickelodeon.
  71. DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (April 15, 2005). "Winter Solstice, Part 2: Avatar Roku". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 8. Nickelodeon.
  72. O'Bryan, John (writer) & Lioi, Anthony (director). (April 29, 2005). "The Waterbending Scroll". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 9. Nickelodeon.
  73. Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 2, 2007). "The Runaway". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 7. Nickelodeon.
  74. O'Bryan, John (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (September 28, 2007). "The Headband". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.

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