The Avatar is the spirit of the planet reincarnated in human form and master of all four elemental bending disciplines (Airbending, Waterbending, Earthbending and Firebending), whose task it is to keep balance among the four nations of the world. The Avatar is also a link between the human world and the Spirit World. Throughout the ages, countless incarnations of the Avatar have served to maintain harmony in the world.
At any time there is only a single Avatar, who is the spirit of the world incarnated into human form. When the Avatar dies, the Avatar Spirit is reincarnated into a newborn, who becomes the next Avatar.
Each nation has a method of recognizing the new Avatar. Among the Air Nomads, this involved presenting all infants with a selection of toys to play with, and watching for a child that selected four specific toys that had belonged to past Avatars, called the Four Avatar Relics. Traditionally, the child is told of their identity as the Avatar on their sixteenth birthday (although the current Avatar, Aang, was told much earlier than this because of Fire Nation aggression).
Avatars also possess the unique ability to use Energybending, though very few Avatars learned this technique, and even fewer have used it. Avatar Aang used it to remove Phoenix King Ozai's Firebending during "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang".
Once the Avatar Masters the Four Elements, namely Air, Water, Earth and Fire, and also Masters the Avatar State he or she is commonly noted to be a 'Fully Realized Avatar'.
The reincarnations of the Avatar are controlled by the Avatar Cycle of the elements: Water, Earth, Fire, Air. The cycle is based of the passage of the four seasons (water is winter, earth is spring, fire is summer and air is autumn).
When an Avatar dies, the next Avatar will be born into the next nation in the Avatar Cycle (for example, Avatar Yangchen from the Air Nomads was followed by Avatar Kuruk from the Water Tribe, who was followed by Avatar Kyoshi from the Earth Kingdom, who was followed by Avatar Roku from the Fire Nation, who was followed by Avatar Aang from the Air Nomads. Once Aang dies, the Avatar will be reincarnated as someone in the Water Tribe). The new Avatar will be born within approximately a week of the previous Avatar's death, hence the collective Spirit bonds with a baby close to birth rather then being reincarnated into a new body in the traditional sense. It is unknown if there is a pattern in the re-incarnation cycle that determines whether a particular Avatar will be male or female, although visions seen by Aang displaying previous Avatars seem to suggest there is not.
The Avatar Cycle also determines the order in which each Avatar must learn the four bending disciplines. The Avatar begins by mastery of his or her native elements (so an Avatar born into the Water Tribe would first learn Waterbending). The Avatar then goes on to learn the three remaining bending disciplines in the order of the cycle (the Water Tribe Avatar would learn first Waterbending, then Earthbending, then Firebending, and finally Airbending, in that order). Avatar Aang, however, due to his unique situation, tries to learn Firebending as his second element (with Jeong Jeong) but ends up learning Firebending later after some advice from Jeong Jeong to master water and earth first.
The most recent Avatars (in the order of current to oldest) are:
- Avatar Aang (Air Nomads, Southern Air Temple)
12 BSC - Present
- Avatar Roku (Fire Nation, Roku's Island)
82 BSC - 12 BSC
- Avatar Kyoshi (Earth Kingdom, now Kyoshi Island)
312 BSC - 82 BSC
- Avatar Kuruk (Water Tribe, Northern Water Tribe)
Unknown - 312 BSC
- Avatar Yangchen (Air Nomads, Western Air Temple)
- Unnamed Fire Avatar (Fire Nation)
- If Aang truly is the last Airbender, then the cycle will be broken. If Aang dies before siring a child (whether that child being an Airbender or just carrying the trait), then after the Avatar reincarnates through the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, and Fire Nation, there will be no one from the Air Nomads for the spirit to choose.
- Even if the Avatar is reborn into the next nation, no Airbender will be able to teach them Airbending. If Appa is the last surviving Sky Bison, the ability to learn Airbending from the original source will be lost when Appa dies.
- The only way they could learn Airbending if Aang manages to leave behind information on Airbending, like the scrolls used by Waterbenders to teach Waterbending or the Dancing Dragon Statues in the Sun Warrior Ruins.
- At the very least, Airbending will be a rare talent, as all Airbenders will be descended from Aang for generations to come.
- Considering that the Air Nomads were wanderers by nature, it is also possible that some of them had offspring in other nations, therefore surviving the raids. While a character with progenitors from different nations has never been introduced, it's likely that one with Air Nomad ancestry might be able to learn Airbending, should he/she have the potential and be properly taught.
- With the introduction of Energybending it is possible that Aang simply has to Energybend the ability of Airbending to someone or a large number of people, and thus create a new diverse group of Airbenders for the Avatar spirit to choose from, assuming that Energybending has the ability to teach the bending arts as opposed to only removing them.
- In "The Deserter", Avatar Roku stated "I have mastered the elements a thousand times in a thousand lifetimes, and now I must do it once more...". It can be speculated that Aang is the 1001st incarnation of the Avatar, although his words may also be a conservative estimate, an outright exaggeration or simply a metaphor. Although this may not be the case, for in both the Southern Air Temple sanctuary and in Aang's Spirit World trip during "The Avatar State", it can be seen that there have been many Avatars, possibly even a thousand or more.
- If taken literally, this would mean that the first ever Avatar was an Air Nomad, which should not come as a surprise due to the high level of spirituality of the Air Nomads.
- Since the Avatar State is a defense mechanism designed to empower the Avatar with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars, along with the combined power of all their past lives, it seems clear that for each succeeding Avatar, the Avatar State becomes an even more powerful tool due to the continued addition of Avatars to the state.
- Since Roku was shown in old age, and Kyoshi not, and Aang physically wore Fire Nation clothes yet entered the Spirit World with his monk robes and no hair, it is possible that an Avatar in the Spirit World can control what they look like, or manifest visually as how they see themselves.
- It is possible that Avatars are often extremely long lived, and that this is a known if uncommon phenomenon; King Bumi, Fire Lord Sozin, and Guru Pathik were all centegenarians, and Kyoshi was stated to have lived 230 years.
The Avatar is capable of Bending more than one element at the same time. Aang first demonstrated this ability in the "Tales of Ba Sing Se" when he used his Earthbending to make a zoo while traveling on the Air Scooter made by his Airbending.
He may also have used this ability in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord" to provide cover through clouds while traveling on Appa to Roku's Island. Of course he may also have been using only Airbending, instead of both Airbending and Waterbending.
In "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang", Aang used all four elements while in the Avatar State to make himself nearly invincible and used these elements in a highly destructive attack. This consisted of him first bending air into a spherical shield around himself like he normally does while in the Avatar State, but then using Firebending to create flames and then compressing the flames into a ring around the Air Shield. Next, Aang broke incredibly big chunks of earth using Earthbending and compressed these boulders into small rocks and suspended them lined up in a ring around him. Finally he used Waterbending and compressed water into the final ring around him. The compression of the elements allowed Aang to use all four types of bending without sacrificing too much size and speed thus making this an extremely dangerous attack, both defensively and offensively.
The Avatar State is a defense mechanism, in which an Avatar may freely access the knowledge and powers of all previous Avatars. This provides the Avatar with great powers, as well as mastery over all four elements (even if the Avatar has not yet learned all four bending disciplines). It was by entering the Avatar State that Aang was able to freeze himself and Appa into an iceberg for 100 years, by using a combination of Airbending and Waterbending. While in the Avatar State, the Avatar's eyes glow - as do their arrow tattoos in the case of Avatars from the Air Nomads, although if the body has received an injury deeper than the tattoo then that spot will not glow in the state. It is not known if re-tattooing the area (once the injury has healed) would enable it to glow again.
It is unknown if any other type of tattoo may glow on an Avatar in the State; however, it has been stated by series creators that Air Nomad tattoos glow when in the Avatar State because they follow chi lines in the body. Thus, if a tattoo is not near a chi line or point, it is unlikely it would glow. Curiously in "Avatar Aang", several Air Nomad Avatars were shown with only their eyes glowing. It is possible this was an error (as each time Aang used the State his tattoos glowed) or because this was in a vision in Aang's head.
It is possible for an Avatar to control the Avatar State, as Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen, and the unknown Fire Nation Avatar have demonstrated in numerous flashbacks, but this requires great spiritual discipline and concentration (Guru Pathik attempted to teach Aang to control the Avatar State by helping him clear his chakras but Aang could not let go of Katara in exchange for cosmic power). More often, however, the Avatar State is activated by danger or emotional turmoil. In "The Southern Air Temple", Aang inadvertently enters the Avatar State when he discovers that his friend and teacher, Monk Gyatso, was killed by Fire Nation soldiers; in "The Avatar State", Aang entered the Avatar State when General Fong placed Katara in danger by pulling her into the ground with Earthbending. When an Avatar is in complete control of the Avatar State, their eyes glow momentarily, not constantly. However during most of Aang's fight with Ozai in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang" Aang's eyes and tattoos glowed continuously. Arguably, this may be because of how he was using the state at the time, or an indication he hadn't completely mastered the State until he stopped himself from killing Ozai, as when he puts out the fires in Wulong Forest the glow is only momentary.
It is possible for an Avatar to channel a specific previous incarnation while in the Avatar State. When this happens, the Avatar briefly takes on the appearance and voice of that previous incarnation. Aang has done this on several occasions, channeling Roku in "Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku" and "The Deserter", and Kyoshi in "Avatar Day", and the four Avatars before him in "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters". The appearance of these incarnations seems to vary as Roku always appears as an old man while all the other avatar incarnations appear youthful and in their prime. While it is possible that the ages they appear to be represent their ages at death, it is unlikely since Avatar Kyoshi lived for 230 years and would not have kept the same appearance all that time. It is equally possible that those in the Spirit World manifest visually as they see themselves and not as they currently are. Aang sees himself garbed in Air Nomad attire and with a shaved head within the Spirit World, even when he was wearing different clothes in the physical world, and had hair.
Ways the Avatar State worksEdit
There seem to be two distinct ways the Avatar State works:
When the State works continuously, the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos (in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar) glow constantly, and the Spirits of the past Avatars actively channel their energy, skills and knowledge through the body of the current Avatar, granting him/her great amounts of power. The State has been seen to work this way almost exclusively as instinctive unconscious reaction, as the 'defence mechanism' Roku described the State as, when an Avatar (who has yet to master the State) is confronted with a threat beyond that they can deal with, or when their emotions (specifically rage and sorrow) reach a breaking point. So it may perhaps be more accurate to describe the state being used this way as 'reflexively' rather then 'continuously'. When the State is triggered this way the combined spirits of the past Avatars seem to take control of the Avatar's body, thus the current Avatar has little to no control over his/her actions and retains little to no memory of what he/she did.
Aang appeared to use the State this way against Fire Lord Ozai, after the scar was forced against a rock unlocking his final Chakra, however it is unclear if he was in control of his actions at the time or if it was being used reflexively before he gained control by sheer force of will. Thus it is not clear if an Avatar who has mastered the Avatar State can trigger the State this way, or if they could control their actions if they did.
When the State is used non-continuously, the Avatar's eyes and tattoos (in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar) glow only for a second, and during that time the current Avatar stores the knowledge and energy needed within himself/herself so that he/she can release it once he/she exits the state. This reduces the danger of being killed in the Avatar State. This can only be done by an Avatar who has mastered the State as it is a conscious use rather then an instinctual response.
The Avatar State also allows an Avatar to join with certain spirits. This was demonstrated in the episode "The Siege of the North, Part 2", when Aang enters the Avatar State in order to aid the frantic Ocean Spirit. Both Aang in his Avatar State and the Ocean Spirit combine their abilities to defend the Northern Water Tribe after all Waterbenders are rendered defenseless.
When Aang speaks in the Avatar State, his voice sounds like a cross between a few different voices at once, his and what is presumed to be past Avatars, whose voices appear to reverberate.
Weakness of the Avatar StateEdit
While Aang, or any other Avatar, is all but invincible in the Avatar State, having millennia of bending experience which can surpass an army of benders, there is one grave weakness - in effect, every Avatar is present in the physical world while the current Avatar is in the Avatar State. If the Avatar were to be killed while in the Avatar State, every Avatar would die with him. This would break the cycle permanently and the Avatar would cease to exist. And presumably, without an Avatar to maintain the balance, the entire world would soon follow.
In "The Crossroads of Destiny", Aang was fatally wounded by a lightning strike from Azula while entering the Avatar State. As a result, his connection with the Avatar Spirit was jeopardized, resulting in the Avatar Spirit to fall from the plane of existence. Fortunately, as Aang was nearly dead, the spirit water given to Katara by Pakku was able to be used, reviving Aang and consequently the Avatar Spírit. The strain of the revival caused Aang to slip in and out of a coma numerous times over several weeks, and during that time, he managed to secure his connection to the Avatar State in the Escape from the Spirit World online comic, by meeting with the four Avatar incarnations before him. However, it took longer for his connection to his past lives to be completely restored.
Known times the Avatar State was used Edit
- 100 years previously, Aang used it to save himself and Appa from their fall into the ocean. Both were sealed into an ice encrusted air pocket that eventually froze into an iceberg. Given Aang's tattoos and eyes were still glowing when he was released from the iceberg, it is possible that he was in the State the whole time, which gives some hint to the incredible power available to the Avatar.
- Aang used it in the episode "The Avatar Returns" to escape another fall into the ocean and to stop Zuko. He Waterbends a water spout in the form of a twister.
- In the episode "The Southern Air Temple", Aang falls into the State after witnessing the skeleton of his former mentor and foster father Monk Gyatso. He airbends a small hurricane in his emotional distress.
- In the episode "Winter Solstice Part 2: Avatar Roku", Aang meets Avatar Roku in the fire temple. Roku helped him and friends escape by directly taking over Aang's body and activating the volcano underneath the temple.
- In the episode "The Storm", Aang almost enters into the Avatar State while telling Katara that Monk Gyatso and he were to be separated.
- In the episode "The Storm", Aang enters the state after saving Sokka and a fisherman, rounding up everyone that fell into the ocean and pulling them out of the water into the calmness of the storm's eye.
- In the episode "The Siege of the North, Part 2", Aang combines power with the spirit of the Ocean, La, after all Waterbenders are rendered powerless.
- In the episode "The Avatar State", Aang enters the Avatar State when General Fong uses Earthbending to bury Katara underground to force Aang into the Avatar State. He uses airbending to knock the general to the floor, rises into the air on a tornado, and crashes down to the earth, releasing a powerful earthbending attack on the general, his guards, and his fortress. A small air sphere surrounds Aang before the spirit of Avatar Roku takes him to the Spirit World to explain to him about the true nature of the Avatar State. In several flashbacks, we can see Avatar Kyoshi, Avatar Kuruk, Avatar Yangchen, and an unnamed fire Avatar in the Avatar State.
- In the episode "Avatar Day", we see Avatar Kyoshi enter the Avatar State in a flashback. In the Avatar State, Kyoshi splits her home land from the mainland creating Kyoshi Island.
- In the episode "The Desert", Aang enters the Avatar State while confronting Appa's kidnappers (a group of Sandbenders). A large air sphere surrounds him, lifting him up into the air, but is brought down by Katara, who grabs his arm and embraces him.
- In the episode "The Crossroads of Destiny", Aang finally is willing to give up Katara to open the last chakra and willingly go into the Avatar State, but he is soon struck by lightning from Princess Azula.
- In the episode "The Avatar and the Fire Lord", the Avatar State is used many times by Avatar Roku. In flashbacks, Avatar Roku uses the Avatar State twice, first in a battle with Fire Lord Sozin, then as an attempt to stop a volcanic eruption.
- In the episode "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang", Aang finally reopens his chakra and is able to effectively use the Avatar State, without letting go of his attachment to Katara, bending all four elements at once. He collected all four elements and compressed them in a sphere around him, moving at incredible speed. The sphere can be used both for offense and defense. Since the sphere contains all four elements, it allowed Aang to Earthbend and Waterbend while away from a source. It is unclear if Aang had complete control of the Avatar State during the fight as his eyes and tattoos glowed continuously, as opposed to other known Avatars, whose eyes glowed only for a moment when using the Avatar State. After the fight was over, Aang used it once again, pulling the ocean to put the fire at Wulong Forest; this time, the glow was short lived.
Aang does not enter the Avatar State during meditation and harmony with the spirits around him, but his tattoos and eyes glow in the same way. In this method, he visits the spirit world with his own spirit, leaving his body a defenseless shell in the real world. An example of this was seen in "The Siege of the North, Part 1."
Known times Aang used Meditation to enter the Spirit World Edit
- In the episode "Winter Solstice Part 1: The Spirit World," Aang is accidentally trapped in the Spirit World while chasing after a rampaging beast. The beast (later found to be an angry forest spirit) changed worlds at sunrise nearing the winter solstice, and Aang was too close when it happened.
- In the episode "The Siege of the North, Part 1," Aang meditates into the spirit world to find a way to save the North Pole.
- In the episode "The Swamp," Aang meditates at the center of the Swamp, and locates Appa and Momo by connecting with the whole swamp.
- In the episode "The Avatar and the Fire Lord," Aang meditates on Avatar Roku's home Island to meet him in the Spirit World. Curiously when Aang is shown from a non-Spiritual World perspective after crossing over, his tattoos aren't glowing, which differs from previous occasions when his tattoos remained glowing.
- While the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar, usually glow white with a tinge of blue in the Avatar State there are times when it has been white, for example in "The Desert".
- In Sanskrit/Hindi, Avatara means descent in verb form and incarnation in noun form.
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