List of Avatar: The Last Airbender characters

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From left to right, Sokka, Mai, Katara, Suki, Momo, Zuko, Aang, Toph, and Iroh relaxing at the end of the original series' finale.

The animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender features a list of characters created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. In a fictional universe composed of four sovereign nations, the Avatar—a being who represents the bridge between the physical and the spirit worlds—alone holds the power to master all four elemental powers, but has been missing for the past 100 years. During this absence, a war started by the Fire Nation resulted in the Air Nomads' genocide, the Southern Tribes' waterbending population near extinction, and the Earth Kingdom's extensive colonization.

The original series starts when protagonist Aang is released from an iceberg after 100 years. With Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka, and later Earth Kingdom citizen Toph Beifong, Aang sets out to end the war that has ravaged the world during his absence. The series also focuses on the banished prince Zuko of the Fire Nation.

Character designs were originated from a series of drawings by one of the show's creators, Bryan Konietzko. The main sketch depicted a middle-aged monk with an arrow on his head and later included a flying bison as his pet. Konietzko's partner, Michael Dante DiMartino, was interested in documentaries related to the South Pole at the time. They combined these ideas and created the concept of an "air guy" and "water guys" trapped in a snowy wasteland, with "fire guys" invading them.[1] Additionally, the writers based the characters' different bending abilities on distinct styles of martial arts.

Character conception[edit]

The characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender were designed by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the co-creators of the series.[1] The anime-styled character art was inspired by Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and FLCL (Fooly Cooly) of Gainax.[2] The original character conception was derived from a sketch by Bryan Konietzko that depicted a middle-aged balding man with an arrow on his head.[1] Studios such as Studio 4°C, Production I.G, and Studio Ghibli, which produced anime-styled cartoons, were also sources of inspiration.[3]

The greatest influences on the series were Asian art and history; the characters' various personalities and traits are based on philosophical teachings such as Taoism and Buddhism.[4][5] In the show, some characters have the ability to manipulate one of the four classic elements of ancient philosophy: Water, Earth, Fire and Air, although the Avatar has the ability to control all four.[6] Each of these employ a different form of martial arts in their fighting choreography: T'ai chi for Waterbending, Hung Gar for Earthbending, Northern Shaolin for Firebending, and Ba Gua Airbending.[7] These individual styles of martial arts also reflect on the personalities of the user and the nations as a whole. These starkly individual tendencies are explained in eighty-five distinct types of "Jings", or internal energy.[8] For example, Ba Gua employs the "negative jing" to create erratic circular movements and capitalizes on centripetal force and defensive positions while Northern Shaolin follows the "positive jing" and emphasizes brute strength and aggression to generate power.[7] The negative jing reflects Aang's bending styles and his tendency to be unpredictable and extremely carefree, as well as his pacifist and non-aggressive nature.[9][10][11]

Many of the recurring characters of the series have received traits based on the respective element. Aang is carefree and childlike, as is commonly attributed to the "freedom" of the wind and the air.[12][13] Toph, despite being blind, is extremely perceptive of the world around her due to her connection to the Earth. Unlike Aang, she is extremely brusque when criticizing others, as attributed to Earth's toughness.[14][15]

Main characters[edit]

The Avatar[edit]

Aang[edit]

Main article: Aang

Avatar Aang (Chinese: 安昂; pinyin: Ān Áng) (voiced by Mitchel Musso in the unaired pilot,[16] voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen in Avatar: The Last Airbender,[17] voiced by D. B. Sweeney in The Legend of Korra, and portrayed by Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender[18]) is the protagonist of the original series, and in it, the current Avatar, a being who exists through reincarnation to maintain world balance.[19][20] A reluctant hero, Aang often acts in a fun-loving, carefree manner.[21] His pacifist and vegetarianism demonstrates his love for life, a primary trait of Buddhism. The creators intended Aang to "defeat enemies with his wits" and be a "trickster hero".[22][23] Though Aang is often frivolous and enthusiastic, he becomes serious during a crisis.[24][25]

In the original series, Aang is rescued from a century of suspended animation by Katara and Sokka. Having already mastered his native Airbending, Aang learns Waterbending at the North Pole in Book One and continues his instruction from Katara in the rest of the series,[26] Earthbending from Toph in Book Two,[15] and Firebending from Zuko in Book Three.[27][28] Throughout the series, Aang comes to the aid of Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom oppressed by the Fire Nation. Unwilling to kill Fire Lord Ozai, despite his past Avatar incarnations insisting on it, Aang ultimately learns the ancient Lion-Turtles' technique of energybending, which allows the user to give or take away a person's bending, and uses it to render Ozai a non-bender.

In The Legend of Korra, is revealed that Aang aided Zuko in creating the United Republic of Nations. He also married Katara and had three children, with his youngest son Tenzin restoring the Air Nomads while instructing his reincarnation Korra. Like Roku before him, Aang appears at times before his reincarnation Korra prior to their connection later destroyed.

Korra[edit]

Avatar Korra is the Avatar who came after Aang, and the protagonist of The Legend of Korra series, the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Born to Tonraq and Senna of the Southern Water Tribe, Korra was revealed as the next Avatar at age five, being able to bend fire, water and earth. Despite her skill at the other three elements, she had trouble with mastering the element of air and had a poor connection to the spiritual world. This is in direct contrast to Aang, who was an airbending master at twelve, and had no trouble with connecting with spirits. Her personality is also more confident and energetic, which was a conscious decision by the creators to differentiate her from Aang.

Other known incarnations[edit]

  • Avatar Roku (voiced by James Garrett[29][30] and by Andrew Caldwell (in the younger days)) is Aang's immediate past life, serving as his spiritual advisor.[31] In Book Three, it is revealed that Roku aiding Aang is motivated by his guilt of failing to stop his childhood friend Sozin, the Fire Lord of the time, from his campaign. Roku is also the grandfather of Zuko's mother Ursa.[32] In the live-action film, Roku's role as Aang's guide is assumed by the Dragon Spirit (John Noble).
  • Avatar Kyoshi (voiced by Jennifer Hale) was the incarnation of the Avatar preceding Roku, 412 years before the start of the series. Being straightforward and often cold in personality, Kyoshi is described as a gigantic woman, possessing the largest feet of any Avatar, and lived to be 230 years old. Her traditional weapons are golden metal fans which, with her attire and fighting style, were adopted by the Kyoshi Warriors of Kyoshi Island, which she detached from the mainland to defy a self-stimulated conqueror. Kyoshi was also responsible for the establishment of the Dai Li.
  • Avatar Kuruk (voiced by Jim Meskimen) preceded Kyoshi. Though he lived in the time of relative peace and stability, Kuruk's suffered for his carelessness when the spirit Ko the Face Stealer stole the face of his true love. Kuruk spent the rest of his life hunting down Ko, but failed to take revenge.
  • Avatar Yangchen (voiced by Tress MacNeille) was the Air Nomad Avatar before Aang. Unlike many other Air Nomads, able to kill threats without hesitation, Yangchen understands the Avatar's priority is to the world rather than self enlightenment.
  • Avatar Wan (voiced by Steven Yuen) was revealed in the sequel series Legend of Korra to be the very first Avatar at a time when spirits can freely enter the physical world. Originally of the people whom the Fire Nation descended from, Wan became an outcast when he obtained fire bending under false reasons. This lead Wan to live among the spirits, traveling before he unknowingly freed the dark spirit Vaatu from the hold of his benign counterpart Raava. Accompanying Raava to set things right, the spirit serving a means to exchange one form of bending for another, Wan obtains the ability to bend the other elements from the other Lion Turtles. But during the fight with Vaatu as the Harmonic Convergence event begins, having learned that he can use all the elements as long as Raava is inside his body, Wan permanently merged his soul with Raava through the event's energies. After sealing Vaatu, giving the spirits enough time to return to their world, Wan sealed the Spirit Portals in hopes no one of his world would free him. From there, Wan spend his remaining days attempting to keep the people from waging war on each other.

Principle characters[edit]

Katara[edit]

Katara (Chinese: 卡塔拉; pinyin: Kǎ Tǎlā) (voiced by Mae Whitman in the original series,[17] voiced by Eva Marie Saint in the sequel series, and portrayed by Nicola Peltz in the live-action film[18]) is Aang's best friend and eventual girlfriend.

In the original series, she had mastered the art of waterbending at the end of Book One,[33] and therefore began teaching Aang the art alongside his study of earthbending in Book Two.[15] Katara is known for resisting gender stereotypes;[26] but acts as den mother to the other protagonists.[15] As a waterbender, she is able to heal injuries, change water into ice, and use it to cut through solid objects. She is known to become enamoured easily, and is often angered by treachery or dishonesty. She also learns bloodbending, the manipulation of liquids within a living creature, in Book Three.[34]

In the sequel series, Katara is revealed to have married Aang and had three children. In an earlier version of the pilot episode, Katara's name was Kya: a name later re-used as her mother's name and later that of her daughter. In the sequel series, Katara is Korra's Waterbending master.

Sokka[edit]

Main article: Sokka

Sokka (Chinese: 索卡; pinyin: Sǔo Kǎ) (voiced by Jack DeSena in the original series,[17] voiced by Chris Hardwick in the sequel series, and portrayed by Jackson Rathbone in the live-action film[18]) is a 15-year-old warrior of the Southern Water Tribe, and Katara's elder brother.[15] With no bending power of his own, Sokka relies largely on a metallic boomerang, a blunt metal club, a machete, and later a black jian created from the metals of a meteorite.[35] Surprisingly in an inhabitant of a mystical world, Sokka is an engineer and something of a jack-of-all-trades, in which respect he is easily able to understand the Fire Nation's advanced technology, and perfects the design of the hot air balloon.[36] In addition, he is both heterodox and resourceful in his endeavors,[37] and a source of comic relief throughout the series. Sokka was in love with the Northern Water Tribe princess Yue at the end of Book One and later shifted his affections to the Kyoshi Warriors' leader Suki in Books Two and Three.

In the sequel series, flashbacks reveal Sokka was the first representative of the Southern Water Tribe to sit on the Republic City Council, and possibly its first chairman. He died a few years after Aang, when the next Avatar, Korra, was still a child.

Toph Beifong[edit]

Main article: Toph Beifong

Toph Beifong (Chinese: 北方拓芙; pinyin: Běifāng Tuòfú) (voiced by Jessie Flower in the original series,[38] voiced by Kate Higgins in Books One and Three of the sequel series, and by Philece Sampler in Book Four) is a blind Earthbending grandmaster of the prestigious Bei Fong family in the Earth Kingdom.[14]

In the original series, Toph helps Aang master Earthbending after herself leaving home.[14] Toph is often sarcastic, direct, and confrontational; commonly depicted as the choleric and tomboy of the group.[14] Though blind, Toph has the ability to "feel" vibrations in the earth, be it the presence of trees and buildings or the march of ants several meters away. Through this heightened sense, she can identify people's locations, their distance from her, and their physical build. This 'seismic sense' provides her with a distinct advantage when facing other Earthbenders in combat, as they characteristically require contact with the ground and extract rocks from their surroundings. As another result of her blindness, Toph has an acute sense of hearing, enabling her to recognize people by the sound of their voices and to eavesdrop on distant conversations.[24] Unlike other Earthbenders, Toph has a distinct style of earthbending not based on Hung Gar but on the Southern Praying Mantis, featuring quick generation of energy and low kicks, to suit her small stature.[39] Toph taught herself metalbending by manipulating the metals' impurities at the end of Book Two and throughout Book Three.[40]

In the sequel series, flashbacks reveal that Toph was the first Chief of the Metalbending Police Force, the police department of Republic City. Toph eventually became a single mother of two daughters: Lin, who eventually succeeded her mother as police chief, and Suyin, who founded a commune of free-thinking Earth- and Metalbenders known as the Metal Clan. By the time the series begins, Toph, who had been living with Suyin and her grandchildren after retiring, has not been seen in years, electing to travel the world in search of enlightenment.

Zuko[edit]

Main article: Zuko

Prince Zuko, later Fire Lord Zuko (Chinese: 祖寇; pinyin: Zǔ Kòu) (voiced by Dante Basco in the original animated series,[17] voiced by Bruce Davison in the sequel series, and portrayed by Dev Patel in the live-action film[18]) is a central character: the primary antagonist of Book One, an anti-hero of Book Two, and a protagonist in Book Three. Throughout Book 1, he has a shaved head with ponytail. In Book 2, he cuts it off and grows his hair. In Book 3, his hair is shoulder length.

When exiled, prior to the beginning of the series, by his father Fire Lord Ozai for forfeiting a duel therewith,[41] Zuko believed that capturing the Avatar would regain his honor.[42] In addition to his firebending, Zuko is proficient in the use of double broadswords wielded in his alter ego of the "Blue Spirit". Zuko's ancestry reflects his own anxieties, in that his paternal great-grandfather Fire Lord Sozin started the war while his maternal great-grandfather Avatar Roku attempted to prevent it.[43] In Book One, Zuko fails many times to capture the Avatar, and in Book Two, Zuko and his Uncle Iroh earn further displeasure when they flee into the Earth Kingdom, where he befriends locals and goes so far as to rescuing them from corrupt Earth Army guards.[41][44] When tempted by his sister Azula's offer of honor's restoration, he betrays his uncle to assist Azula's fight against the Avatar.[45] In Book Three, Zuko eventually rejects his father Ozai's plans.[46] After he learns the secret of Firebending with Aang from two dragons, he becomes Aang Firebending teacher;[27] helps Sokka rescue prisoners; assists Katara in confronting her mother's killer; and receives his uncle Iroh's forgiveness.[47][48] After defeating Azula, Zuko become the new Fire Lord and ends the war.[49]

The sequel series reveals that Fire Lord Zuko aided Avatar Aang reorganizing the Fire Nation's colonies in the Earth Kingdom as a United Republic of Nations, and is the only one of Republic City's founders not to have lived there (remaining on the throne of the Fire Nation). His grandson, named Iroh after Zuko's uncle, serves as a general in the United Forces. After abdicating the throne in favor of his daughter, Zuko travelled the world as an ambassador for peace, keeping major threats in check while Aang's reincarnation Korra was still a child.

Appa[edit]

Main article: Appa

Appa (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker in the original animated series[18][38]) is Aang's flying bison who serves as the group's Mode of transport around the world.[9] He possesses the ability to fly and can use his tail to create powerful gusts of air. According to Aang, flying bison were the first Airbenders.[50] The show's creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, have described Appa's appearance as a cross between a bison and a manatee.[51] He is known to shed his coat at the end of winter.[52]

Iroh[edit]

Main article: Iroh

Uncle Iroh (Chinese: 艾洛; pinyin: Aì Lùo) (voiced by Mako in Books One and Two,[17] voiced by Greg Baldwin in Book Three and sequel series,[53] and portrayed by Shaun Toub in the live-action film[18]), also known as "The Dragon of the West", is a Firebending master and former heir to the Fire Nation throne. After the death of his son at the Siege of Ba Sing Se, his younger brother Ozai was named Fire Lord.[41] Unlike most firebenders, Iroh lacks hostility toward other nations and generates his fire and lightning not from fury, as is conventional, but from a sense given him by dragons, the original source of firebending.[27] As a member of the Order of the White Lotus, Iroh has social connections throughout the Four Nations. Iroh is outwardly easy-going and friendly, and particularly fond of food, good tea,[54] the strategy game Pai Sho,[55] cheerful company, and pleasant music.[9] Something of a hedonist in his old age, he focuses more on relaxation and amusements than on the pursuit of the Avatar, a habit that clashes with the obsessions of his nephew Zuko.[41] At the end of the series, after enlisting his fellow White Lotus members to release Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation's rule, Iroh reopened his tea shop within the city.[25][49]

In The Legend of Korra sequel, near the end of his life, Iroh transferred his soul into the Spirit World where he offers his assistance to Aang's reincarnation Korra, and later to Aang's children Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi during their initial visits to the Spirit World. Iroh is also the namesake of Zuko's grandson.

Momo[edit]

Momo (Chinese: 模模; pinyin: Mò Mò) (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker in the original animated series) is the only known Winged Lemur. Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creator Bryan Konietzko admits that Momo is his favorite character to draw and that his body language is derived from memories of a childhood cat.[56] Momo was introduced when Aang finds him at the Southern Air Temple and then keeps him as a pet.[57] Although Momo has been in many dangerous situations while traveling with the protagonists, he has also been of aid to them and a source of comic relief throughout the series. According to the creators, Momo was intended to represent the spirit of Monk Gyatso, Aang's mentor.[58]

Azula[edit]

Main article: Azula

Princess Azula (Chinese: 阿祖拉; pinyin: Ā Zǔ Lā) (voiced by Grey DeLisle in the animated series and played by Summer Bishil in the live-action movie) is Zuko's sister who is a major antagonist in Book Two and Book Three.[59] She is a gifted Firebending master. After Zhao's death, Azula is sent by Ozai to capture the Avatar, Zuko, and Iroh. Her amorality and ability to act without hesitation or remorse also accounts for her ability to create lightning, which skill requires peace of mind.[15] Despite her cruel temperament, she becomes distraught when abandoned by her friends Mai and Ty Lee,[60] and collapses mentally when her father leaves her the now-worthless position of Fire Lord,[28] in which she becomes increasingly irrational, paranoid, and mentally unstable,[25] and ultimately suffers a full psychotic breakdown, in which she is overcome by Zuko and Katara.[49]

Following the end of the war, Azula is placed at a mental institution to be closely monitored. As revealed in the comic sequel,The Search, Azula managed to convince Zuko to let her accompany him in the search for their mother. But in reality, her madness tied to the hatred she bares towards, Azula's reasons were to eliminate Ursa upon finding a letter that claim Zuko to be her half-brother and thus making her the legitimate heir. But after her attempt failed, and unable to accept Zuko still caring for her after everything she done to him, Azula fled into the Forgetful Valley before the letter's contents are later revealed to be false.[citation needed]

Ozai[edit]

Fire Lord Ozai (voiced by Mark Hamill in the animated series,[38] and portrayed by Cliff Curtis in the live-action film[18]) is the ruler of the Fire Nation and is the chief antagonist of the series. He is often depicted as unnecessarily cruel, such as scarring Zuko's face and banishing him for perceived disrespect.[61] Ozai shows Azula favor due to her skill as a prodigy and being an embodiment of his ideals. Having welcomed his son home after Azula lied to him that Zuko killed Aang, Ozai is furious to learn of the Avatar's survival.[62] When Sozin's Comet draws near, Ozai renames himself 'Phoenix King' and embarks to destroy the Earth Kingdom, entrusting an unstable Azula with their homeland. Defeated by Aang, Ozai is stripped of his ability to firebend and imprisoned.[49]

Secondary characters[edit]

Earth Kingdom[edit]

  • Earth King Kuei (voiced by Phil LaMarr) is the King of the Earth Kingdom. In his first appearance, he is shown to have been tricked by his chancellor, who kept the war with the Fire Nation a secret from him. Upon learning of the war, the king joined forces with the Avatar and arrested his chancellor, eventually leading to the fall of the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se. Afterwards, he left to travel the world with his pet bear Boscow before returning to the throne sometime after the series ended. By the time of the sequel series, Kuei is remembered as having ceded the land that the United Republic was built on and is reign over Ba Sing Se succeeded by his daughter, the tyrannical Earth Queen Hou-Ting.
  • Haru (voiced by Michael Dow) is an Earthbender that Sokka, Aang, and Katara meet in Book One, and whom they assist freeing his father and other Earthbenders from the Fire Nation. In Book Three, he reappears in an invasion of the Fire Nation alongside other characters. After the invasion fails, Haru leaves with Aang and his group for the Western Air Temple, but is separated from them during Azula's attack. He is reunited with his father at the end of the finale.
  • Tyro (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) is an Earthbender and the father of Haru. In Book One, he and many other Earthbenders escape from a Fire Nation prison thanks to his son along with Katara, Aang and Sokka. In Book Three, he later joins the invasion of the Fire Nation with his son, but is captured after the invasion fails. He is seen with Haru at the end of the finale.
  • The Mechanist (voiced by Rene Auberjonois) is a brilliant and eccentric inventor in the Earth Kingdom, who led his people to take up residence in the abandoned Northern Air Temple when their village was destroyed by a flood. Unfortunately, his abilities come to the attention of the Fire Nation and he is coerced into developing a number of machines, redeeming himself after he breaks the arrangement and helps Aang repel the Fire Nation when they raid the temple. Because of his scientific approach to the world, he becomes friends with Sokka, and they develop a number of devices together. He later aids the invasion on the Day of the Black Sun with numerous new inventions, including waterbending-powered submarines. When the invasion fails, he is captured and later reunited with his son Teo after the war.
  • Teo (voiced by Daniel Samonas) is the Mechanist's son, rendered paraplegic and wheelchair-bound by a flood. A kind-hearted, respectful, and honest boy, he soon becomes friends with Aang. After discovering that his father has been reluctantly creating machines for the Fire Nation, Teo aids Aang repelling Fire Nation raiders. He returns during the invasion of the Day of the Black Sun, but is forced to separate from his father when the Avatar's group is forced to surrender. He accompanies Aang to the Western Air Temple and befriends Haru and the Duke before the Avatar's group is forced to flee when Azula attacks the temple. He is reunited with his father after the war.

Kyoshi[edit]

  • Suki (Chinese: 苏琪; traditional: 蘇琪; pinyin: Sū qí) (voiced by Jennie Kwan in the animated series,[38] and originally planned to be portrayed by Jessica Jade Andres in the live-action film[18]) is the leader of the exclusively female Kyoshi Warriors, a sect established by the Avatar incarnation of the same name.[21] She is an exceptionally skilled fighter and Sokka's current girlfriend. She and the Kyoshi Warriors fought Azula in Book Two to which they were defeated and imprisoned but was released by Sokka and Zuko in Book Three,[60] and remained with the protagonists thereafter and joined Toph and Sokka to disable the Fire Nation's air force.

Dai Li[edit]

Ba Sing Se's secret police and cultural enforcers, they acted under Long Feng and then Azula. In the sequel series, the Dai Li continue as an antagonistic form against the Avatar due to being the loyal enforcers of Earth Queen Hou-Ting. It is revealed in the secret episode that the Dai Li was founded by Avatar Kyoshi.

  • Long Feng (voiced by Clancy Brown) is the intelligent Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se and chancellor to the Earth King, making him the power behind the throne.[63] As leader of the Dai Li, Long Feng uses propaganda to conceal the Hundred Year War while silencing anyone who disrupts the order. Once exposed, Long Feng allies himself with Azula in a scheme to use her to pull a coup on the Earth King, only to find his men are more willing to follow Azula's commands than his.

Fire Nation[edit]

  • Ty Lee (voiced by Olivia Hack[38]) is cheerful, energetic, and somewhat of a valley girl who, along with Mai, accompanies her childhood friend Azula on her quest.[8] She is one of seven sisters and joined the circus at an early age to appear "different from a matching set". She is a peerless acrobat and can paralyze people or temporarily neutralize their bending powers by striking pressure points. In Book Three, she was temporarily imprisoned after she supported Mai against Azula, and released when the Fire Lord was defeated. She later joined the Kyoshi Warriors, whom she had earlier impersonated in Book Two.[49] Ty Lee's chi-blocking techniques were used for nefarious purposes in the sequel series, although it is not clear if there is a direct connection.
  • Mai (voiced by Cricket Leigh[64]) is an impassive, bored, stoic young noblewoman who, along with Ty Lee, is a friend and accomplice of Azula.[59] She is the elder child of the Governor of New Ozai (previously Omashu). Her primary weapons are throwing knives, darts, and shuriken concealed in her clothing.[8] Mai eventually become's Zuko's girlfriend, although he leaves her to join Aang and Team Avatar. She later visits him when he is incarcerated in Boiling Rock prison; upon his escape, Mai shocks everyone by holding off the guards and dueling Azula herself, explaining that her love for Zuko is stronger than her fear of Azula. She is released after Azula's defeat,[49] and reunites with Zuko.
  • Admiral Zhao (voiced by Jason Isaacs in the animated series,[38] and portrayed by Aasif Mandvi in the live-action film[18]) is an antagonist of Book One who is a hot-tempered Fire Nation admiral in pursuit of the Avatar, and Zuko's principal rival throughout the first season, attempting to kill off Zuko for interference in his capture of Aang and planning to kill their world's 'Moon Spirit' and thus destroy the waterbending capability of the Northern Water Tribe, in which he fails when Princess Yue becomes the new moon spirit to replace the original, and is dragged into the depths by the vengeful Ocean Spirit.[65] In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, it is revealed that Zhao's spirit was placed in the Fog of Lost Souls, where he became a victim of his madness by the time he is encountered by Aang's children, mistaking Tenzin for his father.

Water Tribe[edit]

  • Princess Yue (voiced by Johanna Braddy in the animated series,[38] and portrayed by Seychelle Gabriel in the live-action film[18]) is the daughter of Chief Arnook of the Northern Water Tribe. When Yue nearly died at birth, her father invoked the Moon Spirit to give her life. In Book One, she appears as a sixteen-year-old girl engaged to marry warrior Hahn; but becomes enamoured of Sokka.[66] When the Moon Spirit is killed by Admiral Zhao, Yue gives up mortal existence to become the new Moon Spirit,[65] in which role she re-appears occasionally in Books Two and Three. The word Yue () means "moon" in Mandarin Chinese.
  • Admiral Hakoda (voiced by André Sogliuzzo) is Katara's and Sokka's father and the leader of the Southern Water Tribe. Much of Sokka's ingenuity in the show is attributed to Hakoda's teachings. Hakoda went to fight the Fire Nation before the beginning of the series, reappearing later to lead his son's invasion in Book Three.

Order of the White Lotus[edit]

The White Lotus is an international organization of teachers, philosophers, and warriors, who value knowledge and wisdom above nationality. Their name comes from the White Lotus tile, a low-ranking piece in the game of Pai Sho, which is the most common form of communication among members. Iroh is among the highest-ranking members, and hints of the Order are dropped throughout the series through his actions. Iroh, a Grand Lotus, eventually calls the entirety of the Order to reveal themselves and liberate Ba Sing Se during the events of Sozin's Comet: The Final Battle. In the sequel series, the White Lotus has expanded to act as an elite international police force among the Five Nations, while also taking responsibility for finding, guiding and defending the next Avatar, a task previously the responsibility of internal sages within each Nation. However, it would cause a division among its ranks with those disillusioned forming the anarchistic Red Lotus.

  • King Bumi (voiced by André Sogliuzzo) is the whimsical, elderly King of Omashu, an Earth Kingdom stronghold. As a child, Bumi was a close friend of Aang's. Despite his age and apparent frailty and eccentric personality, Bumi is an Earthbending master, himself claiming to be "the most powerful Earthbender you'll ever see". Putting Aang through a series of tests in Book One, Bumi surrendered to the Fire Nation in Book Two to avert any harm to his people while telling Aang to find another who can teach him Earthbending. In Book Three, Bumi breaks free during the Day of Black Sun and single-handed retakes Omashu before answering Iroh's call to liberate Ba Sing Se. The word Bumi comes from the Sanskrit 'bhumi' meaning 'earth'. In the sequel series, Aang's and Katara named their first born son after King Bumi.
  • Master Pakku (voiced by Victor Brandt) is a Waterbending master and instructor of the North Pole's Northern Water Tribe Waterbending classes. He is dryly sarcastic and very serious about his teachings. He insists on only teaching male students, but relents after identifying Katara as the granddaughter of his runaway fiancée Kanna. At the climax of Book Three, Pakku joins the rest of the order in liberating Ba Sing Se, and reveals that he has married Kanna.
  • Jeong Jeong (voiced by Keone Young) is a former admiral of the Fire Nation's navy who lives in exile with his followers. Though he had once been Zhao's teacher, Zhao quit because he believed Jeong Jeong's teaching methods ineffective. Even though he warned against it, Jeong Jeong taught Aang the basics of Firebending by using a flame and a leaf, although Aang eventually relented and realize he needed to follow the proper elemental cycle. As with most of the elder masters encountered by Team Avatar, Jeong Jeong revealed himself as a member of the White Lotus at the gates of Ba Sing Se.
  • Master Piandao (voiced by Robert Patrick) is a swordsmith and master of swordsmanship, based in the Fire Nation, who teaches a foundation of his skills to Sokka. Piandao is later revealed to have tutored Zuko in swordplay. He later joins the Order of the White Lotus in liberating Ba Sing Se.

Freedom Fighters[edit]

First encountered in "Jet", this rag-tag group led by the episode's namesake operates in the forests of the Earth Kingdom. The group consists of its leader Jet and his subordinates Pipsqueak, Smellerbee, Longshot, the Duke, and Sneers.

  • Jet (voiced by Crawford Wilson) is a charismatic teen-aged rebel who holds a deep grudge against the Fire Nation. He is the leader of the Freedom Fighters, a group of children antagonizing Fire Nation soldiers even at the expense of innocent lives. He is Katara's first crush. In Book Two, Jet openly condemns his previous actions in Ba Sing Se, where he is brainwashed by chancellor Long Feng. He is released from this condition by the protagonists and is later killed during a fight against Long Feng.[67]
  • Pipsqueak (voiced by Sterling Young) is the largest and strongest of the Freedom Fighters (despite his name) by the time of Book One. In Book Three, he joins the invasion against the Fire Nation and is taken captive when it fails. He is seen again at the end of the finale.
  • Smellerbee (voiced by Nika Futterman) is a Freedom Fighter. In Book One, she was first seen wherein she helped Jet destroy a dam. In Book Two, she is later accompanying Jet and Longshot to Ba Sing Se but leaves Jet after watching him obsessed with proving that Iroh and Zuko are Firebenders. She and Longshot are not seen after Jet is killed.
  • Longshot (voiced by Marc Donato) is a silent member of the Freedom Fighters by the time of Book One. In Book Two, he accompanies Jet and Smellerbee to Ba Sing Se. He only says one line after Jet was fatally injured.
  • The Duke (voiced by Mitch Holleman in Book One and Nick Swoboda in Book Three) is the youngest seen member of the Freedom Fighters during Book One. He is later seen in Book Three with Pipsqueak in the Black Sun invasion force, goes with Aang to the Western Air Temple after the invasion's failure, and is separated from them after Azula's attack. He is also seen hugging Toph at the end of the finale.

Spirit World Denizens[edit]

  • Tui and La are respectively the Moon and Ocean Spirits who traveled to in the physical world and remained there. The two spirits assumed the form of koi that occupied the Spirit Oasis within the Northern Water Tribe's capital city. The two spirits play an important role in waterbending, information that Admiral Zhao learned and used to kill Tui to permanently remove waterbending. However, empowered by Aang in his Avatar State, La assumed its true form to drive off the Fire Nation invasion force before learning that Tui is revived by Yue's sacrifice. On its way back to the Spirit Oasis, finding the man who murdered Tui, La dragged Zhao into the depths. It would be later revealed in the Legend of Korra that La disposed of Zhao in the Spirit World's Fog of Lost Souls.
  • Koh the Face Stealer (voiced by Erik Todd Dellums) is an ancient Spirit who steals the faces of his victims unless they are expressionless. One of Koh's earliest victims was the beloved of Avatar Kuruk as a means to put the Avatar in his place for letting his guard down during peace time. During his time at the Northern Water Tribe, Aang met with Koh as he knew the identities of the Moon and Ocean spirits. In Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, it is revealed that Koh is the estranged son of the Mother of Faces, who can restore her son's victims to normal or alter their appearance.
  • Wan Shi Tong (voiced by Héctor Elizondo) is a powerful owl-like Spirit who brought his library into the physical world, its content provided by his knowledge-seeking foxes, to help people better themselves through his collection. However, as a result of Zhao learning of the Ocean and Moon Spirits, Shi Tong became disillusioned with humans for using his knowledge in their conflict. It was only Aang and his friends acquire information on the Day of Black Sun, despite their just reasons, that Wan Shi Tong takes his library back to the Spirit World with humans no longer allowed. In the sequel series, Wan Shi Tong becomes an ally to the season two antagonist Unalaq and played a role in the abduction of Aang's granddaughter Jinora.

Other recurring characters[edit]

  • Cabbage Merchant (voiced by James Sie) is a character (never directly given a name) that appears occasionally throughout Book One and Book Two, used mainly for comic relief. The cabbage merchant was an Earth Kingdom salesman who repeatedly had his cabbages destroyed or damaged. His only speaking parts throughout the original series is to shout his catchphrase "My cabbages!": provoked first by the Earth kingdom city of Omashu's import control earthbenders; secondly by Aang and the Omashu mail delivery service; and again by Aang chased by pirates. In Book Two, his cabbages are spoilt by a 'platypus-bear' at the Ba Sing Se ferry boat center and again by Aang when the latter relocates a zoo. In Book Three, "a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage", though never seen, supplies the story of a burlesque mimicking the protagonists' adventures. In the sequel series, another man named Lau Gan-Lan (also voiced by James Sie) runs a company named Cabbage Corps, founded by the Cabbage Merchant.
  • Combustion Man/Sparky Sparky Boom Man (real name unknown) appeared in Book Three as an assassin hired by Prince Zuko to kill Aang, and served as an antagonist until his apparent death. His chief weapon is a unique method of Firebending allowing him to generate explosions from a third eye painted on his forehead, whereby he terrorizes the Avatar and his friends. He has no speaking parts and shows no mannerism except those suggesting a fierce attachment to his purpose.
  • June (voiced by Jennifer Hale) is a bounty hunter who travels the Earth Kingdom. She hunts her prey with the help of her mount 'Nyla', which is totally blind but possesses a heightened sense of smell. June is confident and self-assured, and possesses impressive physical strength.
  • Nyla is a female Shirshu (an immense, musteline-like predator) who served as the mount and companion of the bounty hunter June. Characteristic of his species Nyla's tongue contains neurotoxins that temporarily paralyze a human being. Also like other Shirshu, Nyla has no eyes and "sees" by his powerful scent receptors; a trait utilized by Sokka by tipping perfumes into Nyla's path.
  • Bato (voiced by Richard McGonagle) is a friend of Hakoda. He is first seen in Book One, and later takes part in Sokka's invasion of the Fire Nation during Book Three; eventually to be imprisoned at its failure, and released in the finale.
  • Chief Arnook (voiced by Jon Polito) is the chief of the Northern Water Tribe, and father of Princess Yue. He helps to defeat the Fire Nation in their raid of the tribe at the end of Book One, but is not seen or mentioned thereafter.
  • Xin Fu (voiced by Marc Graue) was a promoter and host of an earthbending prizefighting ring who later becomes a bounty hunter, hired by Toph's father to bring her home. He works with Earthbending instructor turned bounty hunter Master Yu to accomplish this. While searching for Toph, he also briefly pursues Zuko and Iroh. He succeeds in capturing Toph in a metal box, but she manages to escape by creating Metalbending and proceeds to seal him and Master Yu inside. Neither is shown again.
  • Big Bad Hippo (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) is an opponent of Boulder's in an Earthbending match in Book Two, and later appears with him in the invasion in Book Three. He is a tall, heavy man with 4 especially-prominent teeth, and is possibly a parody of King Hippo of the Punch-Out!! franchise.
  • The Boulder (voiced by Mick Foley) is an earthbender first seen as a prizefighter in Book Two; but who re-appears in Book Three during the attempt to invade the Fire Nation. He speaks of himself in the third person, and his name is thought a parody of The Rock.
  • Joo Dee (voiced by Lauren Tom) is a woman in Ba Sing Se, who appears as the protagonists' hostess but later turns out to be one of many female agents that the Dai Li brainwash into obedient servants. While Joo Dee shows little emotion at all, despite seeming brainwashed, she understands the city's situation.
  • Ursa (voiced by Jen Cohn) is the mother of Zuko and Azula and the former wife of Fire Lord Ozai, later revealed to be the granddaughter of Avatar Roku. While she made few appearances in the series, Ursa's story is expanded in the sequel comics. As revealed in Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, Ursa was in love with an actor named Ikem before she is forced to end their relationship while betrothed to Ozai. Though told that she is to abandon her old life, expecting Ozai to have been intercepting her mail, Ursa secretly wrote letters that included a false letter claiming Zuko was Ikem's child. The false letter caused the rift between Ozai and Zuko, the former claiming to have arranged Ikem's death after the actor mysteriously vanished. When Ursa learned that Ozai was ordered by his father to kill Zuko, she becomes a means for Ozai to have his father murdered before banishing her in exchange for Zuko's life. As revealed in The Search, to forget her time with Ozai and ensure her childrens' protection, Ursa had the spirit known as the Mother of Faces change her face and alter her memories. Now going by name of Noriko, Ursa married Ikem, who also had his face changed and under the name of Noren, and they have a daughter named Kiyi. When found Zuko years later, despite Azula's attempt on her life, Ursa is welcomed back into her son's life as she is restored to her original self.
  • Fire Lord Sozin (voiced by Ron Perlman (as an old man) and Lex Lang (as a young man)) was the Fire Lord who started the war with the other nations. In a flashback, it is shown that he was once friends with Avatar Roku, but disobeyed his advice against war and later permitted his death. With the Avatar no longer there to maintain balance, Sozin wiped out the Air Nomads using the power of a nearby comet, renamed Sozin's Comet in his honour. It is hinted that, in his last moments before death, Sozin regretted his actions.
  • Monk Gyatso (voiced by Sab Shimono (as an old man) and Sean Marquette (as a young man)) was a member of the Council of Elders at the Southern Air Temple that was killed by Firebenders 100 years prior to the show. In Book One, he is depicted as Aang's guardian and surrogate father, and is noted for his kindness and sense of humor.[68] In Book Two, he is seen in Aang's dream sequence. In Book Three, he is also revealed to have a strong friendship with Roku, leading to the observation that some friendships are strong enough to transcend lifetimes.

Other known organizations[edit]

The following is a list of collective entities within the fictional universe.

  • Sandbender Tribes - Earthbenders who specialize in bending sand. They are indigenous to the Si Wong Desert within the Earth Kingdom. They are divided into separate tribes.
  • Foggy Swamp Tribe - The country-like folk of the foggy swamp, Tho, Due, and Huu being among their noted members. They use water bending to control the vines in the swamp. They first appear in season two as hunters, and later in season three to help the invasion of the Fire Nation.

Reception[edit]

The characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender received praise from reviewers. Troy Island Mell, of IGN, felt that the story "would [not] be anywhere near as good as it is without its ability to create such strong characters". In particular, Mell enjoyed the development of Katara and Zuko throughout the first season, but thought that Zuko's relationship with his uncle was not "very organic."[69] Jamie S. Rich of DVDTalk generally agreed with Mell's assessment of the characters. Rich also praised the fact that, unlike many cartoon television series, Avatar introduces antagonists that have a deep backstory and "are [not] just evil for the sake of it".[70]

Jeremy Mullin, another IGN reviewer, felt that the characters were not brilliantly done, though he noted that they introduced some drama and romantic tension usually not found on Nickelodeon, especially between Aang and Katara.[71] Lair of the Green Knight and DVD Verdict also enjoyed the romantic tension, focusing mainly on the female cast: Katara, Toph, and Azula, as well as the two minor characters, Mai and Ty Lee. Fitz at Lair of the Green Knight lauded the decision to not stereotypically fashion the woman into the "usual weak female characters" but to instead give them "strong opinions and strength".[72] IGN also compared character relationships, complimenting "Sokka and Princess Yue's forbidden love" while criticizing Iroh and Zuko's relationship as not being executed properly.[73] DVDVerdict felt that some minor characters, especially Mai and Ty Lee, were "love em' or hate em'" characters.[74] Gabriel Powers of DVDActive thought that while the characters fit into neat "archetypes", it was not a bad thing and fit well with the series.[75]

In 2008, Avatar: The Last Airbender was awarded a Peabody for its "unusually complex characters".[76] This makes the cartoon one of few animations to win the award and the only one to be cited for its character development.[77]

Film casting[edit]

Katara and Sokka as depicted in the third season of the cartoon (left) and film (right). The casting of white actors to portray dark-skinned characters sparked controversy and accusations of racism against the studio and casting agencies.

M. Night Shyamalan originally offered the roles of Aang to Noah Ringer; Sokka to Jackson Rathbone; Katara to Nicola Peltz; and Zuko to Jesse McCartney.[78] In selecting Nicola Peltz, Shyamalan commented that he did not want to make The Last Airbender without her, saying that "I said that only once before in my career, and that was when I met Haley in The Sixth Sense auditions."[79] In February 2009, Dev Patel replaced McCartney, whose tour dates conflicted with a boot camp scheduled for the cast to train in martial arts.[80][81]

The casting of all-white actors for main protagonist roles in the live-action, Asian-influenced film triggered a negative reaction which was marked by accusations of racism, a letter-writing campaign, and a protest outside of a Philadelphia casting call for movie extras.[82][83][84] Jackson Rathbone dismissed the complaints in an interview with MTV, saying, "I think it's one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan. It's one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit."[85] Shaun Toub, who plays Iroh, also defended the casting choices. He noted that "if they would have put all Asians in a certain nation, I think then there would be people who come out and said, 'Well, now you're stereotyping, saying that anything that has to do with martial arts has to do with Asians and chop suey and all that.' So it's nice to mix it up and just do the unexpected."[86]

Movie critic Roger Ebert was one of the critical voices against the casting decision. When asked about selection of primarily white actors to portray the characters, he said, "The original series Avatar: The Last Airbender was highly regarded and popular for three seasons on Nickelodeon. Its fans take it for granted that its heroes are Asian. Why would Paramount and Shyamalan go out of their way to offend these fans? There are many young Asian actors capable of playing the parts."[87] Jevon Phillips of the Los Angeles Times noted that despite Shyamalan's attempts to defuse the situation, the issue will "not fade away or be overlooked", and that this film exemplifies the need for a debate within Hollywood about racial diversity in its films.[88] Popular Korean cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim reacted to the film's casting by comparing it to a hypothetical film which depicts white actors wearing traditional African clothing and eating traditional African food in traditional African huts.[89] Shyamalan, however, countered that "this movie, and then the three movies, will be the most culturally diverse tentpole movies ever released."[86]

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External links[edit]