|Avatar: The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra character|
|First appearance||"The Boy in the Iceberg"|
|Last appearance||"The Ultimatum"|
|Created by||Michael Dante DiMartino|
|Portrayed by||Shaun Toub (The Last Airbender)|
|Voiced by||Mako Iwamatsu (seasons 1-2)|
Greg Baldwin (season 2-3, The Legend of Korra)
|Alias||Mushi (refugee alias)|
|Nickname||The Dragon of the West|
|Children||Lu Ten (son)|
Ta Min (grandmother-in-law)
Iroh Jr. (great-grandnephew)
Unnamed Izumi daughter (great-grandniece)
|Bending element||Primary: |
|Hair color||Gray (originally brown)|
General Iroh (艾洛 Aì Luò) is a fictional character in Nickelodeon's animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the character was voiced by Mako Iwamatsu in the first two seasons and, due to Mako's death, by Greg Baldwin in the third season and the sequel series The Legend of Korra.
In the world of Avatar, the population is divided into four nations, each named after one of the classical elements; in each nation, some individuals, known as "benders" can telekinetically control that nation's element through the use of specialized martial arts. Iroh is a powerful firebender, and a retired general of the Fire Nation. He is the elder brother of Firelord Ozai, the ruler of the Fire Nation and leader of its campaign to conquer the other three nations. During the narrative of the series, he accompanies his exiled nephew Zuko on his quest to capture the series's protagonist Aang in order to restore the young prince's honor and birthright; Iroh acts as a patient and wise mentor who seeks to help his nephew become a better person than his father.
Prior to the events in The Last Airbender, Iroh was the firstborn son of Fire Lord Azulon, but Azulon was succeeded by his second son, Ozai, because Iroh had no living heirs, after his son Lu Ten died in the siege of the Earth Kingdom's capital Ba Sing Se. Iroh was believed to have killed off the last of the world's dragons, earning him the title "Dragon of the West"; but in actuality he was secretly the dragons' pupil, and thus learned from them to derive his Firebending powers from vitality rather than from rage as other firebenders do. He was a high-ranking member of the international secret society known as the Order of the White Lotus.
When the story begins in Book One, Iroh is accompanying the banished Prince Zuko in his quest to capture the Avatar, a superhuman whose task to maintain world order makes him a threat to the Fire Nation's campaign of conquest. Having learnt of the plan of Zhao, a Fire National admiral, to kill the moon spirit to take away the Water Tribes' power of waterbending, disrupting the natural order, Iroh attacks Zhao and is subsequently named a traitor.
During Book Two, he and his nephew are now fugitives from the Fire Nation. After being gravely wounded by his niece Azula and cared for by his nephew, Iroh teaches Zuko a Waterbending-inspired technique of absorbing and redirecting lightning. Iroh eventually takes refuge in Ba Sing Se, where he and Zuko operate a tea-house. Iroh is dismayed when Azula convinces her brother to betray them and is arrested while covering Aang and his friends' escape from the conquered city.
In Book Three, held in a Fire Nation prison, Iroh fakes despair while preparing himself for the solar eclipse, during which Firebending does not work. Once the eclipse begins, Iroh escapes his cell, formidable even without the use of firebending. In the series finale, Iroh is revealed to have called the White Lotus to liberate Ba Sing Se, and advises Zuko to become the new Firelord. Soon after Zuko's coronation as Firelord, Iroh returns to Ba Sing Se to operate his tea shop; the final scenes of the series take place in that shop.
In the comic book sequel The Promise, Iroh offers Aang and Zuko advice on dealing with the Harmony Restoration Movement, a movement that aims to expel members of the Fire Nation ethnic group from Earth Kingdom Territory; he also invents bubble tea. In the comic book The Search, Iroh becomes acting Firelord while Zuko travels to locate his mother Ursa. Bored with his new title, he uses his authority to declare a National Tea Appreciation Day.
In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, Iroh is revealed to have used a form of astral projection at the time of his death to become a resident of the Spirit World. In the episode "A New Spiritual Age", Iroh comes to the aid of Aang's successor as Avatar, Korra, who is trapped unprepared deep in the Spirit World. In the episode "Darkness Falls", having known them in life, Iroh encounters Aang's children Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi when they enter the Spirit World and provides them with hints as to the location of the spirit of Tenzin's daughter Jinora. Korra again encounters Iroh in "The Ultimatum," when she enters the Spirit World in search of the anarchist terrorist Zaheer. Korra explains to Iroh that she is confused and doesn't know how to deal with the threat Zaheer poses to both the newly reformed Air Nation and the world. Iroh suggests that Korra seek Zuko's counsel, as Aang once did.
Zuko's grandson is named Iroh and is a general of the United Forces, the armed services of the United Republic of Nations, a multi-ethnic nation founded by Aang.
Easygoing, friendly and dryly good-humored, Iroh treats his self-imposed exile like an extended vacation. Something of a hedonist in his old age, he shows more interest in relaxation and amusement than in his nephew's pursuit of the Avatar. Despite his age, Iroh is seen flirting with various women throughout the series and has been addressed as "handsome" on multiple occasions. Nevertheless, he is a seasoned and wily strategist, a powerful Firebending master and a loving mentor to his nephew. When he or those he cares about are threatened, he can quickly shift to a fierce and unyielding personality. Unlike most Firebenders shown, he holds great respect for the neighboring peoples and willingly opposes any common threat. In "Tales of Ba Sing Se", it is suggested that his perpetual optimism and generosity are a form of post-traumatic growth resulting from the death of his son Lu Ten. This can be seen in his song "Leaves from the Vine", which he sings on the anniversary of Lu Ten's birthday.
Iroh is particularly fond of food, good tea the strategy game Pai Sho, and pleasant music. He later displays skill at playing the pipa and other musical instruments. Most likely because of his love of tea, he is an amateur botanist, though his misinterpretation of some plant characteristics leads him to accidentally poison himself. His character is best shown in his relationship with his nephew, Zuko, upon whom he imposes introspection.
Firebending and special skills
Iroh is a retired general with a lifetime of combat experience and a reputation of honor, loyalty and integrity. Iroh is highly skilled in Firebending which utilizes chinese martial arts techniques of Changquan, Shaolinquan, Lóng Xíng Mó Qiáo and Xing Yi Quan. Iroh also taught Zuko how to redirect lightning, a technique he discovered by studying waterbending.
Iroh was a well-received character in the series. He was seen as Zuko's foil with him being the elderly, mellow and wise individual and Zuko being the young abrasive naïve prince. Iroh and Zuko's relationship was praised for its authenticity and humor. Iroh is described as a "mystical buddha" who served as Zuko's moral compass. In some circles, Iroh was viewed as an inspirational character, with his quotes on the series described as encouraging. While many of the series' other major characters were maturing throughout the course of the series, Iroh was already a "changed man" who already suffered tremendous loss and "matured" through that loss. Iroh's vignette in the episode "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", was described as an "emotional gut-punch" by reviewer Rebecca Pahle. Reviewer Hayden Childs characterized Iroh's vignette as "a lovely piece of storytelling" and praised Mako Iwamatsu's "amazing performance" in the character's short story. Reviewer Matt London admitted to being "reduced to tears" while watching Iroh's vignette. He praised Iwamatsu's performance in voicing the character, while characterizing Ozai stealing Iroh's birthright as the next Fire Lord as "almost Shakespearean". Reviewer Keval Shah termed the scene where Iroh sacrificing himself to allow Aang and Katara escape Azula in the season two finale, "The Crossroads of Destiny", as "emotional". Shah praised the "superb development" of the character.
Iroh's appearances in the Legend of Korra series was also well received. Iroh's advice to Korra where he states "Even in the material world, you will find that if you look for the light, you can often find it; but if you look for the dark, that is all you will ever see." was observed to bear a striking resemblance to philosophies contained in Rhonda Byrne's work The Secret. Iroh's introduction into the series was observed as a plot device to help Korra, who at that point was a somewhat unpopular character among fans and critics alike, become a more likeable protagonist.
Appearance in other media
Shaun Toub plays Iroh in the feature film The Last Airbender. This version of the character is not as comedic as his cartoon counterpart, but retains his role as mentor to Zuko. Unlike other Firebenders in the movie, who require a source of fire to bend, Iroh can generate fire merely by using his chi.
He also appears in the video game Avatar: The Burning Earth, as a character in both the main story, and in multiplayer mode.
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