“Although Aang and Korra’s stories are well-known to audiences, the Avatar franchise holds a wealth of unexplored Avatars in its backstory.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra introduced a captivating world inspired by Asian and Indigenous cultures. The franchise stands out for its meticulous worldbuilding, possessing deep lore that goes beyond typical Nickelodeon cartoons. At the core of the story lies the Avatar, a spiritually significant being capable of bending all four elements. In this world, most people cannot bend any element, and those who can are limited to one of the four: Water, Earth, Fire, or Air.
The Avatar is entrusted with maintaining balance in the world, and their guidance is sought for both spiritual and worldly matters. When an Avatar passes away, they are immediately reborn into the next nation in the elemental cycle. For example, a Water Tribe Avatar is born into the Earth Kingdom, and a Fire Nation Avatar is born into the Air Nomads. As they progress, Avatars can connect with their past lives and access the immense power and knowledge of the Avatar State.
The First Avatar, Wan, emerged in a tumultuous era around 10,000 years before Aang’s time. The world was plagued by spirits, leading humans to seek refuge on Lion Turtles. These colossal creatures granted bending abilities to humans in need of protection. Wan, unaware of the cosmic battle between Raava, the Spirit of Light and Order, and Vaatu, the Spirit of Darkness and Chaos, inadvertently freed Vaatu, weakening Raava. To restore balance, Wan merged his spirit with Raava and became the first Avatar. He defeated Vaatu and separated the mortal and spiritual realms for the next 10,000 years.
Following Wan’s time, many Avatars arose, yet their stories remain largely untold. Only fragments of information are available from expanded universe materials like comics and novels. Three Avatars predating Aang were Gun, Salai, and Szeto. Gun’s details are unknown, but their failure to save a town from a tsunami haunted them. Salai, who succeeded Gun, is recorded as one of the greatest Avatars, but the reasons for this acclaim are undisclosed. Szeto, the Fire Nation Avatar before Yangchen, excelled in diplomacy and bureaucracy. He saved the Fire Nation during a tumultuous period but was later shunned by his own people.
Yangchen, born in the Western Air Temple, faced unique challenges with haunting visions of her past lives. As a fully realized Avatar, she confronted unjust rulers in the Earth Kingdom, ensuring peace for future generations. Revered as “Great Yangchen,” her legacy lives on, and some continue to pray to her.
Kuruk, once regarded as a negligent Avatar, found redemption in his story. His apathetic approach shifted when he faced dark spirits enraged by Yangchen’s dealings with mortals. Kuruk’s duty was to vanquish these spirits, but the toll it took on him led to an early death. Despite his struggles, Kuruk pursued Koh the Face Stealer, seeking justice for his lost love.
Avatar Kyoshi, a fan favorite, receives extensive exploration. Born to criminal parents, she was found by Kuruk’s companions and raised by them. Kyoshi faced numerous challenges and was known for her resilience, although she despised resorting to violence. She lived a remarkable 230 years, establishing an era of peace and prosperity. Kyoshi is also celebrated as the first known bisexual Avatar, with her relationship with Rangi serving as a significant milestone in LGBT+ representation.
Avatar Roku played a pivotal role in Aang’s journey. As a close friend of Fire Nation Crown Prince Sozin, Roku struggled to prevent Sozin’s thirst for power from destabilizing the world. In his final battle, Roku was betrayed by Sozin, which would have lasting consequences for the balance of power.
Aang and Korra, the last known Avatars, are extensively explored in the franchise. Aang saved the world from the Fire Nation, while Korra faced the challenges of industrialization and political complexity. Aang settled down with Katara and had three children, and Tenzin, his son, became Korra’s Airbending mentor. Korra revived Airbending and also broke ground as the first openly bisexual main character in children’s television.
Until future Avatar series delve into the lore further, Aang and Korra remain the most recent known Avatars. When Korra’s time comes to an end, the Earth Kingdom will welcome her rebirth, though the identity of her successor remains a mystery.”
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