"The Avatar must be compassionate towards all people, and the only way to do that is to live with them. The Avatar must experience sadness, anger, joy, and happiness. By feeling all these emotions, it helps you understand how precious human life is, so you will do anything to protect it."
It is considered the Avatar's duty to master the four elements and use such power to keep balance among the four nations of the world, as well as between mankind and spirits. When the Avatar dies, he or she is reborn into the following nation, dictated by the cyclic order; fire, air, water, earth. Mirroring the order in which the first Avatar, Wan, learned the elements, this is also the traditional order in which any one Avatar is to master the elements, beginning with the element aligned to their birth nation. The reincarnation cycle can only be broken if the Avatar is killed while using the Avatar State, Raava is removed from the current Avatar and destroyed, or the Avatar Spirit is compromised by a spiritual infection.
As part spirit, the Avatar possesses an innate connection to the Spirit World and uses it to be the bridge between the two worlds, to reconcile them and ensure harmony. The Avatar is also capable of using this ability to connect with their memories of their past lives. Throughout the ages, countless incarnations of the Avatar have served to maintain harmony in the world.
Each nation has a method of recognizing the new Avatar. Among the Air Nomads, this involved presenting 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 his identity as the Avatar on his sixteenth birthday. However, Avatar Aang was told much earlier than this because of the likeliness of a war starting due to the Fire Nation's growing aggression, and Korra was discovered as the Avatar when she was four years old, when she exhibited bending abilities beyond her native waterbending without formal training
The Avatar also possesses the ability to bend energy itself, though very few Avatars have learned this technique, and even fewer have used it. Avatar Aang learned this technique from the last living lion turtle and used it to remove Phoenix King Ozai's firebending, thereby ending the Hundred Year War, and again to end Yakone's reign of terror in Republic City by stripping him of his waterbending. Korra was also taught this ability after being able to contact Aang when she lost her bending. Aang used this ability to restore her bending and she likewise did the same for Lin Beifong and many other victims of Amon's unique technique.
When the Avatar masters control of the Avatar State, they are commonly referred to as a "Fully Realized Avatar".
- "We are bonded forever."
- ―Raava to Avatar Wan upon their merger and creation of the Avatar State.
Before Wan became the first Avatar, he was banished into the Spirit Wilds from the Fire lion turtle after he stole the power of firebending. However, for two years since his banishment, Wan had befriended the spirits, honed his firebending skills, and decided to travel the world to find the other lion turtle cities. During his journey, Wan encountered Raava, the spirit of light, fighting against Vaatu, the spirit of darkness. Unaware of Vaatu's identity at the time, Wan was tricked by the dark spirit into separating him from Raava, which in the process, releasing chaos into the world. Wishing to fix his mistake, Wan journeyed with Raava to search of other lion turtles for the purpose of gaining the elements of air, water, and earth, and learning how to master them. A year later, during their fight against Vaatu at the time of the Harmonic Convergence, Wan merged permanently with Raava, becoming the first Avatar and gaining the ability to bend all four elements at once. After he sealed away the dark spirit, Wan subsequently oversaw the departure of the spirits to their own world, before closing the portals to the Spirit World, ensuring no human would be able to physically travel there and risk Vaatu's escape. Wan took on the task of being the bridge between the two worlds, maintaining balance and peace. Years later, Raava assured a dying elderly Wan that they would be together throughout all his lifetimes, heralding the beginning of the Avatar Cycle and ensuring the continuation of the Avatar's role as peacekeeper of both worlds.
The Avatar Cycle continued for ten thousand years, until the next Harmonic Convergence. At that time, Avatar Korra battled Unalaq, who attempted to create a new world under Vaatu's influence by fusing with the spirit to create a Dark Avatar. Vaatu was able to reach out of Unalaq, rip Raava out of Korra's body, and subsequently destroy her, severing Korra's connection to her past lives in the process, and ending the first Avatar Cycle. As a means of connecting with the cosmic energy of the universe, Korra meditated in the Tree of Time, and was able to bend her own energy to summon an astral projection of herself to battle Unalaq and Vaatu. With help from Jinora, Korra managed to defeat Unalaq and speed Raava's growth from within Vaatu, weakening the dark spirit and allowing Korra to destroy the Dark Avatar. Returning to the Spirit World, Korra and Raava used the spiritual energy from the overlap of the spirit portals to fuse once more, before the end of Harmonic Convergence. This effectively recreated the Avatar Spirit, but began a new cycle in the process. After deciding to keep the spirit portals open, Korra declared that the Avatar would no longer be the bridge between worlds, but she would continue to use Raava's light spirit to bring peace.
Later on, Avatar Mario restores its connection from the First Avatar Cycle to the present. The First Avatar Cycle and the Second Avatar Cycle are combined together again.
Avatar Cycle Edit
- "Don't worry. We will be together for all of your lifetimes, and we will never give up."
- ―Raava heralding the start of the Avatar Cycle to Wan upon his death.
The reincarnation of the Avatar is controlled by the Avatar Cycle of the elements: air, water, earth, fire. The cycle is based on the passage of the four seasons (air is autumn, water is winter, earth is spring, and fire is summer).
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 Northern 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, who was followed by Avatar Korra from the Southern Water Tribe.
The Avatar Cycle also determines the order in which each Avatar must learn the four bending disciplines. The Avatar begins by mastery of their native element, so when the Avatar is born into the Water Tribe, they would first learn waterbending, before moving on to learn the three remaining bending disciplines in the order of the cycle; earthbending, firebending, and finally airbending. Due to his unique situation, however, Avatar Aang tried to learn fire as his second element under the tutelage of Jeong Jeong, who originally objected because of the cycle. Aang did learn to manifest fire, but he did not have the spiritual maturity to control it, and upon realizing this, he ended his training with Jeong Jeong. He eventually learned firebending with Zuko as his teacher, after mastering the other elements in their proper sequence.
Each Avatar has a particular element to which they have a low affinity, dictated by their personality. This element can be difficult for them to learn, sometimes proving impossible to even control until they face a situation in which they are forced to reach inside themselves and manifest the power. Although it is often the opposing element to the one into which they are born, this is not always the case. Avatar Roku found mastering waterbending particularly difficult, and earthbending was difficult for Avatar Aang due his predisposition to choose a different angle of attack if confronted, rather than facing problems directly. Although both of these Avatars faced issues with their opposing element, it was airbending, not firebending, that Avatar Korra had difficulty mastering, due to her brash and direct nature, contrary to airbending's philosophy of contemplation, measured action, and avoidance of attacks.
Simultaneous bending Edit
The Avatar is capable of bending more than one element at the same time. Avatar Aang first demonstrated this ability while stranded in the desert, when he bent water from a cloud into Katara's water pouch while flying with airbending at the same time, and again in Ba Sing Se when he used his earthbending to recreate a zoo while traveling on the air scooter made by his airbending.
During his battle with Ozai, Aang used all four elements while in the Avatar State to make himself nearly invincible and used the elements in a highly destructive attack. He first used his airbending to create a spherical shield around himself, before utilizing the other bending arts to surround himself with elemental rings of rotating flames, rocks, and water. The compression of the elements provided Aang with materials for bending all four elements without sacrificing too much agility and speed, thus making this an extremely dangerous attack both defensively and offensively.
Avatar manifestation Edit
A previous incarnation of the Avatar can manifest itself through the current Avatar. There are two ways of doing this.
Full manifestation Edit
Full manifestation is when a past Avatar possesses the body of the current incarnation. It can happen by force of another Avatar, or when the current Avatar calls upon one of its past lives. The past Avatar being summoned will temporarily replace the appearance and abilities of the current incarnation with theirs.
Partial manifestation Edit
This type of manifestation allows an Avatar to call another Avatar's spirit out of their body for communication purposes, revealing an apparition of the previous incarnation being called for.
Avatar State Edit
- "The Avatar State is a defense mechanism, designed to empower you with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars. The glow is the combination of all your past lives, focusing their energy through your body. In the Avatar State, you are at your most powerful, but you are also at your most vulnerable. If you are killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken and the Avatar will cease to exist."
- ―Roku to Aang.
The strongest and most powerful ability that the Avatar can invoke is the Avatar State. It was created when Wan permanently bonded with Raava by touching the energy coming through the spirit portal during the Harmonic Convergence in 9,829 BSC. It allows the Avatar to channel vast cosmic energies and the knowledge of previous Avatars, enabling them to perform especially powerful and extraordinary bending feats. The Avatar may unconsciously enter the state in response to perception of mortal danger, utilizing the state as a defense mechanism, or emotional distress. While in the state, the Avatar has access to bending techniques they themselves may not have yet learnt, but have no conscious control over their actions and can cause great collateral damage. An Avatar with full mastery of the Avatar State has conscious control over the state and can enter and exit it at will. For an Avatar with complete mastery, their eyes will glow momentarily, not continuously. It was by entering the Avatar State reflexively that Aang was able to freeze himself and Appa inside an iceberg for a hundred years by using a combination of airbending and waterbending. He did not physically age at all during the century, as he was in suspended animation, but it took a great physical toll on his body after being in the Avatar State for such an extended period of time.
While in the Avatar State, the Avatar's eyes glow, as do any markings following chi paths along the body, such as Air Nomad tattoos; however, if the body has received an injury deeper than the tattoos, that specific area will not glow in the state. The glow is the combination of all the Avatar's past lives, focusing their energy through a single body. When Aang spoke in the Avatar State, his voice encompassed a combination of several different voices at once. When Korra spoke in the Avatar State, her voice was simultaneously encompassed with Raava's.
Ways the Avatar State works Edit
There seems to be two distinct ways to how the Avatar State works:
When the State works continuously, the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar, glow white constantly, and the spirits of the past Avatars actively channel their energy, skills, and knowledge through the body of the current Avatar, granting him or her great amounts of strength and power.
The State works this way almost exclusively when it is triggered as an instinctive, unconscious reaction, a 'defense mechanism' for when an Avatar is confronted with a threat beyond what 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 than 'continuously'. When the State is triggered this way the combined spirits of the past Avatars seem to take control of the Avatar's body and voice, thus the current Avatar has little to no control over the performed actions and may retain little to no memory of what happened, though this is not always the case.
Aang appeared to use the State this way against Fire Lord Ozai after the scar on his back was forced against a rock unlocking his final chakra. Just as Guru Pathik had said, this event led to Aang being able to control the State himself, and unlike previous times where he entered the State, he was not physically exhausted.
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 so that it can be released once exiting the State, taking only the power needed for a specific task. This reduces the danger of being killed in the Avatar State and enables a more willful, controlled use of the Avatar State's power. This can only be done by an Avatar who has mastered the State as it is a conscious use rather than an instinctual response. Mastery of this technique is part of what distinguishes an Avatar as "fully realized".
The Avatar State also allows an Avatar to join with certain spirits. This was demonstrated when Aang entered the Avatar State in order to aid the frantic Ocean Spirit. Both Aang in his Avatar State and the Ocean Spirit combined their abilities to defend the Northern Water Tribe after all waterbenders were rendered defenseless.
While the Avatar is all but invincible in the Avatar State, having access to the bending experiences of all those that have come before them, there is one grave weakness: while 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, the cycle would permanently break and the Avatar would cease to exist.
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's fall from the plane of existence. Katara was able to use the spirit water she received from Pakku to heal Aang, reviving Aang and consequently the Avatar Spirit. The strain of the revival caused Aang to slip into a coma for several weeks, and during that time, he managed to secure his connection to the Avatar State by meeting with the four Avatar incarnations before him. However, it took longer for his connection to his past lives to be completely restored.
Another downside to the Avatar State is the considerable mental strain it can cause to less experienced Avatars. Prior to his tutelage under Guru Pathik, Aang would often leave the Avatar State feeling horrified at what he had done under its influence. Furthermore, use of the state, at least in extraordinary circumstances, can place such a large physical strain on an Avatar's body such that their life span can be affected; thus, Aang's one hundred-year time in the iceberg contributed greatly to his eventual death at sixty-six years of age biologically, and 166 years chronologically.
Aang did 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 visited the Spirit World with his own spirit, leaving his body a defenseless shell in the real world. An example of this was seen at the North Pole.