Avatar: The Last Airbender” transported us to a captivating fantasy realm filled with endearing characters and a unique element-bending power system. At the heart of it all, the Avatar, possessing the extraordinary ability to manipulate all elements, stands as the most formidable figure. This cycle of power and responsibility continues with each new generation. We follow the journey of 12-year-old Avatar Aang, voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen, who shoulders the monumental task of ending a century-long war.
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Remarkably, despite 15 years since its conclusion, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” continues to boast a dedicated fanbase. Netflix has embarked on an ambitious live-action remake of the series, while Avatar Studios is set to unleash a slew of exciting new projects, including graphic novels and book series. However, one of the most beloved offerings in this expansive universe is the spin-off series, “The Legend of Korra.”
As a direct sequel, “The Legend of Korra” unfolds a mere 70 years after the events of its predecessor. This relatively short time gap allows for the return of beloved characters from the original, including familiar faces like Katara, Toph, and Zuko. Yet, the story takes a poignant turn, necessitating the passing of Aang. In this new chapter, we meet Korra, voiced by Janet Varney, as the next Avatar after Aang. For the cycle to continue, the Avatar spirit must be reborn, and this requires the previous Avatar to pass away. Thus, Aang’s spirit endures in Korra.
While “The Legend of Korra” provides an enthralling narrative, it leaves the specifics of Aang’s later years and his eventual demise shrouded in mystery. His quest to restore balance to the world achieved a satisfying resolution during his youth, leaving fans to ponder the events leading to Aang’s passing.
How Did Aang Die in ‘The Legend of Korra’?
Avatars, tasked with safeguarding the world’s balance, often lead perilous lives. Yet, while some of these extraordinary individuals enjoy unnaturally extended lifespans, others meet untimely ends. Take Kyoshi, for instance, voiced by Jennifer Hale, who astonishingly lived for 230 years, a true outlier. Roku, on the other hand, voiced by James Garrett, had a comparatively shorter life, spanning just 70 years. Avatar Kuruk, portrayed by Jim Meskimen, was known for his brief existence, departing at the age of 33, primarily due to his encounters in the Spirit World.
Interestingly, even non-Avatar characters can defy the aging process. King Bumi, voiced by André Sogliuzzo, is a notable example, gracing the world with his presence for at least 112 years. In “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” we witness him remaining remarkably active even at that age. Then there’s Sozin, voiced by Ron Perlman, the Firelord responsible for igniting the war, who lived a substantial 102 years.
Now, when it comes to Aang, his journey held moments of peril. He faced a close brush with death when Azula, voiced by Gray DeLisle, unleashed her devastating lightning in the crystal catacombs of Ba Sing Se. However, thanks to Katara’s intervention with spirit water, Aang was revived from the brink of demise. Yet, despite this miraculous recovery, Aang couldn’t escape the inevitability of aging and mortality.
Aang’s age is a complex matter, intertwined with the century he spent encased in ice. Frozen in time, he was discovered by siblings Katara and Sokka, voiced by Jack De Sena, at the outset of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” This pivotal event holds significance for his eventual passing. During a fateful storm, while fleeing the Airbenders in a bid to escape his Avatar destiny, Aang and his trusty flying bison, Appa, voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, found themselves in dire straits, submerged in the treacherous ocean.
Here, the Avatar State came to his rescue, enabling Aang to create an air bubble for himself and Appa. However, the icy waters proved relentless, ensnaring them in a frozen slumber within an iceberg. They remained entombed until the irate Katara inadvertently shattered their icy prison. So, despite appearing and behaving as a 12-year-old in the series, Aang is technically 112 based on his birth year. The years spent suspended in the Avatar State took their toll on his lifespan. As he aged, Aang grappled with the realization that time slowly drained his life force. Eventually, he succumbed to old age, departing the mortal realm at the biological age of 66.
Considering the numerous threats that an Avatar faces throughout their journey, Aang’s peaceful passing is a testament to his enduring legacy.
Aang Leaves Behind a Legacy
While “Avatar: The Last Airbender” concludes with Aang still in his youth, his impact as an Avatar extended far beyond the show’s ending. After successfully ending the century-long war, Aang dedicated the remainder of his life to reshaping the world. Among his notable achievements was the reestablishment of the Air Nomads, a remarkable feat considering the genocide that had previously befallen his people. Additionally, he played a pivotal role in the founding of Republic City, a groundbreaking endeavor that introduced the concept of democracy into the world. While these actions weren’t explored in the original series, they come to light in “The Legend of Korra,” and the comic series delves even deeper into these transformative moments.
By the time of Korra’s adventures, the world had undergone significant changes, marked by advancements that could only occur during times of sustained peace. This transformation underscores Aang’s focus during his later years: industrialization and the creation of a new world.
Despite the tragic history of the Air Nomads’ genocide, “The Legend of Korra” introduces a new Air Nation, primarily composed of Air Acolytes—non-benders who willingly adopt the nomadic way of life. Aang successfully passed on the rich traditions and culture of the Air Nomads to this new group, while entrusting the stewardship of the airbending tradition to his son, Tenzin, voiced by J. K. Simmons. Remarkably, Aang’s bending ability continued through four grandchildren via Tenzin. In addition to Tenzin, Aang and his wife, Katara, had two other children: Kya, a waterbender portrayed by Lisa Edelstein, and Bumi, a non-bender until Korra’s era, who eventually makes her mark on the world.
“The Legend of Korra” also peels back the curtain on some of Aang’s later challenges as the Avatar. He shares with Korra glimpses of his harrowing confrontation with the bloodbender Yakone, a battle that culminated in Aang’s decision to permanently strip the man of his bending abilities. Although this resolved the immediate threat during Aang’s lifetime, it laid the foundation for a lingering animosity that would affect Korra, as Yakone’s sons inherited their father’s deep-seated grudge against the Avatar. This revelation underscores that Aang’s tenure as the Avatar was not without its share of adversaries, even during an era of relative peace.
Aang’s Connection to Korra in ‘The Legend of Korra’
Despite all of Aang’s remarkable achievements, his most enduring legacy lies in the hands of the Avatar who succeeds him. Aang’s spirit endures, as do the spirits of all the past Avatars. In the case of Korra, she carries not only the mantle of the Avatar but also the essence of Aang himself. The dynamics between Aang and Korra are intriguing, as they represent two contrasting approaches to their shared role. While Aang favored compromise and peaceful resolutions, Korra is known for her unwavering determination and readiness for combat. However, their connection runs deep, with the previous Avatar often serving as a guiding force for the new one.
Korra’s journey towards understanding her spiritual side is a central theme of her story. Her struggles in this regard are evident throughout the series, especially in the early seasons. However, by the conclusion of Season 1, she achieves a significant breakthrough. Korra manages to establish direct communication with Aang’s spirit, a pivotal moment that triggers the powerful Avatar State and aids in the restoration of her temporarily lost bending abilities. Furthermore, Aang imparts his knowledge of energybending to Korra, further enriching her understanding of the Avatar’s capabilities.
Yet, despite Aang’s guidance, he can’t solve all of Korra’s challenges. During her remarkable journey, Korra faces a momentous setback: the severing of her connection to the past Avatars. This event, while deeply troubling, doesn’t diminish the fact that she still carries the spirit of the Avatar within her. Although the direct line of communication with Aang is temporarily severed, his legacy lives on through Korra and all future Avatars who will follow in their footsteps.