You and your forefathers have devastated the balance of this world. And now, you shall pay the ultimate price!
— From Avatar: the Last Airbender
I recently finished watching the animated series “Avatar: the Last Airbender”. I know I’m a bit late with my praise, but I thought this was an excellent series. It had fascinating world-building, well thought-out plotting, and believable characterization. It had humor, drama, fantasy, even teen romance. Something for all ages!
It could be because I’ve been thinking alot about the Four Elements and how I view them as analogies for the four relations I’ve been discussing for some time on this blog. In Avatar, they are literally the four elements of the world: fire, earth, water, and air. But in addition, these elements correspond to the four peoples of this world. The people of the Fire Nation are willful, the people of the Earth Kingdom are resolute, the people of the Water Tribe are empathic, and the people of the Air Nomads are reflective. Some individuals are able to “bend” the element that is associated with the people they are born into, so that for example a member of the Fire Nation might be able to produce and control fire with thought and gesture. Not everyone has this ability, however.
The Avatar is a continuously reincarnated individual that embodies the spirit of the world. He or she is born into each of the four peoples in a repeating cycle, but the Avatar is also the only individual that can learn to bend all four elements, and even all at the same time. Because of his or her unique powers, the Avatar is known to be able to bring and restore balance to the world, and to tie the real world to another, spiritual world. Avatar: the Last Airbender is the story of Aang, a descendent of the Air Nomads, but the last of his people due to genocide. He has been in a state of suspended animation for the last 100 years and awakes to a troubled world of war and turmoil. Can Aang save his world?
Hopefully I’m not spoiling anything in saying that he does. Indeed a sequel is currently being produced called “The Legend of Korra” that is planned to run 52 episodes. This sequel takes place a number of years after the end of Avatar, and the next Avatar after Aang is Korra from the Southern Water Tribe. The world is now somewhat more advanced technologically than it was during Aang’s time, and although not at war because it is still enjoying the peace that Aang initiated, there is still some strife and unrest for Korra to eventually bring the Avatar’s balance to. I am enjoying it also!
It is interesting to note that fire is the only element that can be generated by the will ex nihilo. With enough skill, water can be extracted from living matter and the air. Of course, air is ever present and earth is seldom far away.