Why Uncle Iroh Made Avatar: The Last Airbender Wiser

Why Uncle Iroh Made Avatar: The Last Airbender Wiser

His advice to his conflicted nephew provided a wealth of wisdom to young and old viewers alike.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my favorite shows of all time, and is considered by many to be in the top tier of shows created for kids. It's three seasons spanned a period of three years between 2005-2008 and I fondly remember watching it for the first time. Recently, I have returned to the series to bask in the element-bending, adventurous nostalgia we all yearn for. One of the things that separates the truly great children's shows from the ordinary is their ability to please older, more mature audiences along with kids, and to teach important lessons without screaming them in your face.

Many of the important themes and lessons of Avatar were delivered through the humble voice of Uncle Iroh. Before touching on his wisdom, allow me to explain a little more about the show.

(Spoilers ahead) Avatar: The Last Airbender revolved around Aang, an Airbender who was also a being known as an "Avatar." The Avatar could master all four elements, and acted as the bridge between the spirit world and the natural world. Aang awakened after being trapped in an iceberg for about a hundred years. While he was gone, a war had raged for those hundred years after the Fire Nation committed genocide against the Air Nomads in the hope of killing the Avatar and proceeding with attempting to rule over the other three nations. The four nations are Fire, Earth, Water, and Air - the four elements. As the Avatar, Aang needed learn to master the other elements and stop the Firelord (the ruler of the Fire Nation) from harnessing the power of a comet to finish the war.

Zuko, the banished crown prince of the Fire Nation, had spent three years hunting the missing Avatar in a bid to regain his honor and return home to his father. Iroh, the brother of the Firelord and Zuko's uncle, joined Zuko on this quest to help guide him along the way. Iroh was the eldest son of the previous Firelord, and a mighty general. However, when he was defeated after a nearly two-year-long campaign to capture the capital city of the Earth Kingdom and his son was killed in combat, Iroh fell into a crippling state of grief and stepped down. His brother, Ozai, convinced their father to give Iroh's birthright to him instead, and he became the new Firelord upon their father's death.

Over the three seasons in the series, Iroh and Zuko travel together most of the time, and Iroh tried his best to guide Zuko to do the right thing. Zuko was banished, and had his face burned by his own father for disrespecting him in a council meeting. Iroh, in grief for his own son's death, joined Zuko's journey because he wanted to act as the caring father figure Zuko had never had.

Aang and Zuko underwent similar developmental paths to realizing their full potential. Aang mastered the elements and found a way to end the war in his own way, creating peace for the world. Zuko walked a tightrope between doing bad things in order to fulfill a false hope for a love from his Father that didn't really exist and becoming a better person by helping the Avatar end the war. While Aang had various masters help him along his difficult path, Zuko was helped solely by his Uncle Iroh.

Uncle Iroh, voiced by Mako, a proficient Japanese voice actor (and Greg Baldwin in the third season, after Mako passed away in 2006), provides much of the show's wisdom and humor. He showcases the talented writing of the show's creators, and offered a mouthpiece for many of the important life lessons the show wanted to portray. He consistently asked his nephew to consider what he truly wanted in his life, and begged him to see the good of which he was capable.

Iroh will go down in history as one of the kindest and wisest characters on a children's show. I consider his lessons in my life today, and how they impacted me as a child and as an adult. To help show Uncle Iroh's wisdom, I am attaching ten of his greatest quotes from the series.


1. "Is it your own destiny, or is it a destiny someone else has tried to force on you? ... It's time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions. Who are you and what do you want?"

2. "It is usually best to admit mistakes when they occur, and to seek to restore honor."

3. "Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame."

4. "You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road, and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength."

5. "It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it become rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements, and the other nations, will help you become whole."

6. "Many things that seem threatening in the dark become welcoming when we shine light on them."

7. "While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing."

8. "Protection and power are overrated. I think you are very wise to choose happiness and love. There are reasons each of us are born. We have to find those reasons."

9. "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again. Only this time, more wisely."

10. "If you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you'll ever see."
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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