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AtLA: You Gotta Deal With This Avatar Korra Explainer

6 Minute Read
Jun 24 2024

When Aang’s time was done, the world needed a new Avatar. However, no one was prepared for the fiery Waterbender they got—it’s Avatar Korra.

The fight for the Four Nations has captivated audiences since the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender premiered in early 2005. Added to the success of the Netflix series is the Avatar: Legends RPG, which allows you to play through various Avatars’ storylines. The last story is the tale of Avatar Korra.

Korra: The Avatar?

To understand who Korra is, you’ll need to understand what the Avatar is. The series takes place in a world where a small part of the population has the ability to ‘bend’ or control one of the four elements. Some people from the Fire Nation can Firebend, while the Water Tribes are home to Waterbenders, etc.

Once per generation, the Avatar is reincarnated, and that special individual has the power to bend all four elements. They also have the ability to form a special connection to their former lives and all of the Avatars that came before.

With these powers, the Avatar has a global responsibility to maintain balance and keep peace between the four nations. The Last Airbender, the first Avatar series, shows Aang, an Airbender, as he tries to stop the Fire Nation from taking over the whole world. When his story ends, Aang is reincarnated as Avatar Korra.

Avatar Korra’s Early Life

Korra was born to Tonraq and Senna in the Southern Water Tribe. While some Avatars took years of searching to find, her abilities were obvious almost immediately. By the age of four, Korra was demonstrating an impressive amount of proficiency in bending. She was adept at bending not only water but fire and earth as well.

She quickly trained to be a master Waterbender under Katara before moving on to Fire and Earth. By the time Korra was seventeen, she had mastered all but airbending. This skill was difficult for her in part because airbending required a certain amount of calmness and peace, which was difficult for Korra’s boisterous and hot-headed personality. In order to learn Airbending, it was decided that she and her polar bear dog, Naga, should move to Republic City to learn from Aang’s own son, Tenzin.

Korra is a Bullpig in a China Shop

Once in Republic City, Korra joined a pro-bending team called the Fire Ferrets, attempted some vigilante justice, and generally made it obvious she was a new kind of Avatar. Having been raised in the Water Tribe and then sequestered by the White Lotus for her protection, she was unfamiliar with the rules of Republic City. This put her at odds with Lin Beifong, Chief of Police and daughter of the legendary Earthbender Toph. But eventually, after making a few allies in her new home, Korra began to get the hang of her new life.

Korra vs the Equalists

Korra’s first major trial was against the Equalists, a group of non-benders that wanted to eliminate bending, and their leader, Amon. Amon was capable of removing the bending abilities of his victims, much as Avatar Aang did to Firelord Ozai, and posed a significant threat to Republic City.

Worse still, his charismatic speeches turned many citizens to his side. When it was revealed that Amon was really Noatak, a psychic Bloodbender from the Northern Water Tribe, he fled the city in disgrace. Korra was able to defeat him by communing with Aang and unlocking Airbending. This communion also allowed her to return bending to those who had lost it.


The Dark Avatar Saga

Korra couldn’t rest on her laurels long, however, as dark spirits began to plague her home in the Southern Water Tribe. Her uncle, Unalaq, used a special type of Waterbending to calm the dark spirits, but it became clear Korra would have to venture into the Spirit World to assess the damage. Upon her arrival, she learned the Avatar’s origins.

The first Avatar, Wan, bound himself the spirit Raava to maintain balance between spirits and humans. Raava’s dark half, Vaatu, was bound in a large tree to keep his darkness contained. Korra thought she was calming the spirits by bringing her uncle into the spirit realm, but it was quite the opposite.

Her uncle nearly destroyed Raava, severing Korra from her past lives, and bound himself to Raava. He became a Dark Avatar and began to lay waste to the human world. However, with the help of Jinora, Tenzin’s eldest daughter, Korra was able to project herself spiritually. This large spirit form did battle with Unalaq, banishing him back into the tree. However, the damage was done, and spirits began to move freely in the mortal realm. This had another unexpected side effect, however…

Avatar Korra and Terror of the Red Lotus

The flood of spiritual energy awakened latent powers in several people across the nations, giving them the power of Airbending. While this was a boon, reawakening a lineage thought to only exist in Aang’s family, it was not without its challenges.

Many of the newly minted Airbenders were resistant to training, preferring to stick to their old lives. Worse still, a dangerous criminal named Zaheer was granted the power as well. A long-time admirer of the Air Nomads, he was able to master his new skills almost instantaneously and set up releasing the rest of his terrorist cell, the Red Lotus.


This group worked in opposition to the White Lotus, believing the Avatar was a curse on the world and needed to be removed. They kidnapped Korra and nearly succeeded in killing her using mercury poison. They were thwarted by Korra’s own Metalbending skills and Suyin Beifong, Toph’s youngest daughter, and her cadre of Metalbenders. However, the severe damage to her body, as well as the aftermath of the Red Lotus’s numerous attacks, left Korra shell-shocked, and she fled in secret.

Unification at the Edge of a Blade

In the absence of the Avatar, another power moved in to maintain order: a Metalbender named Kuvira. Once one of Suyin’s most promising students and guards, she took it upon herself to bring peace to the world through unification.

Unfortunately, any who resisted her were threatened or killed. She became a fascist dictator, exactly the sort of danger she spoke against. By using Spirit Roots, she created a weapon that fired concentrated energy, capable of leveling entire cities in moments. She built a machine to harness this power and set it on Republic City.

While this happened, Korra traveled to the Spirit Swamp following a vision. There, she met Toph, who helped instruct her how to bend the metallic poison out of her body. In her training, she also developed Spiritbending, a power never seen before. She was able to turn back Kuvira’s weapon and defeat her at last. With this final victory, Korra’s long and painful journey was at last at an end.

Avatar Korra’s Future and Legacy

It took Korra longer to come into her own, and as such she is a much less immediately likable Avatar than Aang was. This is evident through how he is spoken of and remembered, versus how people—especially those in positions of power—always seem to have to warm up to Korra. But Korra is also an incredibly relatable character with struggles that feel real and recognizable, even to audience members without any special powers. Korra’s story continues on through comics, some of which show snippets of her her romantic relationship with Asami.

Eventually, within the world of Avatar, Korra is recognized for her unique abilities and mark on the world with a park being named after her in Republic City and her growing into a universally respected figure.

Who is your favorite Avatar? In the world of Avatar would you be an Avatar, and if so what would your element be? Which Legend of Korra season was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!


Happy adventuring!

Author: Clint Lienau
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