ATLA all past airbenders

Who Is the Strongest Avatar In the World of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’—and What Does ‘Strength’ Even Really Mean?

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the most beloved children’s animations out there, even (maybe especially) by many of us who may no longer be children. In it, the world balance is maintained by the Avatar, an individual of immense power, but out of the many reincarnations, who is the strongest Avatar we know of?

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In the world of ATLA, individuals can bend their respective elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Only the Avatar can master all four elements, and the Avatar state, and it is their role to do so to maintain balance in the world and act as a bridge between the human world and the spirit world. The Avatar is continuously reincarnated, when one Avatar dies the power then moves to another in the Avatar cycle.

The strongest Avatar is difficult to determine, and the list below—which is ranked least to most strong—is sure to get plenty of people yelling their disagreement.

What is strength? Is it physical power? Is it strength to do what’s right or necessary? Is it the strength of the opposition you have faced or the lasting change you have made in the world? It’s a hard line to walk, but let’s try to do just that.

A note on criteria: We will only look here at characters who were introduced in the animation.

Avatar Szeto

ATLA Avatar Szeto
(Nickelodeon)

As the fifth Avatar before Aang, we see very little of Avatar Szeto in the animation. When Aang is being told about the immense power of the Avatar state and how other Avatars in the past have used it, we see Szeto bending the lava from four volcanos at once, an incredible feat considering that Avatar Roku struggled to contain the power of an erupting volcano himself later on.

In the graphic novel, The Shadow of Kyoshi, we understand that Szeto did not utilize his powers in the same way as many other Avatars did though, focusing predominantly on his nation, the Fire Nation, by becoming a government official. Here he assisted with the issues plaguing his nation at the time. He improved his nation’s economy through his meticulous accounting skills, eventually becoming the Grand Advisor to Fire Lord Yosor.

He did help other nations during his time as Avatar but is more often remembered for what he did as a bureaucrat.

Avatar Wan

ATLA Avatar Wan
(Nickelodeon)

The one who started it all, the first Avatar. Wan lived 10,000 years before the events of ATLA and Legend of Korra when bending was not something you were born with, but received from the Lion Turtles upon whose backs humanity lived. After being banished from his Fire Lion Turtle, Wan stumbled across the fighting spirits Vaatu and Raava, breaking up their fight with his firebending.

Upon realizing that he has freed darkness, Wan teamed up with Raava and found the other Lion Turtles to receive the gifts of airbending, earthbending, and waterbending. He and Raava learned to fight together, with Raava sharing her power with him and, in the fight against Vaatu, Raava fused permanently with Wan making him the first Avatar. Upon his death, he promises to stay with him throughout all his lifetimes.

Though Wan’s accomplishments are extraordinary, fighting the dark spirit Vaatu, becoming the first human to master all four elements, and becoming the Avatar, he does not contain the knowledge handed down to all the other Avatars and his fighting styles are rudimentary at best, leaving him a little lower down on this list.

Avatar Kuruk

ATLA Avatar Kuruk
(Nickelodeon)

Avatar Kuruk’s life was a short and unhappy one, with many referring to him as one of the worst Avatars to exist (a slightly unfortunate title). What many didn’t know was that Kuruk fought many dark spirits who had begun attacking the world which left him neglecting the human aspect of his role to tackle the spiritual issues.

His continual battle with dark spirits took its toll on him and he became spiritually corrupt. The Avatar that everyone else saw though was a hedonistic womanizer, when in reality he was saving them from threats they did not know about. After losing the love of his life to the spirit Noh, the Face Stealer, Kuruk spent his remaining years trying to get her back but died at the age of 33 from his spiritual sickness, leaving the world divided.

Avatar Roku

ATLA Avatar Roku
(Nickelodeon)

The last Avatar before Aang was Avatar Roku of the Fire Nation. He was a powerful bender and perhaps one of the last to master all four elements the traditional way. He lived through an era of great change and turmoil as nations grew extremely distrustful of one another. Roku did his best to navigate these relationships and though he was powerful, he was indecisive.

This indecision was primarily over the actions of his former best friend, Fire Lord Sozin. Roku knew of Sozin’s plans to expand the Fire Nation by going to war with the other nations, but he didn’t do enough to stop it only threatening Sozin rather than ending him. Roku’s indecisiveness led to a 100-year war and the genocide of the Air Nomads, something that weighed heavily on him in his afterlife.

Avatar Yangchen

ATLA Avatar Yangchen
(Nickelodeon)

Yangchen is remembered as one of the greatest Avatars of all time. Hailing from the pacifistic Air Nomads, Yangchen saw her role as the Avatar as superseding her role as a member of Air Nomads and was willing to do whatever it took to maintain peace and balance. Her dedication to just that meant that there was much peace between nations for generations after her death.

Yangchen was a powerful bender and was even reported to have been able to move the skies themselves through her mastery of airbending. She could call upon winds so strong that they would rip out trees and part the clouds. Using whatever methods she could, including manipulation and deceit, Yangchen brought political peace to the nations and was hailed as one of the wisest Avatars of all time.

Avatar Aang

Avatar Aang in the Avatar state
(Nickelodeon)

Controversial, but Aang is third on our list. Avatar Aang was already a master airbender at the young age of 12 before discovering he was the Avatar. When he flew into a storm that plunged him into the sea it forced him into the Avatar state which was strong enough to sustain him, and Appa, for 100 years in stasis.

Aang awoke to a world in turmoil and was given the exceedingly difficult task of mastering all the elements and the Avatar state in 3 months. He showed his immense power over and over again, proving himself a natural at bending and spiritual connection, taking his role as the bridge between the human world and the spirit world very seriously.

As well as mastering all the above, Aang learned the rare power of energybending. In his immense battle against the Fire Lord, Aang opted to spare Fire Lord Ozai and took his bending away. After the final battle, Aang then had to deal with the fallout of the 100-year war and formed Republic City, the first city outside of the four nations.

Avatar Kyoshi

Avatar Kyoshi stands in the middle of other past avatars.
(Nickelodeon)

In terms of sheer raw power, it appears that no one can touch Avatar Kyoshi. An Avatar from the Earth Kingdom, Kyoshi grew up not knowing who she was but upon discovering her powers she proved to have a bottomless well of strength that made her one of the most formidable Avatars of all time.

Among her many impressive feats, Kyoshi broke an entire chunk of land away from the Earth Kingdom mainland to form Kyoshi Island utilizing the rare technique of lava bending along with earth, wind, and waterbending. She was an extraordinary fighter and developed the technique of fighting with fans, something she passed down to the Kyoshi warriors.

She had no qualms when it came to killing those who upset the balance of power and could be ruthless if needed. That being said, she dedicated her phenomenally long life to maintaining justice and peace after she was taught the secret to immortality. She lived till the age of 230, keeping peace for two centuries.

Avatar Korra

Korra bending water and fire in 'The Legend of Korra.'
(Nickelodeon)

Where most Avatars discover their power at a much older age, Korra was only a small child when she was already bending earth and fire as easily as her native element, water. She progressed greatly with all three, and though she struggled with air she eventually cracked it in her battle with the bloodbender Amon (Noatak).

Korra’s style of fighting is impressive, as she seamlessly blends bending elements one after the other in precise attacks. Along with the four elements, Korra became the first Avatar to wield metalbending and also unlocked energybending with the help of Aang’s spirit.

In a few short years, Korra took on powerful bloodbenders, fought the dark spirit Vaatu during harmonic convergence, opened the spirit portals at the north and south poles, restored airbending to the world, fought in the Avatar state whilst suffering from poison, and energybent a powerful spirit beam which created a brand new spirit portal in the center of Republic City. Though she may not have had as much physical power as Kyoshi, she had more varied abilities that allowed her to impact the world in a way no Avatar had done since Wan.

Her biggest strength comes from her ability to realize that her enemies had real grievances that should be addressed and Korra did a lot to help progress the world.

Who do you think is the strongest Avatar, whatever that might mean to you?

(featured image: Nickelodeon)


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Author
Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, she has a keen interest in Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and also takes the little free time left she has to explore Japan.