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|“||After I reconquer Ba Sing Se, I'm going to reconquer my tea shop, and I'm going to play Pai Sho every day!||„|
|~ Iroh to Team Avatar.|
|“||In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself.||„|
Iroh is the overall pentagonist of the Nickelodeon cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as a minor supporting character in The Legend of Korra. He was a retired Fire Nation General, a former Crown Prince of the nation, a Grand Lotus of the Order of the White Lotus, a firebending master, and a wise mentor to his nephew Zuko. He was the elder son of Fire Lord Azulon and Ilah and the older brother of Ozai. Iroh's well-known ability to breathe fire, and his claims of "slaying" the last dragon, earned him the honorary title "The Dragon of the West."
Unlike many other individuals from the Fire Nation, particularly those within his own family, Iroh was a wise, easygoing, and spiritual man. He appreciated and admired the balance of the four elements, and even incorporated aspects of the other elements into his own firebending techniques. Iroh aided Avatar Aang and his companions on several occasions and was consequently branded as a traitor. An extremely conscious person, it was claimed that he journeyed to the Spirit World in search of his deceased son Lu Ten. His knowledge and respect for the four elements allowed him to provide advice to others; he assisted many close associates and friends.
After the traumatic death of his son, Iroh saw Zuko as his own son rather than his nephew and encouraged him to choose his own destiny, rather than a fate member of the royal family expected of him. Upon Zuko's coronation as Fire Lord after Ozai's defeat and the conflict's conclusion, he reopened the Jasmine Dragon tea shop and served tea for the rest of his retirement. When he deemed his business in the mortal world finished, Iroh chose to leave his body behind and travel to the Spirit World, where he continued serving tea to various spirits.
He was voiced by the late Mako Iwamatsu and later by Greg Baldwin in the rest of the series.
Iroh was the firstborn son of Fire Lord Azulon, but Azulon was succeeded by his second son, Ozai, following Iroh's retreat from public affairs, after his son Lu Ten died in the siege of the Earth Kingdom's capital Ba Sing Se, which had held against numerous successive Fire Nation efforts at capture during the duration of the Hundred Years War. Iroh had a vision early in life that he would be the one to capture the city, but the death of his only son broke his desire to continue in the effort; having always been driven more by a sense of duty than personal ambition, Iroh abandoned the siege.
Ozai, the far more opportunistic and ambitious of the brothers, attempted to convince their father that, owing to Iroh's shameful defeat, decreased standing in the nation, and lack of heirs, Ozai ought to be made heir to the leadership of the Fire Nation. However, Azulon was incensed at this lack of respect for Iroh's position and his loss and ordered Ozai to kill his own son, Prince Zuko, as an act of atonement. Instead, Ozai conspired with his wife, Princess Ursa, to assassinate Azulon and seize the leadership while Iroh was in mourning and disinterested in state affairs; with the life of her son on the line, Ursa did not feel she could refuse and assisted Ozai in a successful poisoning of Azulon. Ozai ascended to the position of Fire Lord: although the events immediately following Azulon's secret murder are never depicted in flashbacks, it seems that his death was explained as the result of natural causes and that the still-mourning Iroh had no interest in challenging his brother for control of the nation, instead acquiescing to Ozai's investiture as Fire Lord and entering a permanent semi-retirement from state affairs.
Iroh was believed to have killed off the last of the world's dragons, earning him the title "Dragon of the West"; but in actuality he was secretly the pupil of the last two dragons, and thus learned from them to drive his firebending powers from vitality rather than from rage as most of his contemporary firebenders did; Iroh lied about killing the last of the dragons to bring an end to the Fire Nation tradition of dragon hunts. He was a high-ranking member of the international secret society known as the Order of the White Lotus.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Iroh is accompanying the banished Prince Zuko in his quest to capture the Avatar, a superhuman whose task to maintain world order makes him a threat to the Fire Nation's campaign of conquest. Having learnt that Zhao, a Fire National admiral, planned kill the moon spirit to take away the Water Tribes' power of waterbending, disrupting the natural order, Iroh attacks him and is named a traitor.
During Book Two, he and his nephew are now fugitives from the Fire Nation. After being gravely wounded by his niece Azula and cared for by his nephew, Iroh teaches Zuko a Waterbending-inspired technique of redirecting lightning, which can be generated by an advanced form of firebending which Zuko, with his unfocused mind, has been unable to master, but which his sister and competitor to the throne, easily commands, being a firebending prodigy. Iroh eventually takes refuge in Ba Sing Se, where he and Zuko operate a teahouse. Iroh is dismayed when Azula convinces her brother to betray them and is arrested while covering Aang and his friends' escape from the conquered city.
Held in a Fire Nation prison, Iroh fakes despair while preparing himself for the solar eclipse, during which Firebending does not work. Once the eclipse begins, Iroh escapes his cell, being a formidable opponent even without the use of firebending. In the series finale, Iroh has called the White Lotus to liberate Ba Sing Se, and advises Zuko to become the new Firelord rather then taking the title himself. After Ozai's defeat in the hands of Avatar Aang, Zuko is coronated as the new Fire Lord, Iroh returns to Ba Sing Se to operate his tea shop; the final scenes of the series take place in that shop.
Between The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra
In the comic book sequel The Promise, Iroh offers Aang and Zuko advice on dealing with the Harmony Restoration Movement, a movement that aims to expel members of the Fire Nation ethnic group from Earth Kingdom territory; he also invents bubble tea. In the comic book The Search, Iroh becomes acting Firelord while Zuko travels to locate his mother Ursa. Bored with his new title, he uses his authority to declare a National Tea Appreciation Day.
The Legend of Korra
In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, Iroh is revealed to have used a form of astral projection at the time of his death to become a resident of the Spirit World. In the episode "Darkness Falls", having known them in life, Iroh encounters Aang's children Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi when they enter the Spirit World and provides them with hints as to the location of the spirit of Tenzin's daughter Jinora. Korra again encounters Iroh in "The Ultimatum," when she enters the Spirit World in search of the anarchist terrorist Zaheer. Korra explains to Iroh that she is confused and doesn't know how to deal with the threat Zaheer poses to both the newly reformed Air Nation and the world. Iroh suggests that Korra seek Zuko's counsel, as Aang once did.
Zuko's grandson is named Iroh in honour of his great-granduncle, and is a general of the United Forces, the armed services of the United Republic of Nations, a multi-ethnic nation founded by Aang and Zuko out of territories that were disputed between the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom after the end of the Hundred Years War.
|“||Iroh: This tea is nothing more than hot leaf juice!
Zuko: Uncle, that's what ALL tea is.
Iroh: How could a member of my own family say something so horrible?
|~ Iroh's view on tea.|
Iroh was once a complicated person: He was never cruel but in the days when he was a general and the Crown Prince, Iroh was more than capable of being ruthless and power-hungry: he described his blood as boiling with desire and fully embraced his destiny to be Fire Lord. During a flashback, Iroh was shown, just after he had broken through the walls of Ba Sing Se, writing to Zuko, Azula, and Ursa. In his letter, he said he hoped they could see the city if he did not "burn it to the ground first." However, Iroh was still even then a far better person than his brother, as he expressed horror at how much evil Ozai had and truly loved his father and son and was so devastated by their deaths that he was left disillusioned with his desire for power and did not challenge Ozai for the throne. His journey around the world changed him profoundly into the benevolent man he was now.
Now Iroh is an easygoing, open-minded, selfless, intelligent, kind-hearted, caring, courageous, stubborn, generous, friendly and humorous man. Iroh treated his self-imposed exile during Zuko's search for the Avatar as though it were an extended vacation. Something of an epicurean in his old age, he did not devote his full energies to the pursuit of the Avatar, clashing with the dedication of his nephew. However, beneath the easygoing exterior lay a wise man experienced in the ways of the world, a seasoned and wily strategist, and an incredibly strong and powerful firebending master. His benevolence ultimately made Iroh incapable of standing by and watching as the world continued to fall out of balance due to his nation's works. It appeared that the only reason he continued to maintain any contact with the Fire Nation was because of Zuko's obsession with reclaiming his honor; thus his hunt of the Avatar is out of devotion. In the end, his devotion to the world proved to surpass his love for his nephew, as Iroh was incapable of allowing the Fire Nation to truly conquer the world nor does he have the heart to help in such a calamity, and he betrayed him and forsaken his chance of returning to being honored to save the Avatar from death at the hands of Zuko, Azula, and the Dai Li. All this at the cost of being imprisoned, Iroh was the very first person in the Fire Nation to have earned the respect of Team Avatar and even though they disrespected his nephew until he proved his loyalty, they respected Iroh unquestionably, with even Sokka noting on how good Iroh was and he and the rest openly supported Zuko's decision to find Iroh and make him Fire Lord.
Although he appeared hedonistic, Iroh's personal philosophies were ones of living life to the fullest, and following a path of one's own choosing. He was a firm believer that everyone had the power to create one's own destiny. He appeared laid-back because he understood that there were things in life he could not control, but he also believed that a person is fully responsible for the parts they can. From Zuko's point of view, Iroh seemed lazy, but from an objective point of view, it could be seen that he understood that Zuko was misguided. Throughout the last year of the Hundred Year War, Iroh constantly asked Zuko what it was that he wanted in life, asking him if capturing Aang was the destiny that he chose or a path that others told him he needed to follow. Iroh was a father figure to Zuko. Even though Zuko had allowed his uncle to be imprisoned, Iroh never gave up on his nephew and his coldness towards Zuko was not out of anger and resentment but disappointment and sadness and helped him find his way.
Iroh was particularly fond of tea, the strategy game Pai Sho, and music. He founded a music night for the ship's crew, among whom he was popular, involving singing and the playing of instruments. He later displayed skill at playing the liuqin, singing lullabies to pacify a crying child. He had shown himself to be an amateur botanist with knowledge of a wide variety of plants and their effects on the human body, though misinterpretation of some plant characteristics led him to accidentally poisoning himself. Ginseng, followed by jasmine, is pronounced to be his favorite teas.
Probably as definitive of Iroh's character as his love for tea was his sage advice and wisdom. Iroh was known by his niece and nephew for his sometimes cryptic proverbs and lengthy anecdotes. Throughout Books One and Two, Iroh constantly guided Zuko during his exile and critical, character-shaping decisions. He had also advised Aang and Toph to great effect.
Closely related to this wisdom was Iroh's affinity for spirituality and respect and appreciation for all cultures, which seemed to be a rarity among those of the Fire Nation. This partially stemmed from his trip into the Spirit World, which left him with a certain spiritual awareness. He constantly advocated maintaining the balance between elements, as demonstrated when he implemented waterbending techniques to divert lightning. Iroh was the only character besides Aang, who was able to see the spirit of Roku's dragon. During the Siege of the North, Zhao also mentioned a rumor that Iroh had traveled to the Spirit World.
Despite his age, Iroh could be quite the ladies' man when the need arose, often flirting with various women on his travels. Many of these were older women, but some have been much younger, such as the bounty hunter June and an Earth Kingdom peasant. He was also addressed as "handsome" on multiple occasions.
Iroh was shown to rarely show grudges and did not seem to mind if people wronged him. This was made evident when a man attempted to mug him in Ba Sing Se; he did not fight back nor reported the mugger to the authorities, but instead helped and gave advice to the mugger.
However, although it had long since diminished, Iroh's fierce combative, cunning and firm side could show itself when necessary. This was displayed repeatedly to great effect, as shown when he handled the situation of fighting his Earthbender captors, coldly telling them that they were outmatched, Zhao threatening the Moon Spirit, angrily threatening to kill him if he dared to kill the Moon Spirit, which was so fearsome that Zhao actually recoiled back in fear before killing it anyway only to flee in complete terror over Iroh's furious retaliation, Azula trapping him and Zuko, defeating all the Guards without hesitation and easily defeating Azula, even making his niece, who had earlier been dismissive of him, show genuine terror upon having her lightning redirected by her uncle, holding off the Dai Li for Aang and Katara to escape, yelling for them to flee and ferociously holding all of them at bay, making Zuko realize the error of his ways once and for all, in which he firmly told his nephew, showing an uncharacteristic lack of kindness, that his path was wrong, and finally when freeing Ba Sing Se. Nevertheless, Iroh showed mercy towards his enemies, as he was never shown to kill those who survived his wrath and didn't bother to continue fighting against the Dai Li after Aang and Katara had fled.
Iroh also came to see the error of his old ways, expressing that not having the throne was a blessing, and even though he very well could have defeated Azula and perhaps even Ozai for the throne and had his nephew's support, he rejected his claim and had Zuko take the throne instead, and he even went as far as to regret how he had not been a better guide to Ozai and stated that he sometimes thought what would happen had he nurtured the fire inside Ozai, which Zuko inherited, in a positive way.
Firebending and Combat Prowess
Iroh was an extraordinarily powerful Firebender, considered to be legendary to the point of earning great praise from his peers for his prowess. He was so powerful that Zuko considered his uncle to be the only one capable of challenging and defeating Ozai, with him being more confident in Iroh's ability to win than Aang's, the so-called most powerful Firebender of the time, meaning he could be the most powerful Firebender of his time and may have been more powerful than Aang at the time, although Iroh humbly acknowledged while he could challenge Ozai, he was not fully confident he could defeat him in Agni Kai. Iroh was the only Firebender apart from Jeong Jeong who knew its destructive and alluring power which could cause an amateur firebender to lose control and thus Iroh based his bending style on the original firebending wisdom of the dragons and teachings of the Sun Warriors from whom he learned and whose secrets he kept, emphasizing the beauty and life-giving qualities of fire over the anger and destructive capabilities of it, allowing him to firebend without resorting to anger, hate, or lust, unlike his brother, niece and most other firebenders of his time while remaining extremely powerful.
Iroh was highly knowledgeable and well-versed in most styles of firebending and their respective techniques. He was also a very capable teacher of the art, having personally trained his nephew, Zuko, in the majority of his high proficiency in firebending. His firebending prowess also extended to being masterful in creating his own original techniques, as shown by how he used his knowledge of waterbending moves and their ability to redirect chi to create a technique to absorb and redirect lightning.
Standing as one of the select few firebenders of his time who possessed the ability to generate lightning due to having the required perfect calmness of mind, although Iroh derived this from inner peace rather than the amorality used by his brother Ozai and niece Azula, he has still mastered the technique fully, capable of effortlessly performing it even when in stress. He also had mastered the technique he created to absorb lightning to an unrivaled degree, with those he effectively instructed in still being inferior to him, capable of redirecting natural lightning, the only one shown capable of doing so, and also effortlessly channeling Azula's lightning before it was fully unleashed to redirect it.
While not exclusive to him, Iroh's signature technique was his fire-breath, a feat he could perform with especially potent power that earned him the nickname "The Dragon of the West." He was able to maintain this technique in a sweeping manner against the Dai Li to give himself and Zuko enough time to escape from their clutches.
Iroh had a tendency to not involve himself in battle, but when he did partake, he displayed great skill, speed, agility, and ferocity, both with and without Firebending, proving to be an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant. Even in his old age and while out of shape, he easily defeated several highly trained imperial firebender guards on his own and within moments, a display that at one point caused the powerful admiral Zhao to flee in fear, whose attack on Zuko earlier on he easily overpowered, beat several trained earthbenders using the chains that held him, effortlessly deflected an attempt by a thief armed with a knife to assault him, and even overpowered the notoriously skilled Azula just after she easily defeated Zuko with ease, firmly restraining her with a single hand to stop her from using lightning and then easily man-handling and throwing her into the water. His physical conditioning was also great enough that within a few weeks, Iroh was able to quickly return to shape by performing intensive calisthenic routines while also being limited by the guards watching, with his usually overweight physique having completely changed to a slim yet impressively muscular one. This restored his capabilities back to his prime, as he effortlessly broke himself out of jail, leaving only an enormous hole in the bars of his cell, and various scorch-marks on the walls and defeated several guards in his escape while not being able to use firebending, a display that left Warden Poon shell-shocked to the point he described Iroh as being like a "one-man army." During the coming of Sozin's Comet, Iroh displayed the true extent of his firebending prowess: he created a ring of fire around him and several other members of the Order of the White Lotus, expanding it and shrinking it with every breath, in and out. After a few breaths, he focused the ring around him into a ball, from which he launched a highly destructive fire blast that breached the Inner Wall of Ba Sing Se itself.
Although particularly well-known for his outstanding firebending and combat prowess, Iroh was also an extremely intelligent and well-learned man with great wisdom. An extremely accomplished strategist and tactician, Iroh was once the Fire Nation's top general and won many battles in the Earth Kingdom and even broke through the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se, potentially having conquered it had he not retreated due to grief over his son's death. His craftiness was best showcased by his skill at Pai Sho. There were many who still referred to him as "General" Iroh, despite the fact that he had been retired for years, though Zhao did so in a partially sarcastic manner.
His knowledge of the world is tremendous, having a thorough knowledge of cultures, history, and the properties of each element and was able to explain them easily to Zuko to get him to understand the importance of being versatile and not bound to their individual bending. He is perhaps the only person aware that an eclipse took away a Firebender's powers without having to read the scroll inside the library. He is even immensely knowledgeable regarding spirits, granting him great spiritual perception, as he is the only one to have ever been able to see the spirits of others, as he did with Aang and Roku's dragon when he rode on it, and could instantly sense that Princess Yue had been given life by the Moon Spirit. He was even able to depart his soul into the Spirit World consciously and earn the respect of all other spirits.
A lover of music, Iroh was a good singer, as well as a gifted pipa and tsungi horn player. He was also something of an amateur botanist, probably due to his love of tea, although this skill was not enough to save him getting poisoned when he confused a rare tea plant with a poisonous one. Because of his love of tea, Iroh was also an excellent tea maker, increasing business in the tea shop he and Zuko worked in and was eventually awarded one of his own. With his adept entrepreneurial skills, Iroh had managed to invent a new variety of tea, mixing tea with milk and tapioca pearls.