|“||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 you give yourself.||„|
Iroh is a major character in the Nickelodeon cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as an 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, easy-going, 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 perceptive 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 members 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.
|“|| 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.|
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.
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 poisioning himself. Ginseng, followed by jasmine, are 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. 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. Later in the battle, Iroh threatened Zhao for capturing the Moon Spirit and disturbing the balance of world, breaking his typical easy going manner.
Iroh had no desire for power, not protesting when his brother took his birthright title of Fire Lord. He soon retired from being a general, and stated that "there is nothing wrong with a life of peace and prosperity."
Though an honorable man, he was not above a spot of pilfering as he once pocketed perfumes from an abbey. He also demonstrated 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.
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.
It had been hinted that Iroh may have been crueler in his days as a general before the death of his son. 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, this may have just been his way of mocking the senseless destruction carried out by the Fire Nation during the War. On the way to Ba Sing Se years later he stated he "was a different man" when he laid siege to it.
It was unclear when Iroh traveled to the Spirit World and when he met the dragons and proved worthy to learn the original form of firebending, so it is not known if these experiences reformed Iroh into the man he became or if he was always a more peaceful man than his father and brother. Regardless, the current Iroh would prove himself to be a benevolent man who ultimately could not stand by and watch 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 being 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. However, he never gave up on Zuko and continued to try to guide him and expressed no resentment, only joy, after Zuko found his path and apologized to him.
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.
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 firebent 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 the 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 thorough knowledge of cultures, history and the properties of each elements 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.