In Avatar it is all about balance and harmony. Nature leads an important role throughout the whole series. As we can see a lot of different animals in the show who have a part in the history, from Appa and Mommo who were partners of our protagonists to the original bending animals as we are told humans learned to bend the elements watching these creatures do it first. During the series, we can see a big and detailed world with different fauna as each chapter passed by. Every nation and biome has its kind of animal that takes advantage of its environment to live in the world of avatar.
The lore was developed even more in The Legend of Korra once we were told humans not only learned to bend watching animals but at the very beginning, they were granted the ability by lion turtles, when both the spirit and human realm were together during Avatar Wan’s time. Those were very different times as humans did not have power unless they approached a Lion Turtle, usually connected to a specific element. There was no avatar so humans had to get away to protect themselves from spirits.
After Avatar Wan closed the spirit portals splitting both worlds the lion turtles stopped their connection with humans and retreated to unpopulated areas of the world. Humankind now had the avatar to look after them so in the next years they would develop their abilities regarding the elements by watching animals that already mastered fire, earth, water, and air.
Dragons and Fire
In the 3rd season of Avatar: The Legend of Aang we can see both Aang and Zuko struggling to firebend, Aang needed a master, and Zuko for some reason could not produce fire anymore. They decided to do some research in the ruins that belonged to The Ancient Sun Warriors and realized they were not extinct. During the chapter “The Firebending Masters” Aang and Zuko are about to be introduced to the original firebending masters Ran and Shaw. At the end of the episode, we realize these masters were not human but dragons.
Even though the Fire Nation hunted the species nearly to death these two dragons were hidden and still existed. They even had a ritual where they would test an apprentice to be worthy or not. Our protagonists were worthy and taught in the original ways of firebending, if they wouldn’t have been honorable enough they would have been destroyed. The dragon’s firebending emphasizes the life-giving qualities of fire. For many years The Fire Nation mistakenly directed firebending to destruction fueling it by rage and hate instead of soul pureness and honor.
Badgermoles and Earth
In the chapter “The Cave of Two Lovers” we are told the story of two lovers who lived in warring villages. Even though they loved each other it was dangerous for them to meet as it could unleash their hometown’s fury. However, they learned how to earthbend by watching badgermoles. They created a labyrinth no one could navigate except for them. The story ends with tragedy as one of them was slain in their village’s war so the remaining lover put an end to the war with her earthbending abilities. This story is believed to be the foundation of Omashu.
We have a closer example for us about badgermoles teaching earthbending. Our beloved Toph also learned from these animals. One time she ran away from home as a child she was found by badgermoles. They had their blindness in common so according to Toph, they were able to understand each other. They helped her to develop her bending abilities as badgermoles use earthbending as an extension of their senses. This is how Toph learned how to use her bending not only to manipulate earth but to be able to perceive her surroundings.
Flying Bisons and Air (Avatar Animals)
Flying bisons are sacred and have their spot in air nomads’ culture since they are recognized to be the first air masters. Each airbender was given a flying bison during its training to become its lifelong companion. Once their training as airbenders was completed they would tattoo arrows that resembled the ones flying bisons had in their body.
Even though in The Legend of Aang Appa was thought to be the last flying bison alive it was one of the animals with the most screen time as it was a crucial part of the Avatar Team. Appa was able to fly and use some airbending techniques using his mouth and tail. He also was the main method of transportation for the team during the series.
The Moon, Kois and Water (Avatar Animals)
During the final arc of the first season, we are told in the Northern Water Tribe that the first waterbender was the moon. The first waterbenders saw how the moon pushed and pulled tides and waves and learned how to do it themselves. The moon may not be an animal. However, the moon and the ocean spirits manifested in the mortal realm as koi fishes in Spirit Oasis.
Waterbending is maintained in balance with these koi fishes performing an eternal dance of push and pull. During the events of The Legend of Aang, the moon spirit is assassinated causing all waterbenders powers to vanish until the balance is restored by Yue. This is a prove of how vital and delicate is balance in this world.
Lion Turtles and Energy
As we mentioned before lion turtles were the first animals to share their power with humans. This was done in a slightly different way than the other animals did. Lion turtles managed chi and energy to transform it into elements as we are explained during the Legend of Korra.
We have a first approach with these mysterious animals during The Legend of Aang as one lion turtle gave Aang the knowledge regarding energy bending to solve his quid of defeating fire lord Ozai without killing him. With this knowledge, Aang took firebending away from Ozai and won the war.
Bending has been one of the most relevant subjects during the series, it even develops characters without these abilities like Sokka. Being balance as one of the principal foundations of the world’s philosophy it is not surprising that animals and nature play a key role within the series. Animals are not only loyal companions to the characters but also teach lessons if looked at them with wisdom. This detail in Avatar’s narrative proves once again that this is one of the best series ever written.