Roku was a fire nation Avatar that came after the legendary Avatar Kyoshi. He is also the preceding Avatar to Avatar Aang. Roku’s spirit served as a constant guide at specific points of Aang’s journey in the quest to defeat Fire Lord Ozai during the 100-year war. Roku was a wise and lenient Avatar and although he himself acknowledged that the war was and Sozin gaining so much ground was as a result of his indecisiveness.
Another factor is that his lifelong friendship with Fire Lord Sozin played a great deal in his reluctance to take action against his best friend. This led to the war gaining ground and the fire nation expanding its territory. Roku was also a fire nation born, thus, he may have had to walk softly so as not to be regarded as a traitor.
This ultimately was the cause of Roku’s death, which prevented him from stopping a war that would go on to last for one hundred years. This is something that weighed heavily on him in his afterlife. Aang inherited Roku’s burden of healing the war-torn world, and Roku firmly believed Aang was destined to fix his mistakes.
Avatar Roku’s Early Life
In Roku’s early years, he was best friends with then Prince Sozin at that time. They spent a lot of time together, constantly sparring and practicing their fire bending. They were extremely close and of course the best of friends. Sozin was quickly able to tell that Roku had a crush on Ta Min, a fire nation girl. He encouraged Roku to speak with her. Roku and Prince Sozin shared a birthday which they celebrated together every year.
During one of their birthday parties, with Sozin celebrating his and Roku’s sixteenth birthday, Roku had the most shocking revelation. He was informed by the Fire Sages that he was the Avatar. Before Roku left the Fire Nation to master the other three elements, Sozin came by to talk to him and was informed by Roku that the Sages had told him not to bring anything with him on his travels, as the Avatar required no worldly possessions on his journey.
After learning this, Sozin gave him the headpiece worn by the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, hoping that he was at least allowed to have that. Roku took the headpiece gratefully and wore it for the rest of his life.
Roku’s Avatar Journey
After learning that he was the Avatar, Roku began traveling to all the other nations to learn their sacred arts of bending. He trained under Masters to learn the other bending arts. Following the natural order of the elemental cycles, he had to learn air bending first.
To accomplish this, he traveled to the Southern Air Temple. While he was there, Roku became very good friends with a young Air Nomad named Gyatso, who would, in his elder years, become the guardian, mentor, and friend to Avatar Aang. A viable proof that friendships can indeed transcend lifetimes.
In one of the air bending lessons that Roku underwent which involved the students taking off with their gliders; Roku showed off by performing a loop. When Gyatso saw this and tried to upstage him by air-surfing, he lost control and fell.
Roku did however come to the aid of his friend. Although their combined weight proved too much for Roku to control. They lost control and crashed into the other students that were standing safely on the ground.
After years of training and mastering air bending, Roku traveled to the Northern Water tribe to master water bending. This was particularly difficult for him as he was working with his natural opposite. Fire is to Water as Earth is to Air. We would later see Avatar Aang’s struggle to master Earth bending as it was his natural opposite as well. Roku recalls his whole process of learning the bending arts and mastering them as bitter work.
However, years of practice and training helped him to duel his master and stand his ground. During one of these sparring sessions, Avatar Roku took the brunt of a water blow and ended up in the ocean, but popped back up to stand on an ice platform and swept his teacher away with a tall wave of water, crashing into the pinnacle of the chief’s palace, a good distance away.
After he had mastered this, he traveled to the Earth Kingdom to learn earth bending from a master named Sud. This was also another difficult task as mastering the bending arts required you to forget everything else that you knew but still remember it at the same time. They had different forms but were perceived as one of a great whole. He developed a great friendship. During one of their training sessions, they raced each other atop slabs of the earth to the top of a hill.
Although Sud was in the lead most of the time, Roku managed to beat him to the top with time to spare to prepare tea for both of them, much to Sud’s surprise. This showed great mastery and ease in performance. After he had mastered the bending arts, he moved on to more Avatar duties. He was to master the Avatar state and understand more of the spiritual side of the Avatar.
Mastering The Avatar State
After mastering the bending arts, Roku went back to the fire nation. By this time, years had passed and he was already close to becoming a fully realized Avatar. He retired to a crescent Island for 5 months where he attempted to master the Avatar state. This was one of the Avatar temples in the fire nation.
He attempted to master the Avatar State under the guidance of a Fire Sage named Kaja. Avatar Roku growing impatient after failing to master it with meditation tried using the winter solstice sun to force himself into the Avatar State.
Despite his success, he became trapped under its influence and was unable to control his powers, resulting in the destruction of the upper half of the Fire Temple and the eruption of the nearby volcano. Kaja eventually managed to free Roku from the state by aligning the Avatar’s eyes with the winter solstice sun once more, halting the destruction of the temple.
In penance for his near destruction of the Fire Sages’ temple, Roku rebuilt parts of the temple and carved new underground passages out of the island’s magma. This was seen in the Last air bender series when Shayu escorted Aang and his friends through the underground secret passageways. After the incident, Roku became more patient with his training and completely mastered the Avatar State afterward.
After the mastery of the bending arts and the Avatar state, Roku returned home, a fully realized Avatar.
He reunited with Sozin and they shared a hug. He went on to marry his childhood sweetheart Ta Min. Sozin was his best man at the wedding.
At the wedding, Sozin asked to speak with Roku in private and informed his close friend that he had thought hard about the state of the world.
He told Roku that he strongly believed the Fire Nation had entered a period of great prosperity and proposed to Roku that together the pair could spread this wealth to the world by expanding the empire. Roku was shocked by his horrific preposition and firmly told Sozin that the four nations were to be kept separate. He also advised that he never bring the subject forth in future conversations.
Later in his life, Roku found a dragon, Fang, when he was a baby, not yet hatched from his egg, and adopted him as his animal guide and constant companion during his life as the Avatar. He eventually settled down and began living out his life with Ta Min, with whom he later had a daughter, Rina.
Seventeen years after Roku’s wedding, he discovers that Sozin had went ahead with his plans and set up colonies in the Earth kingdom. Infuriated by Sozin’s act of war, Roku confronted his old friend friend, blasting through the doors of the throne room inside the fire nation palace.
He bashed his friend and ordered him to cease the expansion he was trying to achieve. When Sozin replied that Roku’s loyalty was to the fire nation and to his Fire Lord, he also further enunciated that halting the progress of this expansion made him a traitor. Roku warned Sozin not to challenge him and as he turned to leave, Sozin attacked.
Roku easily dodged this attack and used earth bending to reappear behind Sozin. This let Roku strike him with an air blast. Suspending Sozin in the air with an earth pair by the collar of his robe, he entered the Avatar state and destroyed the throne room. He spared Sozin’s life for the sake of their friendship and wanted him that any plans to further the expansion would result in Sozin’s permanent end.
Twenty-five years later, a volcanic explosion erupted at Roku’s home. He was able to save the rest of the island’s inhabitants.
Roku ultimately realizes that his death was inevitable. Right before the pyroclastic flow engulfed him, Fang curled up with his master and the two died together.