Iroh – The Playful But Skilled Firebending Master
Iroh is a fantastic mentor, uncle, friend, and firebender. He is viewed as wise, vivacious, and honorable. Although he appears to be a less aggressive fighter, he possesses many rare firebending abilities, including breathing fire from his mouth,Â that easily fit his nick-name “Dragon of the West”. Iroh is well aware of the importance of each element, and actually developed the technique to redirect lighting by immitating a motion used by waterbenders. He is also a “Grand Lotus”, or high-ranking member, of the international secret society called the “Order of the White Lotus”. The other members of the White Lotus turn to him for knowledge and wisdom.
Iroh was the first born son of Fire Lord Azulon, making him the crown prince of the fire nation and brother to Fire Lord Ozai. But after the loss of his only son Lu Ten, Iroh, tied down with grief, took no action against his brother when Ozia claimed the kingdom for himself. Iroh later chooses instead to mentor and lead his brother’s banished son, Prince Zuko, on his quest to find the Avatar.
Iroh and Zuko
Despite the fact that his uncle left his life behind to accompany him in his shameful, banished state, Zuko doesn’t always appreciate his uncle’s company. Zuko, who refers to Iroh simply as “Uncle”, is often frusterated with Iroh’s carefree attitude and ability to treat their “quest” like a vacation. Though in stark contrast to Zuko’s personality, Iroh’s optimism, patience, and wisdom are exactly what Zuko needs to truly discover himself and fulfill his destiny.
As Iroh and Zuko tail the Avatar, they run into a fleet of the Fire Nation Army. Iroh eventually turns on admiral Zhoa, because Zhoa attempts to kill the moon spirit and thus threaten the world’s spiritual balance, and he and Zuko find themselves fugitives from the Fire Nation. Though all hope of regaining his honor seems lost, Iroh’s optimistic spirits seem to rub off on Zuko as they begin to build a new life doing something Uncle loves best – selling tea.
Throughout their struggle as fugitives, Iroh also takes time to show his nephew some advanced firebending techniques that he will need to use against his sister, Princess Azula. Azula, a firebending prodigy, is a master with lightning and Zuko will later have to use Uncle’s redirecting technique to defeat her.
Zuko’s deep appreciation for his uncle is only discovered after many angry moments and mistakes. After being manipulated into thinking he can regain his honor by Azula, Zuko betrays Iroh and leaves to help Azula conquer the city of Ba Sing Se and defeat the Avatar. Crushed but determined, Iroh remains honorable and helps protect Aang and Katara, resulting in his own capture by the Dai Li.
The betrayal of his uncle quickly becomes one of Zuko’s greatest regrets and he later humbles himself and visits his uncle’s prison cell.Â Although to Zuko and the prison guards Iroh will not speak and appears to be a weak old man, he in-fact has been spending his free time working out. He then escapes during a solar eclipse and returns to aid the Order of the White Lotus. In a heart-wrenching episode, he is reunited with Zuko and immediately forgives him. He then denies his own right to the throne and supports Zuko fullheartedly saying “You struggled. You suffered. But you have always followed your own path. Youâ€™ve restored your own honor. And only you can restore the honor of the Fire Nation.”
Uncle’s Words of Wisdom
- “Protection and power are overrated. I think you are very wise to choose happiness and love.
There are reasons each of us are born. We have to find those reasons”
- “It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it become rigid and stale.”
- “Prince Zuko, pride is not the opposite of shame, but itâ€™s source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.”
- “Youâ€™re looking at the rare white dragon bush. Its leaves make a tea so delicious itâ€™s heartbreaking! That, or itâ€™s the white jade bush, which is poisonous.”
- “Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.”
- “Sick of tea? Thatâ€™s like being sick of breathing!”
- “No! Zuko! You must never give into dispair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.”
- “I know you’re not supposed to cry over spilled tea, butÂ [cries]Â itâ€™s just so sad!”
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