In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the population consists of four distinct cultures, collectively known as the “Four Nations”. Each nation is aligned with one of the four elements of Air, Water, Earth and Fire and each possesses its own unique characteristics.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (known outside the United States as ‘The Legend of Aang’) is an American animated television series created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The series ran from 2005 until 2008 on the channel Nickelodeon and was later adapted into a feature film by director M. Night Shyamalan. The aesthetics of the program were heavily influenced by the style of Japanese animation (anime), but Avatar was equally notable for its well-developed plotlines and for drawing inspiration from a wide array of sources: These included artistic, cultural and historical influences from around the world, diverse species from the animal kingdom, and storytelling themes from popular movies and books.
Originally the smallest of the world’s “Four Nations”, the Air Nomads were a peace-loving, monastic people (their culture was stylistically inspired by Tibetan monks, among other things) who detached themselves (at least spiritually) from the concerns of the larger world and resided primarily in temples set high up in mountain ranges. They were the people who practiced the art of Airbending, one of four methods of elemental manipulation found in the series (for full details, see the symbol for ‘Airbending’). The symbol of the Air Nomads is a circle, which contains swirling coils representing the movement of air. Although their population was small in comparison to the other three nations, every person born into the Air Nomads was gifted with the ability to bend, while elsewhere only certain segments of the population were able to practice their native bending art.
Although the culture of the Air Nomads is frequently on display throughout the series, much of this is accomplished by way of flashbacks and memories: The Air Nomads and many aspects of their civilization were wiped out by the aggressive military action of the Fire Nation 100 years prior to the start of the series. The only survivor of the genocide was a 12-year old boy named Aang (hence the subtitle ‘The Last Airbender’), who stars as the central character of the show.