Water Tribes

 Jesse Brauner
Water Tribes

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.

One of the “Four Nations” of the world of Avatar are the Water Tribes, who live primarily in the icy polar regions of the world (their culture was stylistically inspired by the Inuit). They are the people who practice the art of Waterbending, one of four methods of elemental manipulation in the series (for full details, see the symbol for ‘Waterbending’). The symbol of the Water Tribes is a circle containing a crescent moon and rippling waves. This represents the spirits of the Moon and the Ocean, which are held in great reverence by the tribes. According to legend, the Moon Spirit was the first Waterbender, and humans learned the art by watching how it pushed and pulled the tides of the ocean.

The Water Tribes of both the North and South Poles are famed as hunters and fisherman, but otherwise there is a great discrepancy between them. At the beginning of the series, the Northern Water Tribe is home to many benders and is a thriving cosmopolitan center, whereas the Southern Water Tribe is a smaller, mainly rural environment where the only bender is Katara, a 14-year old girl who becomes one of the leading characters throughout all three seasons of the series.

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