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 is the Earth Kingdom, a massive continent that occupies much of the world’s visible landmass and encompasses a huge variety of landscapes and ecosystems. It is the home of the people who practice the art of Earthbending, one of four methods of elemental manipulation in the series (for full details, see the symbol for ‘Earthbending’). The symbol of the Earth Kingdom is a small square surrounded by a large circle (the extra square in this image is not always displayed). This symbol is, in fact, an ancient Chinese representation of the universe- a square earth encompassed by a round heaven- and ties directly into the aesthetic inspiration for the series: The culture of the Earth Kingdom was stylistically inspired by China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. In that vein, the people of the Earth Kingdom show great diversity from area to area, from simple farmers, craftsmen and mine workers to wealthy aristocrats and distinguished royalty.
Throughout the first two seasons of the series, various locations around the Earth Kingdom are where most of the episodes are set and where most of the action in the story takes place. Along the way, numerous characters are introduced who start out small but in later episodes and seasons become more significant players in the overall storylines. The most important of these characters is Toph, a 12-year old blind girl who is also a master Earthbender. Shortly after her introduction, she becomes the Earthbending teacher to the main character, Aang.
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