- This article is about the Fire Nation organization. For the chapter from The Shadow of Kyoshi, see "The Fire Sage".
|"We are the Fire Sages, guardians of the temple of the Avatar."|
|— The Fire Sages introducing themselves to Team Avatar.|
The Fire Sages are an organization that serves as the religious authority of the Fire Nation and is responsible for identifying the Avatar's incarnation when he or she is born in the Fire Nation. Their additional duties include guarding the temple and conducting coronations, weddings, and funerals for the Royal Family and for those who seek their spiritual advice.
The primary headquarters of the Fire Sages is the High Temple, located in the Fire Nation Capital. Below this building are the Dragonbone Catacombs, which store the history of the Fire Nation and its Fire Lords. The group also oversaw and maintained an important temple located on the remote Crescent Island prior to its destruction in the last months of the Hundred Year War, as well as many other lesser temples housed by sages and monks across the Fire Nation.
Thousands of years prior to the Hundred Year War, a group of Bhanti sages ventured off their remote island into an archipelago known as the "Fire Islands". Although these islands were engulfed in constant warfare, the Bhanti settled down and became known as the "Fire Sages". Eventually, a head sage assembled an army and defeated the warlords who ruled the Fire Islands. He unified the archipelago and his high level of firebending and deep spiritual connection to fire earned him the moniker of Fire Lord.
The Fire Sages initially ruled the newly unified Fire Nation alongside the Fire Lord, who was considered to be first among equals. They formed a council and led the Fire Nation with a strong sense of spirituality, similar to the Air Nomads. Over time, however, control of the nation's political and governmental structures moved from the sages to the Fire Lord, eventually leading the Fire Lord to sever ties with the Fire Sages and become the autocratic leader of the Fire Nation. This resulted in the loss of the sages' political power, and their loyalty eventually turned from the Fire Lord to the Avatar, aiding him or her in their journey to become a fully realized Avatar.
Involvement in politics during the eras of Kuruk and Kyoshi
Nyahitha was a Bhanti Fire Sage who served as a spiritual guide to Avatar Kuruk. He was a leader in the High Temple, but the powerful Saowon clan interfered with the selection process. The uncle of the clan's leader became the new High Sage, while Nyahitha became a charlatan fortuneteller in North Chung-Ling.
The fact that the Saowon clan had influence over the Fire Nation's religious authority added to their power. Fire Lord Chaeryu sent his illegitimate son Chaejin to the Fire Sages after excluding him from the royal family. Following Chaeryu's death, Chaejin was invited to court as the High Temple's liaison, which put him in a position to rival his legitimate half-brother, Zoryu. Taken together with the then-High Sage being of Saowon origin, this meant that the Fire Sages factually supported Chaejin during the Camellia-Peony War. Following the end of the conflict and the Saowon clan's fall from grace, many of the sages became potential targets for extreme scrutiny.
In 66 BG, during Roku and Sozin's birthday party, the Fire Sages announced the identity of the next Avatar, who was revealed to be Roku. Fire Sage Kaja later assisted Avatar Roku in his mastering of the Avatar State, training with him for five months which lead to Roku eventually forcing himself into the Avatar State by using the summer solstice sun. Roku became stuck in the Avatar State and ended up destroying the upper half of the Crescent Island Fire Temple and causing the nearby volcano to erupt, but Kaja was able to help Roku out of the Avatar State in the same way that Roku had triggered it. The activation of the volcano triggered a period of seismic instability across the eastern Fire Islands, and the Fire Sages feared that it would be only a matter of time before the volcano erupted again.
When the Dragon Hunts began, the Fire Sages struggled with the murder of ancient creatures who had such a deep connection to firebending. The ethical hunts caused numerous debates between the nobility, who embraced the blood sport voraciously, and the cautious spiritual leaders of the Fire Nation. During this time, one Fire Sage named Bu Kujian became aware of other sages and officers in the Fire Nation military planning to seek out the Spirit Library to ransack it for any ancient plans of ancient war machines and weapons. Bu Kujian tried to stop them subtly, but every effort failed, and he began to grow terribly worried about what would happen if the plans fell into his nation's military leadership. He hired a team to escort him to the library to try to get their first, planning to burn the most dangerous records and knowledge within, even if it brought down the wrath of Wan Shi Tong.
After Avatar Roku died, Fire Lord Sozin began the Hundred Year War with an attack on the Air Nomads. The Fire Lord set forth a decree that anyone who helped the Avatar would be considered a traitor to the Fire Nation and dealt with accordingly. Because of this, the Fire Sages were ordered to switch their allegiance to the Fire Lord. Some, such as Shyu's father, resisted and were executed for continuing to profess loyalty to the Avatar.
Over time, as the Avatar failed to reappear, most sages lost faith that the Avatar would return and gradually fell completely under the control of the imperial government. By the time of Fire Lord Azulon's reign, the sages had become little more than aging remnants of a time where spirituality was placed before military might. By Azulon's late reign, some sages were so oblivious to the wider world that they completely believed the Fire Nation's propaganda. Other sages knew the truth about the Fire Nation's imperialistic conquests and brutal war crimes thanks to the artifacts and documents they guarded. However, most well-informed sages actually considered it their duty to "protect" other citizens from this truth to ensure the government's ability to maintain total control of the country.
Despite these developments, Azulon maintained a little spirituality, thus allowing the Fire Sages to continue to perform their religious services. Besides regular activities like presiding over weddings, the sages sometimes even advised the Fire Lord in spiritual affairs and the arranging of the Fire Princes' marriages. Their prediction that pairing the Avatar's granddaughter with Azulon's son would yield a powerful bloodline even led to the marriage of Prince Ozai and Ursa. However, when Zuko was born to the Fire Prince, they were not sure if he was a bender at all, as he lacked the "spark in [his] eyes". Subsequently, Ozai planned to cast his firstborn over the palace wall, and the infant was only saved because the sages and Ursa came to his rescue.
Fire Lord Ozai's reign
The Fire Sages officiated the funeral of Fire Lord Azulon in 95 AG, with the High Sage subsequently crowning Ozai as Fire Lord. Unfortunately for the sages, Ozai was only interested in power, and unlike his father, he was not in the least spiritual. Following his coronation, they lost all their remaining power and influence.
By the time of Aang's reemergence from the iceberg, the Fire Sages had turned completely away from their original purpose. They learned of the Avatar's return when Aang's triggering of the Avatar State in the Southern Air Temple caused various statues and murals within Avatar Temples around the world to become supernaturally illuminated, and immediately relayed the news to Fire Lord Ozai.
Later, when Aang and his friends tried to enter the shrine on Crescent Island, the five sages there confronted Aang and attempted to prevent him from speaking with Avatar Roku, chasing the three around the entire temple. However, one sage, Shyu, had remained loyal to the Avatar. He betrayed his associates and helped the three trick the four other sages into opening the doors of the sanctuary that held Roku's statue. Once inside, Aang met with Avatar Roku and together, they destroyed the temple for the sages' betrayal of the previous Avatar. Afterward, all five sages were blamed by Commander Zhao for the upsetting failure and arrested.
The Fire Sages that resided in the capital were not purged, however, and continued to serve their functions for the Royal Family. After Ozai was made Phoenix King, the sages set out to coronate Azula as the next Fire Lord but were interrupted by the arrival of Zuko and Katara. Instead of finishing the coronation, they watched as Azula and Zuko fought an Agni Kai for the crown. Afterward, the sages conducted Zuko's coronation as Fire Lord.
Following the Hundred Year War, Fire Lord Zuko reformed the country to steer it away from its imperialistic past. Accordingly, he placed the traditionalist Shyu into the position of Great Sage of the High Temple, allowing the Fire Sages to regain their independence from the Fire Nation government.
- Chaejin - High Temple's liaison
- Bai - Fire Sage
- Bu Kujian - Fire Sage
- Kaja - Fire Sage
- Niuan - Fire Sage
- Nyahitha - Fire Sage
- Shyu - Fire Sage, later Great Sage
- Great Sage
- Uncle of Lady Huazo - High Sage
- At least for the sages on Crescent Island, some of their jobs are to watch over the sanctuary, protect it from invaders, and gather what knowledge they can about the Avatar.
- During funerals, at least some Fire Sages wear white clothes instead of their usual red garments. In Ancient China, white was the color of mourning and sadness.