|"For the South to grow strong again, all foreign presence must be eradicated, especially the North."|
|— Gilak about the Southern Reconstruction Project|
Gilak was a Southern Water Tribe warrior who traveled with Hakoda to fight the Fire Nation during the Hundred Year War. After his return to the South Pole, he fell out with Hakoda about the future of the tribe and tried to stop the Northern Water Tribe's restoration efforts, which he revealed to be initiated as a takeover. Though his uprising against North's influence failed and resulted in his death, Gilak's ideas took root among sections of the Southern Water Tribe's population and led to a lasting resentment against the North.
Gilak belonged to the small sub-tribe which was led by Chieftain Hakoda, and defended his village from an assault by the Southern Raiders in 94 AG. When Hakoda set out for the Earth Kingdom to continue fighting the Fire Nation there, Gilak was one of the warriors who accompanied him. He came to greatly respect his chieftain during this time, and saved his life on at least one occasion during a clash with Fire Nation forces on Whaletail Island. Having become aware of the structures of power that exist in the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation, Gilak deemed the lack thereof as the reason for why the Southern Water Tribe fell so easily to the latter.
Upon his return home after the war, he was informed that Hakoda was to be made head chief of the Southern Water Tribe as a whole, much to his delight. Gilak became distraught, however, as the Northern Water Tribe began to strongly influence the South through the Southern Reconstruction Project. He believed that the Southern Water Tribe was losing its identity, and was being reduced to a colony of the North. To his horror, Hakoda supported the Northern presence, causing him to increasingly question the Chief's leadership. As result, Gilak rallied a group of Southerners sympathetic to his ideas and formed an underground movement dedicated to ridden the South of all foreign influences, most importantly that of the North.
Uprising against the Northern Water Tribe's presence
Katara and Sokka met Gilak around 102 AG after chasing down the two thieves of Maliq's briefcase of documents, running into a group of Southerners hidden in a cave under the shipwreck. Gilak quickly explained to the siblings that he already knew of them and that he considered both them and Hakoda himself to be heroes. He also showed them what he referred to as "a gathering of patriots", which were all people who felt like the presence of Northerners in the Southern Water Tribe was unwanted. Becoming overly zealous in trying to convince Sokka and Katara to join their initiative, Gilak went as far as to put a knife to Sokka's throat in order to make them stay and keep the group's secrecy from the chief. However, he was quickly overpowered by Katara's waterbending, allowing the two to escape. Using a horn, Gilak rallied several warriors, ordering them to stop the siblings at all costs, but they managed to escape nonetheless.
Knowing that Sokka and Katara would tell their father of the undertaking, Gilak vacated the shipwreck, leaving a message carved into an ice wall for Hakoda, promising to show the chief the truth. Later that night, as the capital city hosted a festival in celebration of the Northerners partnership with Earthen Fire Industries, Gilak watched from a distance with his second-in-command, Thod, and his followers, as Hakoda readied the capital city's defenses for a frontal assault, which Gilak felt was his former comrade's predictable response.
Using a drilling machine, Gilak tunneled underneath the city and emerged in the middle of town square, where he revealed to the assembled crowd that Malina and Maliq were plotting to take control of the South for its oil in the name of the North, showing Maliq's briefcase, which contained documents verifying his accusations. Malina shamefully admitted that it was the original plan, as they had believed the South could not handle its oil fields responsibility, but insisted that she canceled the plan. However, Maliq publicly confessed that he never intended to go along with his sister's change of heart, and confirmed that Gilak spoke the truth, before ranting over how the South deserved to be controlled by the North, even labeling Gilak's tribal armor as "ridiculous". Malina managed to silence her brother before attempting to appease Gilak by canceling the Southern Reconstruction Project, and offered to leave the South the next morning. However, Gilak refused a peaceful compromise and ordered his warriors to attack the Northerners; Team Avatar intervened, defending the Northerners and allowing them to flee.
Gilak pursued Malina and Maliq to the city outskirts, where Thod's disciples cornered them. Malina again asked him to let them go, but Gilak refused. His warriors then cast a net over the pair and the two young warriors chi blocked Malina to prevent her from waterbending. Malina pleaded that her brother spoke out of turn and begged for Gilak's forgiveness. However, Gilak retorted that forgiveness between family is easy, but that Malina and Maliq were not truly part of the southern tribe. As he prepared to deliver the killing blow, declaring that their deaths would send a message to the rest of the world to think twice about dominating the South, Hakoda appeared and seized his hand.
Gilak learned from the Chief that he was well aware of the Northerners' original plan, but Malina changed her mind once she got to know her sister tribe. Gilak insisted it was a ruse to deceive them, but Hakoda reminded that Fire Lord Zuko was once their enemy but was now their fiercest ally, thus he believed people were capable of change. Enraged that the chief would not accept his view of the situation, Gilak declared Hakoda a traitor and attacked him, starting a brief duel that ended when his opponent injured his sword arm. Hakoda then tried to reason with Gilak, reminding him of their adventure on Whaletail Island, but Gilak proceeded to stab him in the stomach. Team Avatar soon arrived on the scene, and an enraged Katara encased Gilak in ice before attending to her father's wound while Avatar Aang subdued Gilak's remaining followers.
Attempted overthrow of Hakoda and death
Gilak was soon sent to prison, where a female officer named Lirin informed him that she heard his speech from the inmates. Admitting that his cause seemed just, she slipped him the key to his cell with his evening meal. Provided with the means to escape, Gilak initially remained at his cell, waiting for the ideal opportunity to escape. One night, he talked with another prison guard who informed him that Hakoda had convened an conference with Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei to discuss the South's future. Considering this to be the right time to strike, Gilak attempted to convince the prison guard to join him. When the latter refused, the old warrior used the key to open his cell's door and knocked out the guard. He then contacted Lirin, and freed his other supporters.
Having the element of surprise on their side, the nationalists attacked the international meeting. Storming into Hakoda's office, Gilak accused the Head Chieftain of selling out his people to foreigners before striking at the Fire Lord. In the confusing melee, the extremist warrior eventually cornered Hakoda who was protecting Kuei and Malina. Gilak informed his former friend that the recent events had shown that Hakoda was a traitor and too weak to lead the Southern Water Tribe. He then knocked out Hakoda, declaring that he was the true leader who could lead the South. Gilak then fled with the Head Chieftain, but was caught by Aang and Katara before he could get to safety. Though Hakoda was rescued, Gilak's followers had used the confusion to successfully kidnap the Earth King.
Gilak quickly sent a ransom note, offering to exchange Kuei for Hakoda, but only at the Bridge of No Return. It was believed that those who walked across it would never come back from the treacherous terrain on the other side. His other condition was that Team Avatar would allow Thod and his disciples chi block them, preventing them from fighting back or using their bending.
Gilak and his followers met Hakoda and Team Avatar on the bridge, and had Thod chi block them according to plan. He sent over the Earth King once the group had been subdued, but tried to cut the ropes of the bridge while Kuei and Hakoda were in the middle. He was stopped by Malina and Toph's metalbending students, who had set up an ambush and quickly knocked out Gilak's guards. Knowing that he had lost, Gilak stormed onto the bridge with his torching, planning to kill himself alongside Hakoda and Kuei. Declaring that he would not allow his former comrade to win, he set the bridge's rope on fire before being attacked by Malina. Despite Zuko extinguishing the fire, the rope had already weakened enough and snapped, sending the bridge and the people on it tumbling down. While Zuko managed to rescue the Earth King, Aang swooped in on his glider and caught Hakoda, who in turn held on to Malina, who was being used as a lifeline by Gilak. Refusing to surrender, Gilak stabbed at Malina and Hakoda, though the moment caused him to lose grip on Malina. Screaming in anger and shock, Gilak fell to his death in the ravine.
Even though Gilak had died, and his militant followers had been captured, his beliefs endured. Civil protests against the North's presence in the South continued in the time after his demise. Just as he had feared, the Southern Water Tribe was eventually subjugated under the North's leadership. Southern nationalism and separatism remained a major political force, however, and eventually contributed to the Water Tribe Civil War's outbreak in 171 AG.
Gilak was a proud and patriotic man, evidenced by his support of his own nation. He appeared to be loyal to his tribe, exhibited by his engagement in the war with Hakoda and the fact that he would do what he thought was best for the Southern Water Tribe. This also resulted in a fear of change instigated by foreign entities, such as the Northern Water Tribe. As time went on, this fear transformed into increasingly extreme hatred, further fueled by the revelation that the Northern Water Tribe had indeed planned to colonize the South. Faced with the possible subjugation of his homeland, Gilak became willing to do anything to prevent this outcome, including murdering his old friend Hakoda.
Gilak eventually came to the conclusion that he was the one destined to save his people. As the prospects of his cause declined, however, he became ever more vengeful and irrational, culminating in his attempt to kill Hakoda and other foreigners such as Earth King Kuei at all cost. Confronted with failure, Gilak resolved to sacrifice himself to ensure his enemies did not win, which ultimately led to his death.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book Three: Fire (火)
- 316. "The Southern Raiders" (flashback)
- North and South trilogy
- Gilak is the third known person to have attempted regicide, the first being Ozai and the second being Zaheer, though he is the only one to have failed in their attempt.
- Gilak is also the third known person to have attempted murder-suicide, the others being Tarrlok and Ghazan.
- In the first draft of North and South, Gilak's army were not Southern nationalists, but instead, were a religious cult that planned to bring about a Water Tribe Avatar as soon as possible to ensure the cultural survival of the South. The religious element was dropped and replaced for a more political motivation, given that Hakoda was a political leader.