- This page is about the character. For the episode, see "The Deserter".
|"Fire brings only destruction and pain. It forces those of us burdened with its care to walk a razor's edge between humanity and savagery. Eventually, we are torn apart."|
|— Jeong Jeong to Katara.|
Jeong Jeong, also known as The Deserter, was a strong, enlightened, yet embittered firebending master who witnessed firsthand the hardships of the Hundred Year War. Once an honored admiral of the Fire Nation Navy, he became disillusioned with his nation and firebending as a whole and defected from the military, the first to do so and live to tell the tale. Because of this, he came to be known as "The Deserter" and was regarded as a legend. He relocated to the Earth Kingdom, where he encountered a small tribe who became his travel companions. As a member of the Order of the White Lotus, he aided in the liberation of Ba Sing Se.
Early life, career, and desertion
From a young age, Jeong Jeong was recognized by his teachers as a firebending prodigy, and through diligent study and practice, he became a master in his teenage years. He eventually joined the navy and taught firebending to young soldiers, one of whom was Zhao. The future Admiral, however, did not acknowledge the dangers of firebending, concerning himself only with using the art to destroy his opponents and neglecting to learn the discipline that came with it. After many years of watching his students wage war and cause destruction, Jeong Jeong began to question his own teachings.
Ten years before he met Avatar Aang, Jeong Jeong deserted the Fire Nation Navy and vowed never to teach firebending again. Under constant pursuit by the military, he was forced to move from place-to-place, never settling in one area for more than a season. Years after his defection, Jeong Jeong came in contact with a tribe in the northwestern Earth Kingdom, and was declared a living god. They offered him residence at a small camp, where he stayed during the winter.
Aang's firebending master
When Aang was brought by Chey to Jeong Jeong's camp in order to learn firebending, Jeong Jeong was furious, since it was clear to him that Aang was not interested in learning discipline, and had not learned waterbending or earthbending. He said that because Aang had not learned how to master these elements, he lacked the disciplinary principles which would aid him in controlling the power of firebending, and thus refused to even see him. Defiantly, Aang sought out Jeong Jeong in a small hut, where he was meditating surrounded by candles sitting before a dead tree.
Jeong Jeong reiterated his refusal and remarked on Aang's lack of discipline, referring to him as too weak. As soon as he said that, the flames of the candles around him flared intensely before extinguishing completely, and the master had a vision where he found himself sitting with only one candle lit in front of him and the previously dead tree behind him now in bloom. Avatar Roku appeared before him where Aang had been previously sitting and ask whether Jeong Jeong thought he was weak. After the deserter bowed in respect and immediately denied meaning that, Roku ordered him to teach the Avatar firebending. As Jeong Jeong reluctantly agreed, the vision ended, and he was back in his room with Aang, who was pleased to hear the old master's decision.
Jeong Jeong's teaching techniques rested heavily on discipline. Before he taught Aang how to firebend, he made Aang train using several techniques, hoping the young Avatar could avoid hurting anyone. Jeong Jeong instructed Aang to do breathing exercises for several hours, however, Aang quickly became impatient. The Avatar's impatience greatly angered the master, who used Zhao, his former student, as an example of what could happen to one who did not learn the discipline associated with firebending. Aang quickly apologized and said that he was ready to comply with Jeong Jeong's orders.
Jeong Jeong proceeded to instruct Aang in actual firebending, much to Aang's excitement. He was disappointed, however, when Jeong Jeong assigned him the simple task of preventing a leaf from being completely burned. Jeong Jeong returned to find Katara's hands burnt because Aang attempted firebending on his own, and watched as she healed her burns. He informed Katara about her newfound skill and stated that healing is his preferred ability over a "burning curse". Shortly thereafter, Zhao and his men sailed up river toward Jeong Jeong's encampment in pursuit of the Avatar. Zhao was instead confronted by Jeong Jeong, who raised a wall of fire that stretched from the clearing of the riverbanks and across the river itself. The ships' progress was hindered; however, Zhao, aware of his former masters' reluctance to fight, was not deterred and simply walked through the wall of flames.
Jeong Jeong dissipated the wall completely, leaving no trace of wild fire to spread and harm the surrounding environment. Aang subsequently arrived at the scene, and with a grin, Jeong Jeong conjured up an immense mass of flames and disappeared, leaving Aang to deal with Zhao and his men.
Liberation of Ba Sing Se
Before the liberation of Ba Sing Se, Jeong Jeong answered the call of Grand Lotus Iroh and gathered at the White Lotus camp in preparation of the upcoming battle. When Sozin's Comet arrived, Jeong Jeong used the power of comet to increase his firebending and fend off multiple tundra tanks that were attempting to defend the city.
Although Jeong Jeong was a firebending master, he had conflicted feelings about the bending art, referring to it as a "burning curse". He admitted in a conversation with Katara that he had always wished that he was a waterbender, since water is considered the element of healing, whereas firebending "brings only destruction and pain". His bitterness over his own ability was repeatedly demonstrated by his behavior and character. Rarely smiling, Jeong Jeong preferred to be alone in order to not harm others, but also because he seemed disappointed with the world. As an enlightened and embittered man, he often meditated alone and in the darkness, reflecting his dark view of the world and his firebending. He believed he could suppress his "burning curse" in this way.
However, in contrast, he referred to the sun as the greatest source of fire as it is in perfect harmony with nature. Jeong Jeong's technique seemed to reflect this quality by being both overwhelmingly powerful and non-destructive.
Prior to the start of the liberation of Ba Sing Se, Jeong Jeong seemed more at peace with himself and the world.
Jeong Jeong was a master firebender, a former prodigy who was later recognized throughout the Fire Nation as a genius in its usage. However, his approach to fighting was conservative, as he preferred to use the defensive side of his bending. He believed firebending to be a curse, a dangerous power that, generally, only causes destruction; thus, his style emphasized self-control, precision, and patience. His teachings to Aang demonstrated his philosophy of discipline, for Jeong Jeong believed that many firebenders, such as Fire Lord Ozai and Admiral Zhao, drew all of their power from their anger and thus easily lost control of the flames. His own style was focused on slow development and constant return to the basics, which he made a point to impart to Aang. Nonetheless, Jeong Jeong demonstrated later that this attitude does not equate with weak or unsure firebending, but rather the opposite.
Jeong Jeong was particularly adept at the creation of walls of fire and large blasts. He first used the former to fend off Zhao's river boats, controlling the wall so precisely the flames could burn on water, as well as not endanger the nature of the surrounding area. Subsequently, he created a ball of fire that fended off four simultaneous fire blasts, and provided a distraction for him to flee. Later on, he protected Team Avatar without Aang with a large wall of fire. During the battle for Ba Sing Se, Jeong Jeong's control of firebending became apparent once more when he created several fire walls that forced the surrounding tundra tanks back without causing them to melt. This ability corresponded with his belief that firebending can be dangerous if not controlled. His approach also showed a similar aspect with the waterbending he seemed to envy, his fire walls resembling natural tidal waves.
With Sozin's Comet enhancing his firebending, Jeong Jeong was able to keep himself suspended in the air by extending a jet of fire below his feet. His technique was different from Ozai's in that Jeong Jeong seemed to levitate rather than fly, and could execute other large firebending techniques without needing to land or cut off his propulsion.
Jeong Jeong's master firebending ultimately stemmed from his keen and experienced mind, as he was able to tell just from looking that Aang had not mastered waterbending and earthbending, thus making him unready to learn firebending. Better defined by his love for nature and acceptance of other cultures, Jeong Jeong had also achieved enlightenment, and was in tune with spirituality, much like Iroh. He demonstrated this attitude when he reluctantly obeyed Avatar Roku, who appeared to him in a vision, after being asked to teach Aang firebending.
- He was revealed to be a member of the Order of the White Lotus, despite never showing or hinting toward any affiliation to the organization, or even to the game Pai Sho.
- Jeong Jeong had a more negative view of firebending than other characters, such as the Sun Warriors, although they shared the belief that firebending must not be fueled by anger.
- Jeong Jeong was based on Jeong Jeong-gyun, the CEO of DR Movie, the animation studio which worked on his debut episode.
- Jeong Jeong was originally from the navy, as suggested by his Fire Nation wanted poster; the Chinese characters state that he was an ex-admiral.
- Jeong Jeong was not featured in The Last Airbender.
- Jeong Jeong's original objection to teaching Aang firebending elaborated on the reason why the Avatar must master the elements in a certain order, first referenced by Katara, stating that Aang lacked the stable and firm control of earthbending, and also did not present the calm, smooth, and flowing skill demanded by waterbending.
- Jeong Jeong bore a strong resemblance to Colonel Kurtz in Ford Copolla's 1979 film Apocalypse Now, as he was a deserter apparently dissatisfied with the Fire Nation's policies and the war. He was also protected by natives and is in the company of another deserter Chey, who also bore a strong resemblance to the photojournalist who accompanies Colonel Kurtz.
- Jeong Jeong used a metaphor of a fish in order to tell Aang he does not know his own destiny. This metaphor is based on a quotation of Albert Einstein: "What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life?" Also of note, Jeong Jeong mentions in his metaphor that "the fish which lives its whole life in a river cannot imagine the ocean", which is reminiscent of the Chinese proverb "a frog at the bottom of a well cannot conceive the ocean".
- Jeong Jeong's name was misspelled as "Joeng Joeng" in the Avatar Extras commentary for "Sozin's Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno".
- While at the Western Air Temple, intent on having Aang master the four elements and defeat Ozai, Team Avatar discussed the necessity of finding a new firebending teacher. Katara suggested the possibility of finding Jeong Jeong, though Aang remained doubtful, replying, "Yeah right. Like we'll ever run into Jeong Jeong again."
Unknown, eventually Rangi
|Avatar's firebending master