|"Aang, you must actively shape your own destiny and the destiny of the world."|
|— Kuruk to Aang.|
Kuruk was the Water Tribe Avatar immediately succeeding Avatar Yangchen and preceding Avatar Kyoshi. Native to the Northern Water Tribe, he lived in a time of relative peace due to the decisive actions taken by his predecessor. Though gifted as a bender, he was brash and arrogant, always preferring to "go with the flow". Due to this attitude and his pompous demeanor, Kuruk lost his fiancée, Ummi, to Koh the Face Stealer, while the world experienced great upheavals and strife following his death.
Kuruk was born at the Northern Water Tribe in 345 BG. After being identified as the Avatar, he started to train the four bending arts and became good friends with three of his masters: Jianzhu, his earthbending teacher; Kelsang, his airbending teacher; and Hei-Ran, his firebending teacher. After mastering all bending arts, Kuruk intended to learn how to control the Avatar State. For this purpose, he and his three comrades travelled to a small, uninhabited island in order to not endanger anyone. Despite these precautions, Kuruk almost killed Jianzhu, Kelsang, and Hei-Ran and destroyed the entire island when he successfully tiggered the Avatar State for the first time. Afterward, the four started to travel the world, going on adventures.
Living in a world brought to peace and stability by his predecessor's tenacious efforts, Kuruk spent most of his days searching both the physical and Spirit World for worthy opponents to challenge in bending contests, usually for no reason other than entertainment and pleasure. He wrote journals on his experiences in the Spirit World. Kuruk liked to show off his bending ability to others, especially beautiful women, in grand displays. Kuruk airbent tornadoes filled with lotus flowers for young Air Nomad nuns, would challenge random Fire Nation citizens to Agni Kais, and engaged in boulder-lifting contests with earthbenders. His strength in sparring matches was considered legendary, and no bender was ever able to trump his abilities. He also had many, but usually brief, relationships with numerous women, earning a reputation as heartbreaker.
Overall, Kuruk was a "go with the flow" type of Avatar: The world's tranquility allowed him to step back from his responsibilities as the Avatar and let the four nations resolve their own conflicts. Jianzhu later mused that Kuruk had always been late to events and rarely taken things seriously. Kuruk was extremely serious about Pai Sho, however, a game in which he became an unrivalled master and developed extremely complex strategies untested up to that point.
After several adventures, Kuruk's group began to drift apart, and the friends split up in 316 AG. The Avatar resumed his travels, but after a few months unexpectedly turned up at Kelsang's home. To his friend's horror, Kuruk had a revelation: He had written a love poem for Hei-Ran, and intended to confess his feelings to her - just after the firebender had married Junsik, the love of her life. Realising that Kuruk's rash plan potentially threatened Hei-Ran's newly found happiness, Kelsang forced the Avatar to destroy the love poem. Just as Kelsang had expected at the time, Kuruk's feelings for Hei-Ran were indeed rather short-lived and quickly faded away.
Marriage and death
Never having even the slightest thought of settling down, Kuruk carried on with his casual way of life until the day he met his true love. At the New Moon Celebration, a festive meeting of the two Water Tribes, he met a woman named Ummi from the Southern Water Tribe. Kuruk fell in love with her at first sight and presented Ummi with a customary betrothal necklace shortly after their meeting, which she accepted. The two designated their marriage to be at the Spirit Oasis.
As they approached the altar on the night of their wedding, Ummi fell into the oasis, pulled in by an unseen force. She had been dragged to the Spirit World by Koh the Face Stealer, to punish Kuruk for his past arrogance. Every year, on the anniversary of their wedding, Kuruk traveled to the Spirit World in hopes of saving Ummi, but failed on every occasion. His attempts made Koh hold a grudge against the Avatar.
Kuruk died in 312 BG aged just 33. On his deathbed, he gathered his closest friends around him, urging them to find the next Avatar and "do right by them". Following his demise, the world slowly descended into chaos: the Earth Kingdom was destabilized by the Yellow Neck uprising and large-scale banditry, while pirate fleets grew in numbers and became bolder in their attacks. The usual methods to identify the Avatar failed, resulting in a futile search by Kuruk's former teachers and friends for seven years.
Existence after his death
Following his death, Kuruk's spirit continued to roam the Spirit World, searching for his wife. After an encounter with one of his successors, Aang, he eventually found Koh and would have slain him, were it not for his realization that the spirit had stolen Ummi's face and thus trapped her forever; he could not kill Koh without killing his wife in the process.
Appearances in Kyoshi's life
As adopted daughter of Kelsang, and servant to Yun who was initially believed to be Kuruk's successor, Kyoshi learned of him during her teenager years. She initially had a low opinion of him due to his irresponsible ways.
Kyoshi first heard Kuruk's voice, though just faintly, during a battle with the Fifth Nation pirates. The former Avatar complemented his successor's actions, telling her that she had done good. At the time, Kyoshi did not yet know that she was the Avatar, and was unsure about the voice's identity. Kuruk fully appeared to Kyoshi as reflection in a pool of water when she was meditating at the Southern Air Temple a few weeks later. His first act was to plead for her help.
Appearances in Aang's life
Aang first learned about Kuruk while he was in the Spirit World during the Siege of the North. Koh informed him that Aang had attempted to slay him in a previous life, though the spirit never specifically identified this man as Kuruk.
Aang finally learned Kuruk's name when he was in a coma after Azula's lightning attack in Ba Sing Se. When they met in the realm of Koh, Kuruk asked Aang if he had seen a beautiful woman with long, brown hair. Aang responded by inquiring about Kuruk's dilemma, at which point Kuruk proceeded to tell him his history as the Avatar. After the tale, Aang realized that during his encounter with Koh, one of the spirit's faces was that of the woman Kuruk had described. Heartened by the knowledge of his wife's whereabouts, Kuruk set off to track down Koh once again. However, as Avatar Yangchen had predicted, Aang retained no memory of this encounter.
Later, Avatar Aang meditated, contacting Kuruk so to ask how Fire Lord Ozai could be defeated without killing him. Kuruk told Aang to actively shape both his destiny and that of the world, as the former had failed to do so in his own life. It was Kuruk's own arrogance and inaction that had cost him his beloved wife, Ummi. Aang took this to mean that Kuruk, like the other Avatars, believed it was necessary to use lethal force in order to protect the world. However, Kuruk's answer was much more open to interpretation, since "actively shaping your destiny" could have various meanings, including Aang's decision to strip Ozai of his bending.
While Aang was trying to establish contact with Avatar Yangchen for a solution to the situation with General Old Iron, Kuruk appeared in a vision which represented Aang's restored connection to his past lives after restoring his link with Roku.
Appearances in Korra's life
Kuruk stood alongside all the other Avatars when Aang passed on the knowledge of energybending to Korra and restored her bending, representing the newly established connection she made to her spiritual self.
After Korra lost her memory, Kuruk appeared before her, taking over from Avatar Kyoshi, and informed the young Avatar that she would have to return to the beginning to find Raava and reconnect with her Avatar Spirit.
While Unalaq was attacking Raava, Korra envisioned Kuruk as part of the Avatar lineup, which she had seen prior to regaining her bending; however, his connection to Korra was severed due to Unalaq's assault on and subsequent destruction of the light spirit.
For much of his life, Kuruk was carefree, easygoing, and confident, and liked to display his great bending skills and power to impress others. In contrast, he had no affinity for issues related to his duties and responsibilites as Avatar which he usually tended to avoid. Impulsive by nature, he liked to say that "it was better to ask for forgiveness than wait for permission". Nevertheless, Kuruk was also extremely intelligent, and regarded as one of the best Pai Sho players who ever lived.
Following his meeting with Ummi, Kuruk became more serious, and intended to leave his irresponsible lifestyle behind. Her loss devastated him, resulting in him greatly regretting his past behavior for the rest of his life and beyond.
- Kuruk bore a physical resemblance to Hakoda as well as Roku's waterbending master.
- Kuruk's name is a palindrome, like Appa and Ikki.
- In the last episode of the first series, Kuruk was seen in Aang's vision before he entered the Avatar State.
- During his airbending training, Avatar Kuruk was seen with customized Air Nomad clothing that was similar to Aang's, but in varying shades of blue.
- Kuruk is the Pawnee Native American word for "bear", mimicking how Kuruk is frequently seen wearing an animal pelt resembling a bear-like creature over his head.
- Koh stated that Kuruk attempted to slay him some eight or nine centuries prior to the episode, but for that to have happened, he would have had to be older than his immediate successor, Avatar Kyoshi, who was the oldest Avatar in history.
- Kuruk's favorite mode of transportation was by sea, surfing on a raft using waterbending.
- Kuruk is, so far, the only known Avatar whose predecessor and successor were both women.
- Among all Avatars with a known lifespan, Kuruk lived for the shortest period of time. Ironically, his successor, Kyoshi, lived longer than any other Avatar.
- Kuruk was the most recent Avatar who did not have to deal with a large scale conflict during his time.
345 - 312 BG
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