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This article is about the battle. For the episodes in which the battle took place, see "The Siege of the North, Part 1" and "The Siege of the North, Part 2".

The Siege of the North was a massive battle fought for the city of Agna Qel'a between the Northern Water Tribe and the Fire Nation at the North Pole in 100 AG. The Northern Water Tribe forces, led by Chief Arnook and Avatar Aang, defended the tribe's civilization from the besieging navy and infantry of the Fire Nation, led by Admiral Zhao. Thanks mainly to Avatar Aang and La, the ocean spirit, the battle ended in a humiliating defeat for the Fire Nation, and a vital strategic victory for the Water Tribe and, to a lesser extent, the Earth Kingdom. The outcome of the battle greatly contributed to Iroh and Prince Zuko's becoming Fire Nation fugitives.[3]


In the early Hundred Year War, the Fire Navy heavily defeated the navies of the two Water Tribes.[4] Left more vulnerable, the North subsequently focused on self-defense.[1][5] Many of the rural sub-tribes of the North Pole relocated to Agna Qel'a for safety.[6] With its population concentrated and its defenses improved, the Northern Water Tribe repelled at least one Fire Nation invasion during the early war. Afterward, Fire Nation attacks gradually reduced in number and eventually ceased.[1][5] Despite this, the Northern Tribe opted to self-isolate, largely removing itself from the war effort.[4][7]

In late 99 AG, Avatar Aang and his sky bison, Appa, were awoken by Sokka and Katara of the Southern Water Tribe from one hundred years of sleep within an iceberg.[8] After learning that Aang was the Avatar and telling him of the Hundred Year War waged by the Fire Nation, the four befriended one another and decided to travel to the Northern Water Tribe together to find Aang a waterbending master. As the Avatar, Aang had a duty to master the four elements, put an end to the Fire Nation invasion, and restore peace to the world.[9] After several months of traveling and evading Fire Nation pursuers across the Earth Kingdom, Aang and his friends reached the Northern Water Tribe's capital Agna Qel'a where he and Katara began instruction in advanced waterbending.[10]

The ambitious Admiral Zhao, in competition with the exiled Prince Zuko, tracked the Avatar across the Earth Kingdom. Discovering Aang's plans to master waterbending at the North Pole, Zhao amassed a huge invasion fleet and, in the footsteps of Fire Lord Sozin before him, sought to eliminate both the Water Tribe and the Avatar in a single blow.

Zhao, after discovering the identity of the treacherous Blue Spirit to be Zuko, secretly ordered his assassination. Unbeknownst to the admiral, Zuko survived and posed as a guard on the admiral's ship, accompanied by Iroh, who took up Zhao's offer to become his military adviser.[10]

Admiral Zhao revealed to Iroh that he had discovered the mortal identity of the Moon and Ocean Spirits years prior the siege, and intended to obtain victory over the Water Tribe by "removing the moon as a factor", as its power gave waterbenders the ability to bend and therefore defend their civilization.[1]


On a winter morning, Zhao and his Fire Nation Navy armada arrived at the gates of Agna Qel'a. Arriving in Empire-class battleships, Admiral Zhao and his fleet used trebuchets to launch a barrage of fiery projectiles in order to break through the city's icy front wall.

Fire Nation siege Northern Tribe

The Fire Nation siege forces quickly advanced into the city.

The Northern Water Tribe countered by freezing and destroying numerous Fire Nation ships. Zhao sent a single vessel to demolish the great ice walls defending the city, but this vessel was quickly disabled by Avatar Aang and the waterbenders. Aang decided to fly into battle against the warships, disabling at least a dozen before retreating into the city at sundown from exhaustion. Meanwhile, Chief Arnook organized a secret mission to eliminate Admiral Zhao by tasking his future son-in-law, Hahn, with boarding the Fire Nation's flagship and capturing or killing its commander. The effort turned out to be futile due to Hahn's incompetence.

After a day of heavy fire, Iroh advised Zhao to hold fire and resume the invasion the next day, due to the moon augmenting the waterbenders' abilities. After nightfall, Aang entered the Spirit World, seeking the aid of the Moon and Ocean Spirits. However, shortly after entering the Spirit World, Prince Zuko arrived at the Spirit Oasis, and, after defeating Katara, abducted the Avatar and ventured into the isolated tundra.

After daybreak arrived, Zhao resumed fire and, within minutes, managed to breach the outer gate of Agna Qel'a and deploy a massive number of infantry, cavalry, and tanks. The battle at this point seemed almost hopeless for the Northern Water Tribe with the Fire Nation advancing rapidly through their defenses.[1]

Water spout

Master Pakku warded off Fire Nation troops with a water spout.

On the night of the second day, however, the waterbenders launched their counterattack. Drawing power from the full moon, they advanced toward their enemy invaders and successfully began to destroy their foothold on the beachhead. Realizing the difficult situation, Zhao revealed his plan to kill the Moon Spirit in order to permanently render the waterbenders helpless.

Aang, meanwhile, had been rescued from Zuko by his friends and had learned the location of the Moon and Ocean Spirits. Upon returning to the Spirit Oasis, however, the team discovered that Zhao had captured the Moon Spirit from the koi pond, causing a lunar eclipse and rendering the waterbenders powerless as the Fire Nation charged. Zhao threatened to kill the Moon Spirit to which Aang and Iroh both warned the admiral that doing so would throw the entire world out of balance. Despite this, Zhao slew the Moon Spirit with a large blast of fire, removing the moon and stripping the waterbenders of their powers.

Koizilla destroys the Navy

Aang and the Ocean Spirit decimated the Fire Navy.

At this point, Iroh abandoned his allegiance to the Fire Nation and effortlessly struck down Zhao's men, driving Zhao away from the sacred pond. Aang subsequently entered the Avatar State and merged with the Ocean Spirit, who, in an act of revenge, single-handedly destroyed the invading forces and drove what was left of the Fire Nation fleet away and heavily damaged. Zhao himself was intercepted by Zuko, who wanted revenge for Zhao's previous attempt to murder him.

Initially, the two firebenders fought on equal terms, but Zuko eventually gained the upper hand and overwhelmed the admiral. Before their battle could be concluded, the Ocean Spirit, who had separated from Aang, dragged Zhao underneath the water. The Moon Spirit itself was revived by Princess Yue's sacrifice, restoring their bending powers. By this point, the few surviving Fire Nation warships abandoned the siege and retreated from the North Pole.[3]


Zhao's death

Admiral Zhao was taken by the Ocean Spirit.

In the end, the Northern Water Tribe achieved what appeared to be a Pyrrhic victory, having lost many civilians and large amounts of infrastructure. The leaders of the Northern Water Tribe decided to reestablish relations with their sister tribe and initiated plans to reunify the two tribes. This included sending a team of select healers and waterbenders to rebuild the ravaged Southern Water Tribe.[3]

Although a tremendous victory, the loss of Zhao's Fire Navy fleet was not enough to substantially affect the course of the war, and it was merely a few months after the battle that the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se fell to the enemy.[11] However, the success of this battle ensured that the Northern Water Tribe survived the remainder of the war, and that some members could later aid the Earth Kingdom.[12]

Although the loss of the invasion fleet was a huge blow to the Fire Nation, the Fire Navy still maintained its power and several key units remained operational, including the Southern Raiders[13] and the blockade defending the Fire Nation.[14]

Fire Lord Ozai was furious about the defeat. Blaming his brother Iroh for the siege's failure, and his son Zuko for being a failure, he sent his daughter, Princess Azula, to capture Iroh and Zuko.[3]

Admiral Zhao wound up being dragged into the Spirit World and placed in a prison known as the Fog of Lost Souls, where the fog spirit slowly drove him mad by trapping him in his own darkest memory.[2]


Avatar: The Last Airbender[]

Book One: Water (水)[]

Book Two: Earth (土)[]


  • The Siege of the North is similar to the subsequent invasion of the Fire Nation during the eclipse, in that both used a darkness that stripped the attacked nation of its bending. Furthermore, both attacks were repelled after the invaders had already penetrated the innermost center of the city.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 O'Bryan, John (writer) & MacMullan, Lauren (director). (December 2, 2005). "The Siege of the North, Part 1". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 19. Nickelodeon.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Heck, Colin (director). (November 22, 2013). "Darkness Falls". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 13. Nickelodeon.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Ehasz, Aaron (writer) & Filoni, Dave (director). (December 2, 2005). "The Siege of the North, Part 2". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 20. Nickelodeon.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Quickstart, Version 1.0, 2021, p. 5.
  5. 5.0 5.1 From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang.
  6. Basco, Dante (host), Varney, Janet (host), DiMartino, Michael Dante (guest), Konietzko, Bryan (guest). (May 3, 2022). "Book Two: Earth!". Avatar: Braving the Elements. Episode 47. iHeartRadio.
  7. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Wan Shi Tong's Adventure Guide, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 136.
  8. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Filoni, Dave (director). (February 21, 2005). "The Boy in the Iceberg". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 1. Nickelodeon.
  9. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Filoni, Dave (director). (February 21, 2005). "The Avatar Returns". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.
  10. 10.0 10.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 18, 2005). "The Waterbending Master". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 18. Nickelodeon.
  11. Ehasz, Aaron (writer) & DiMartino, Michael Dante (director). (December 1, 2006). "The Crossroads of Destiny". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 20. Nickelodeon.
  12. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (July 19, 2008). "Sozin's Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 20. Nickelodeon.
  13. Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (July 17, 2008). "The Southern Raiders". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 16. Nickelodeon.
  14. 14.0 14.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 30, 2007). "The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 10. Nickelodeon.