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The Southern Water Tribe raids were a series of incursions by the Fire Nation military forces on the Southern Water Tribe during the Hundred Year War. They had the long-term strategic goal of eliminating all waterbenders in the Southern Water Tribe, as well as decimating its population. The raids appeared to be a victory for the Fire Nation with the death of Kya, who was thought to be the last waterbender. However, Kya had lied about her identity in order to safeguard her daughter Katara who would prove to be instrumental in ending the Great War.

History[]

The Southern Water Tribe was founded by separatists of Northern Water Tribe descent. Unlike its sister tribe in the north, the Southern Water Tribe was split into numerous quasi-independent sub-tribes,[4] and remained much weaker in economic and military terms. It lacked a powerful navy, and was technologically outpaced by the rest of the world for a long period of time.[5] Regardless, it had a significant population including a substantial number of talented waterbenders, and had reached a period of relative prosperity in the decades before the beginning of the Hundred Year War.[6][7] It possessed several fortified cities protected by thick walls of ice; these served as centers for the South's sub-tribes.[1][8]

In 0 AG, Fire Lord Sozin, planning to conquer the entire world, launched a war on the other nations, which became known as the Hundred Year War.[9][10] Using the power of Sozin's Comet, the Fire Nation military assaulted the Water Tribes at the same time as invading the Earth Kingdom and destroying the Air Nomads. The Southern Water Tribe endured these first assaults.[11] Along with the fleet of the Northern Water Tribe, the Southern Tribe's naval forces consequently began to fight the Fire Navy. However, the latter defeated the Water Tribes' navies in a series of massive battles, leaving the South Pole open to attacks.[12]

As the South Pole was less strategically important to the Fire Nation, with limited resources and only a small population, Fire Lord Azulon, Sozin's successor, came to the conclusion that eliminating waterbenders would be the best strategy, as this would prevent larger participation in the Hundred Year War, reducing resistance against the Fire Nation in the Earth Kingdom.[3][13][14] Furthermore, the Fire Nation leadership was unsure whether the Avatar might had been killed in the Air Nomad Genocide; in this case, the next Avatar would have been born among the Water Tribes. Thus, attacks on the Southern Tribe were also intended as an "insurance policy" to look out for a potential Water Tribe Avatar.[15]

The Fire Nation did not intend to defeat the Southern Water Tribe in one great battle, as it was not necessary and would waste resources that could be used elsewhere. Their goals could be achieved more effectively and with less loss of life through a series of short raids that prevented a coordinated counterattack. To this end, and taking advantage of their proximity to the tribe, the Fire Nation sent a number of naval forces south.[13][14]

Raids[]

Early raids[]

The first raids of Azulon's reign began before 40 AG. The raids first occurred on an ordinary day in the Southern Water Tribe, when no attacks by the Fire Nation had been anticipated by the local populace. The people were tending to their normal activities when a large force of Fire Nation Navy warships appeared on the shores of the South Pole.[1] These ships bombarded the many cities and villages scattered across the South Pole,[8] forcing the unprepared waterbenders and nonbending warriors to defend their tribe.[1]

Waterbenders wreck ship

Southern Water Tribe waterbenders neutralized many Fire Nation cruisers in course of the raids.

In the course of the following years, the waterbenders and nonbending tribesmen put up a valiant fight against the firebenders and were successful in sinking or trapping several of their warships,[1] including one that later became a famous landmark simply known as the "Shipwreck".[1][16] The difficult natural conditions of the South Pole also resulted in losses for the Fire Nation, as numerous warships ran aground or were trapped in its treacherous, icy waters.[17] However, the Southerners were outnumbered and outgunned, as the Fire Nation troops often overwhelmed their defenses, killing many waterbenders, warriors and civilians. The Fire Navy soldiers also used special tactics to trap and arrest the waterbenders.[1]

Despite the suffering and destruction caused by the Fire Nation attacks, not all contacts during the raids ended in hostility. In a few cases, people of the Southern Tribe and Fire Nationals even reached an understanding. However, such interactions were regarded with horror by most Southerners; for example one tribeswoman, Gayu, was shunned by her people after becoming romantically involved with a Fire Nation soldier.[18]

Over time, most cities in the South Pole were destroyed or abandoned.[8] In at least one case, the inhabitants of a settlement which suffered from the early raids decided to abandon their old home entirely. This group, led by a scout named Mamnguqsualuq, relocated into an underground ice cave system where they built a new, secret settlement. Few in the South Pole knew of the survival of Mamnguqsualuq's people, instead attributing "moving apparitions" at the caves to dark spirits. From time to time, however, the settlement would accept other Southern refugees after testing whether they were trustworthy.[19]

The Northern Water Tribe was informed to the dwindling fortunes of their southern bethren, but opted not to intervene, as they were also weakened in military terms and instead built up their own defenses.[3] The two tribes completely lost contact to one another around 50 AG.[20]

Later raids[]

Fire Nation surrounds young Hama

Wolf Cove's last waterbending defender, Hama, only surrendered when faced with overwhelming odds.

Eventually, a special task force, the Southern Raiders, was created by the Fire Nation for the sole purpose of hunting down and killing the remaining waterbenders of the Southern Water Tribe.[13][21] Ultimately, all of the known waterbenders were captured or killed by the Fire Navy and Southern Raiders, and the Southern Water Tribe was left in ruins.[20][21] At Wolf Cove, a settlement which had served as de facto capital of the Southern Tribe, the last waterbending defender was Hama who surrendered after being left alone to fight an entire force of firebenders.[1] A few waterbenders were able to survive by concealing their abilities.[22] Others, alongside contingents of nonbending warriors, travelled to the Earth Kingdom in hopes of making a greater difference in the war effort.[21]

With almost all waterbenders and most adult warriors dead, imprisoned or abroad, the remaining people of the South were left to fend for themselves. Without any sufficient means of defense, they barely controlled their own waters, which were patrolled by the Fire Navy and Southern Raiders.[1][20][21][19]

All captured waterbenders were subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment in maximum security prisons, where they were denied water except for drinking. A special prison to contain the waterbenders was constructed on a remote Fire Island.[3][19] The only known prisoner to escape was Hama, who did so using a new technique called bloodbending; she would later dedicate her life to exacting revenge on the nation that destroyed her tribe through the continued use of bloodbending during the full moon. Hiding in a Fire Nation village, she terrorized the locals for many years.[1] Even though rumours of Hama's escape and horrifying abilities spread among Fire Nation citizens, the Fire Lord's government officially denied that any waterbenders had escaped confinment and declared bloodbending or similar techniques to be impossible.[19]

The last Southern waterbenders[]

By the late Hundred Year War, nearly all Southern waterbenders were either dead or captured.[1][13][23] A few, such as Teek,[24] and Kahola had survived the raids by living in exile.[18] Others went into hiding. For instance, when two waterbenders, Siku and Sura, were born among one small tribal group, their family feared that their abilities made them a target for the Fire Nation. As result, Siku and Sura were forbidden to openly use waterbending, and their small tribe settled deep in the South Pole's interior to avoid detection.[25]

As a result of these developments, it was eventually believed that just one waterbender was left in the South: Katara, born to a minor chief, Hakoda, and his wife Kya in 85 AG. As the last locally known waterbender, Katara was a source of hope for her ailing tribe, despite her inexperience with the powerful art. Hakoda attempted to find a master for her, but his efforts ended in failure.[23] The Southern Raiders's commander, Yon Rha, was eventually informed by unidentified "sources" that one last waterbender still lived in Wolf Cove, the home of Hakoda's sub-tribe. To ensure that this waterbender could not impede the war effort, he launched a raid with the sole purpose of killing the waterbender.[13]

The final raid[]

Final raid

The Southern Raiders attacked Wolf Cove in 94 AG.

The raid occurred in 94 AG and targeted Wolf Cove; people saw snow mixed with soot beginning to fall from the sky, the now well-known sign of a Fire Nation attack. Southern Raider ships landed on the shores and the residents of Wolf Cove prepared for battle. While Sokka joined the fight alongside his father, Katara ran for her mother. Upon arrival, the Southern Raiders charged at the outnumbered and outmatched warriors, who were led by Hakoda. Despite their disadvantage, the warriors managed to defeat many of the Raiders with little effort, but this was only a diversion so that Yon Rha could infiltrate the village in order to hunt down the waterbender.

Katara ran into her family's igloo to find that her mother, Kya, was being held hostage by Yon Rha. He was interrogating her on the waterbender's identity. Kya insisted that Yon Rha let Katara go. Katara was reluctant as she feared for her mother's safety, but fled when Kya reassured her that everything would be okay.

Kya, Yon Rha and young Katara

Katara saw her mother being interrogated by Yon Rha.

When Katara left, Yon Rha once again demanded to know who was the waterbender. Kya stated that there were no waterbenders, as they had all been captured in earlier raids. Yon Rha shot her down, saying that he was fully aware that one waterbender was still left, and that they would not leave until they found her. However, Yon Rha did not catch on to the fact that Katara was the waterbender, so Kya turned herself in as the last waterbender in order to protect her daughter. She agreed to be taken prisoner, but Yon Rha was not taking any prisoners this time, so he killed Kya with firebending, and fled back to his unit. Katara ran to her father for help, and she and Hakoda rushed back to the igloo to save Kya. By the time they reached her, she was dead and Yon Rha was gone. The Southern Raiders retreated from Wolf Cove, confident that they had achieved victory.[13] Upon being informed of Kya's death, Azulon officially ended the raids, convinced that the Southern Water Tribe no longer posed a threat.[3] However, Fire Navy detachements would continue to sporadically harass the Southerners and scout for the reemergence of potentially dangerous Southern groups.[17]

Aftermath and significance[]

Immediate impact[]

Southern Water Tribe village

Facing near extinction, the Southern Water Tribe was reduced to a collection of small villages.

The raids, particularly the earlier attacks, were very successful, depleting the Southern Water Tribe of most of their waterbending warriors. The final raid, however, conducted to kill the last remaining waterbender, inadvertently became a strategic failure, as Katara survived the assault and grew up to be one of the most powerful waterbenders in the world. She played a pivotal role in the demise of the Fire Nation,[13] discovering the long-lost Avatar, Aang, six years after the raid[26] and preventing Fire Lord Ozai's chosen heir, Azula, from claiming the throne by defeating her in battle.[27]

Kya's death had a severe impact on her family: Hakoda and the last remaining adult warriors left his tribe for the Earth Kingdom in an effort to contribute to ending the war. This left Sokka in charge of Wolf Cove,[28] while Katara handled becoming the mother figure that the village had lost.[29]

The raids effectively constituted a genocide.[15] Apart from eliminating many of the Southern waterbenders, much of their culture was destroyed as well. The South fell out of balance with the spirits, causing the disappearance of the southern lights and the formation of the Everstorm.[30] A few Southerners like Kerlungner and Thod devoted themselves to preserving whatever was left of their culture, collecting stories and traditions as they travelled the South Pole.[17][31]

Long-term effects[]

Following the conclusion of the Great War, the Southern Water Tribe began to rebuild with support of its Northern counterpart, culminating in the Southern Reconstruction Project. In addition, many of the smaller sub-tribes which had gone into hiding restored contact with the other groups in the South Pole.[25] The Fire Nation also freed the few surviving Southern waterbanders in its prisons; many of these were deeply traumatized, and had difficulties adjusting to a changed world.[19] In addition, the South's spiritual decay would continue for decades after the conclusion of the Hundred Year War, even as its people had grown prosperous once more.[30]

The new Fire Nation government began to pay reparations to the Southern Water Tribe, and Fire Lord Zuko was quick to agree that the Fire Nation would contribute to the Southern Reconstruction Project.[32] These efforts continued for decades, into the reign of his daughter and heir, Fire Lord Izumi. Fire Nation scholars worked with their counterparts from the Southern Water Tribe to build a traveling showcase of tribal history to celebrate it throughout the world.[33]

Ultimately, the raids contributed to the Northern and Southern Water Tribes drifting apart, as many Southerners would continue to accuse the North of having abandoned them in their time of greatest need. In the end, the South's culture was deeply affected and changed by the raids; transformed by its near-extinction and subsequent cultural renaissance as well as new industrial growth, the Southerners developed a strong sense of distinct nationhood.[34] This contributed to the Water Tribe Civil War and full independence of the South in 171 AG.[35]

Notes[]

  1. According to Hama, the raids began "over sixty years" before 100 AG.[1] According to unverified information by the Avatar: The Last Airbender YouTube channel, the raids began in 35 AG.[2] Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game stated that the raids began "forty years into the war".[3]

Appearances[]

Avatar: The Last Airbender[]

Book Three: Fire (火)[]

Trivia[]

  • Hama stated that the raids started in 40 AG and that the Southern waterbenders stranded a Fire Nation cruiser during one of the first raids,[1] a ship that, according to Katara, had been haunting Kanna ever since she was a little girl.[26] However, Kanna was born in the Northern Water Tribe and only came to the South Pole as a teenager.[36]

References[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Hedrick, Tim (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (November 9, 2007). "The Puppetmaster". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 8. Nickelodeon.
  2. Complete Timeline of the Hundred Year War! 🔥 Sozin ➡️ Ozai - Avatar. Avatar: The Last Airbender (YouTube channel) (November 28, 2020). Retrieved on November 29, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 58.
  4. The Lost Scrolls: Water, page 27 of The Lost Scrolls Collection.
  5. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter Seventeen, "Obligations". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  6. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 44.
  7. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 52.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang - Location: Southern Water Tribe.
  9. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Legacy of the Fire Nation, page 9.
  10. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Legacy, page 11, The Hundred Year War.
  11. The Lost Scrolls: Water, Section "Introduction", in The Lost Scrolls Collection.
  12. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Quickstart, Version 1.0, 2021, p. 5.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 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; Konietzko, Bryan & Ehasz, Aaron (September 19, 2006). "The Waterbending Master" commentary. Book 1: Water, Volume 5 DVD.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Basco, Dante (host), Varney, Janet (host), DiMartino, Michael (guest), Konietzko, Bryan (guest). (January 16, 2024). "Secrets from the Vault: Zuko's Scar & Darker Themes from the Avatarverse". Avatar: Braving the Elements. Episode 101.5. Apple Podcasts.
  16. From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang - Location: Ironclad Fire Navy ship.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 265.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Starter Set, Kahola the Successor playbook.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 61.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 56.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 60.
  22. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 57.
  23. 23.0 23.1 From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang - Character: Hakoda.
  24. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Quickstart, Version 1.0, 2021, p. 38.
  25. 25.0 25.1 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). North and South Part Two (January 25, 2017), Dark Horse Comics.
  26. 26.0 26.1 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.
  27. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (July 19, 2008). "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 21. Nickelodeon.
  28. Wilcox, Ian (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (October 7, 2005). "Bato of the Water Tribe". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 15. Nickelodeon.
  29. Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 2, 2007). "The Runaway". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 7. Nickelodeon.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Graham, Ian (director). (September 13, 2013). "The Southern Lights". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.
  31. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). North and South Part One (September 27, 2016), Dark Horse Comics.
  32. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). North and South Part Three (April 26, 2017), Dark Horse Comics.
  33. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 89.
  34. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 72.
  35. DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Graham, Ian (director). (November 22, 2013). "Light in the Dark". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 14. Nickelodeon.
  36. DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Volpe, Giancarlo (director). (November 18, 2005). "The Waterbending Master". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 1. Episode 18. Nickelodeon.
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