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This article is about the character. For other similar uses, see Zuko (disambiguation).

Zuko is a firebending master, born as a prince in the Fire Nation Royal Family, who reigned as Fire Lord from 100 AG until his abdication in 167 AG. Originally the primary enemy of Team Avatar, Zuko devoted three years to trying to capture the long-lost Avatar to end his banishment and regain his honor as Crown Prince of the Fire Nation. He is recognizable by the distinctive burn scar on the left side of his face from his eyebrow to his cheek, which was given to him by his father, Fire Lord Ozai, shortly before his banishment as a result of an incident in which he unintentionally disrespected his father by speaking out of turn and refusing to duel him.[11]

With support from his paternal uncle, General Iroh, and after much internal struggle and turmoil, Zuko rejected Ozai and his model of the Fire Nation. He instead joined the Avatar's group to become Aang's lifelong friend and firebending mentor[12] and was determined to end the war and restore both his and the Fire Nation's honor.[13] While Aang defeated Ozai, Zuko, with the help of Katara, defeated his younger sister, Princess Azula, and took his place as Fire Lord, declaring the end of the Hundred Year War and the start of an era of love and peace.[9]

At the beginning of his reign, Zuko had to overcome great difficulties and solve several crises, especially those caused by the Harmony Restoration Movement[14] and the New Ozai Society.[15] Nevertheless, he succeeded in maintaining peace and eventually became one of the founders of the United Republic of Nations.[16] Zuko stepped down from his position as Fire Lord in 167 AG and became an ambassador of peace, relinquishing the throne to his daughter, Izumi.[7][17]

History

Early life

Born in 83 AG, Zuko was the firstborn child of Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa. From a young age, he was disdained by his father, an animosity that began shortly after the prince's birth. As the infant seemed to lack the "spark in [his] eyes" that is typical for most firebenders, the royal family was unsure if Zuko was a bender at all. Ozai, viewing a nonbender as firstborn as "shame", planned to cast his son over the palace walls. Only when Ursa and the Fire Sages intervened did the Fire Prince give his newborn son a chance.[18] Later on, it turned out that Zuko was a firebender, and peace returned to the young family.

Even as a three-year-old child, Zuko already displayed a strong sense of morality, as he wanted to save both the eagle hawk and the turtle crab.

Zuko's family made frequent vacations to Ember Island in the following years, and Zuko would later consider this time the only one when his family was "actually happy".[19] When he was three, Zuko saw an eagle hawk attacking a turtle crab while playing at the beach. The little prince immediately rushed to rescue the crab, feeling the urge to help the weak. However, when he had the animal safely in his arms, Zuko realized that the hawk would die of hunger without its prey. Unsure which side he should take, the prince was eventually surprised by a wave and carried out into the ocean. Zuko almost drowned before he was saved by his father. The little prince spent the remainder of the day in the care of his mother, recovering from the experience while vomiting sea-water.[20] Zuko and his family also often watched the play Love amongst the Dragons at the Ember Island Theater. Afterward, the prince and Azula usually reenacted the final duel of the play at the beach. To his frustration, Zuko normally had to take the role of the Dark Water Spirit, the evil antagonist. Nevertheless, Zuko happily recalled these memories many years later.[18]

In his early youth, he was schooled by Piandao in the art of fighting with dual broadswords.[21]

However, as they got older, Zuko and Azula eventually grew apart, and he became the object of his sister Azula's manipulation, ridicule, and deception. Their mother, however, loved both but favored him over his sister,[11] especially when Azula let her brother feel her increasing animosity, as apparent when Ursa, Zuko, and Azula would walk in the royal garden around 94 AG. Zuko happily talked with his mother until the prince saw his sister burning a flower in the garden. He promptly told on her to their mother, as he thought that Azula's action was wrong. When Ursa scolded the princess due to this, Azula burned Zuko's bottom in retaliation. After sending Azula to her room, Zuko was consoled by his mother. Zuko tearfully lamented that he did not understand why Azula had "to be so mean", as he had just done what he thought was the right thing to do.[18]

Zuko was completely devastated upon hearing his father say that he was "lucky to be born".

A few months later, Zuko and his family were eating together at the palace dining hall, when Azula soon began to brag about opposing their firebending teacher, Kunyo, calling his techniques "the dumb way" to firebend. After hearing this, Ozai agreed with Azula that the teacher seemed to be incapable and declared to send him to the colonies as punishment. When the princess expressed her satisfaction at his dismissal, Zuko objected, stating that Kunyo was not "a dummy" and merely believed that good firebending began with proper forms. However, he was promptly silenced by his father, who was outraged by his son's behavior and scolded Zuko for daring to lecture his sister on firebending. When his father angrily asked Zuko how many more firebending forms his sister had already mastered than him, the intimidated prince meekly answered that his sister had mastered fourteen more forms. Ozai continued to recount how he would have almost discarded Zuko because he thought that he was a nonbender when the prince was born. Finally, Ozai told Zuko that Azula had been born lucky, while he had been lucky to be born, leaving his son completely devastated.[18]

Ursa's disappearance

When Zuko was eleven years old, his cousin, Lu Ten, was killed in battle. General Iroh, devastated by the loss of his only child, abandoned his 600-day siege of the Earth Kingdom capital city, Ba Sing Se. During an audience with Fire Lord Azulon, Ozai showed off Azula's prodigious firebending skill and knowledge of military strategy, both exceeding Zuko's. Azulon, however, was unimpressed by these exercises, and he demanded Ursa and her children leave and that Ozai be frank about his reasons for wanting the audience. Azula and Zuko eavesdropped on their conversation as Ozai voiced his desire to be made heir in Iroh's place, justifying this course of action by pointing out that Iroh's overwhelming grief and subsequent erratic behavior made the date of his return from war uncertain, and that he now had no remaining heirs to carry on his line. Azulon, however, was outraged and declared angrily that Iroh had suffered enough, but Ozai's suffering had just begun.[11]

Ursa visited Zuko before her mysterious disappearance.

Frightened, Zuko ran away while Azula stayed to watch. Later, he was in his room trying to sleep when Azula came in and mockingly told him that Azulon's punishment for Ozai is that Ozai must kill Zuko, as he wanted him to know what it felt like to lose a first-born child. Ursa, hearing the commotion, came in and took Azula away, declaring it was time that they talked. Zuko left behind, chanted quietly to himself, "Azula always lies." Later, he was awakened again, but this time by his mother. She told her sleepy son that everything she had done, she had done to protect him, and instructed him not to forget who he was no matter how much things may change. The next morning, he immediately remembered what transpired the night before and ran frantically through the halls, searching for his mother. He found Azula, who blithely told him that Azulon died the previous night and their mother was missing. As she played with his pearl dagger (a gift from his Uncle Iroh), she mocked him and noted their mother was not there to make her give it back. Eventually, he found Ozai in the gardens of the palace and demanded to know where his mother was. Ozai did not answer, and he hung his head in sorrow. At Azulon's funeral, the Fire Sage conducting the ceremony named Ozai the new Fire Lord upon Azulon's apparent dying request.[11]

Banishment

Zuko pleaded to his father for forgiveness.

Two years later, General Iroh allowed a persistent, thirteen-year-old Zuko into a war council with Ozai and some of his generals. The young prince was instructed by his uncle not to speak during the meeting; however, when one general outlined a plan to sacrifice an entire division of new recruits in a diversionary maneuver, Zuko fiercely spoke out against the general's suggestion, seeing it as a betrayal of the recruits' patriotism. The insubordinate outburst was seen as a grave insult, and Ozai demanded the prince participate in an Agni Kai. He agreed, unaware that it was not the general whom he had insulted, but his father. Zuko was confident in his firebending abilities to face the insulted general but was surprised to discover his father was his opponent. He immediately became penitent and fell to his knees, refusing to fight, and tearfully begged for his father's forgiveness. Ozai declared his refusal a sign of cowardice and another display of disrespect, affirming that "[he] will learn respect, and suffering will be [his] teacher."[22]

Ozai burned Zuko by permanently scarring the left side of his face, stripped him of his birthright, and exiled him from his beloved homeland, declaring that he could return only after having found and captured the Avatar, who had disappeared nearly one hundred years prior. It was a fool's errand by all accounts, but one to which Zuko clung desperately as his only hope of regaining his honor and everything he had lost.[22]

Zuko and his uncle visited the Western Air Temple in search of the Avatar.

Zuko spent the next two years at sea,[23] fruitlessly and desperately searching for the Avatar. He searched the four air temples, beginning with the Western Air Temple, and scoured the world, searching even the most remote locations for his prize.[12] Iroh accompanied Zuko during his exile, and the pair spent more than two years at sea with a small ship and crew. They were not royal guards or special forces and may well have been banished themselves or were foolishly intent on serving under the popular General Iroh. They were often unhappy under Zuko but obeyed his orders.[22] Iroh often considered the search an extended vacation.

Winter 99 AG

Main article: History of Zuko (83 AG - 100 AG)

Zuko interrogated the Southern Water Tribe village citizens, looking for the Avatar.

While traversing the Southern Water Tribe, Zuko and his crew saw a flare of an old Fire Nation cruiser, which itself had been shipwrecked a long time ago, light up the sky, and after seeing the Avatar flee toward a nearby village, Zuko ordered his crew to pursuit.[24] Zuko's ship quickly arrived at the Water Tribe village. The exiled prince descended, accompanied by a small number of soldiers. Sokka charged at him; however, possessing more fighting experience, Zuko required only his bare hands to counter Sokka's primitive weaponry and swiftly dealt with him. After being initially struck by the Avatar who came at him riding a Penguin, a short brawl between the two ensued, but Aang ultimately surrendered in order to protect the villagers. On Zuko's ship, the Avatar was locked in the brig before eventually escaping with the help of Sokka and Katara, much to Zuko's dismay and anger.[25] Soon afterward, Zuko docked at a Fire Nation controlled harbor off the coast of the southwest Earth Kingdom, his ship needing substantial repairs after his encounter with Aang. Zuko wanted the repairs done quickly so they would not lose the Avatar's trail and warned Iroh not to mention the Avatar during their stay so no other firebender would start looking for him. The commander of the harbor, Zhao, quickly found out the truth, and in a fit of rage, Zuko challenged him to an Agni Kai, which he eventually won thanks to the firebending advice from his uncle. A bitter rivalry erupted between Zhao and Zuko, both wishing to capture the Avatar and deliver him to the Fire Lord.[23]

During the course of several weeks, Zuko pursued the Avatar and his friends through several parts of the either occupied or war-torn Earth Kingdom, finding and almost capturing him on Kyoshi Island.[26] Later, Zuko saved his Uncle Iroh from earthbending soldiers, who had locked him up and were planning to transport him to Ba Sing Se to stand trial for his actions in the Siege of Ba Sing Se.[27] During his pursuit of the Avatar, Zuko and the rest of his crew ventured into Fire Nation waters and tried to capture the Avatar in the Fire Temple of the Fire Sages on Crescent Island, a mission in which Zuko only barely evaded the prospect capture by Commander Zhao and being sent home as a traitor.[4] Later, Zuko unsuccessfully tried to capture the Avatar with the help of pirates.[28] Zuko's poor relationship with his crew started to improve when when he displayed a show of camaraderie and respect by saving the helmsman of his ship from falling to death during a dangerous lightning storm.[22] In a risky move, Zuko donned the persona of the Blue Spirit and infiltrated the Pohuai Stronghold in order to save the Avatar from the clutches of Zhao. This was not to save Aang, but so that he could personally be the one to deliver the Avatar to the Fire Lord.[29] After Aang fled when Zuko tried to attack, he planned to capture the Avatar utilizing the help of June and her Shirshu Nyla after watching her catch a stowaway on his ship, but Aang and his friends managed to evade capture.[30] Zhao eventually found out that Zuko was behind the Avatar's rescue in Pohuai and exacted his revenge by blowing up Zuko's ship while it had been docked in a harbor. The explosion destroyed the ship and grievously wounding Zuko, who was now presumed dead. When Zuko reunited with Iroh, he stowed away aboard Zhao's ship when his uncle accepted the offer to be Zhao's adviser out of grief.[31]

Zuko defeated Zhao.

During the Siege of the North, Zuko managed to sneak off Zhao's ship and eventually made his way into the innermost part of Agna Qel'a, where he managed to kidnap Aang, who had meditated into the Spirit World.[32] After trudging through a raging blizzard, Zuko found a cave and took shelter. Soon after, Aang's spirit returned to his body. After the Avatar woke up, the airbender tried to escape, but failed due to his restraints. Zuko taunted the Avatar; however, Katara, Sokka, and Yue arrived on Appa, having followed Zuko through the snowstorm. Katara defeated Zuko, and prepared to leave with Aang. The young Avatar saved Zuko's life for a second time, insisting that Zuko must be brought along instead of being left unconscious in the snow, where he would surely die. Upon returning to Agna Qel'a, Zuko eventually managed to escape and attacked Zhao for trying to kill him. After the battle had been won by the Northern Water Tribe with the help of the ocean spirit, La, acting through Aang, Zuko and Iroh escaped the North Pole and traveled on a driftwood raft for three weeks until they reached land.[33][34]

Spring 100 AG

Main article: History of Zuko (Spring 100 AG)

Zuko revealed himself as a firebender to a crowd of Earth Kingdom villagers.

For their actions in the Siege of the North, both Iroh and Zuko were branded as traitors by Fire Lord Ozai, who sent Azula to track the fugitives and bring them to justice. After being adrift for weeks, Zuko and Iroh reached a village resort, where Azula unexpectedly greeted them and informed them that their banishment was at an end and that they could finally return home. Zuko believed his sister, and was ecstatic at the prospect of going home. Iroh, however, remained skeptical, as he had never known Ozai to forgive anyone. The next morning, the duo nearly boarded Azula's royal sloop when Azula's ship captain referred to them as prisoners, revealing the plan and enabling them to escape after a brief showdown. Zuko and Iroh, now fugitives, sliced off their topknots with Zuko's dagger, symbolizing their alienation from the Fire Nation.[34] As they lived as fugitives, they struggled to live off the land, with Iroh starting to panhandle for money, and Zuko stealing from others disguised as the Blue Spirit.[35][36] Zuko and Iroh started to drift apart, until Zuko eventually decided that they no longer had anything to gain by traveling together and parted ways with Iroh.[36] Zuko wandered through the Earth Kingdom, passing through forbidding and uninhabited areas. Despite his worsening hunger and lack of supplies, he decided not to rob a young couple when he noticed that the woman was pregnant. While riding and slipping in and out of consciousness, Zuko saw visions of who appeared to be his mother, Ursa. On the brink of utter starvation and dehydration, Zuko made his way into a quiet Earth Kingdom town, where he befriended a young boy named Lee, without revealing his true identity. When Gow, a ruthless Earth Kingdom mercenary, and his men bullied Lee's family, Zuko defended the family that had taken him in. During the battle, Zuko became overpowered and resorted to his firebending, revealing his identity. Shocked and horrified, the citizens of the town quickly turned on Zuko, and even Lee refused to thank him for his actions. The ostracized prince then mounted his ostrich horse and left the town.[11]

During the final showdown in the Crystal Catacombs, Zuko ultimately chose to ally himself with Azula and fought against Aang and Katara.

Zuko secretly followed his sister Azula while she had been tracking the Avatar with the tank train and eventually revealed himself in a deserted town where she and Aang were about to face off. The face-off soon escalated into a full-blown brawl, with Team Avatar, Iroh, and Zuko acting, albeit unwillingly, against Azula. All six cornered Azula, who feigned surrender, only to attack and badly wound Iroh with her lightning generation in a moment of distraction. Zuko, Aang, Katara, and Toph each launched an elemental attack, but Azula disappeared, utilizing a clever firebending move, whilst Zuko ran to his wounded uncle. When Aang and his companions approached, he angrily demanded that they leave, spraying fire at them.[37] Zuko tended for his uncle's wounds, and Iroh slowly began to teach him how to redirect lightning attacks in the future. When Iroh praised him, Zuko eagerly asked to try it out with real lightning, but Iroh refused, not risking the chance of him killing his nephew. Zuko, seeing a thunderstorm in the distance, told his uncle he would find his own lightning. He climbed up a mountain in the middle of the storm, intent on accomplishing the task. He raged at the storm and the world, lamenting how it had never held back before in hurting him. No lightning came close enough, and, finally exhausted and emotionally spent, he broke down bitterly in tears, screaming into the sky.[38] Zuko and Iroh eventually arrived at the walled city of Ba Sing Se, meeting Jet in the process, who saw through their ruse and identified them as firebenders.[39][40] Iroh and Zuko found employment at a tea shop in the outer ring of the city, where Jet accused them of being firebenders and attacked Zuko before being arrested by the Dai Li.[41] Zuko reluctantly adapted to his new life, even going on an awkward date with Jin, until he learned of Aang's presence in Ba Sing Se and attempted to steal the bison from Long Feng's captivity.[3][42] However, Iroh convinced Zuko to abandon his quest and let Appa go, a move that caused him to develop a fever and experience hallucinations, signifying his metamorphasis.[42][43] Zuko was captured and placed in the Crystal Catacombs following Azula's coup, where he encountered Katara.[44][45] Although Zuko and Katara shared a brief moment of compassion, Azula convinced Zuko to betray his uncle and the Avatar in a desperate attempt to regain his honor. Zuko ultimately chose to ally himself with Azula and fought against Aang and Katara. In the ensuing fight, Aang was killed before later being revived with spirit water, and Iroh was arrested. While Azula reassured Zuko that he had restored his own honor, the prince still appeared conflicted and somewhat regretful about his decision.[45]

Summer 100 AG

Main article: History of Zuko (Summer 100 AG)

Zuko absorbed Ozai's lightning in order to redirect it.

Returning to his country as a hero, Zuko learned that had Azula lied and told Fire Lord Ozai that he personally killed the Avatar.[46] Zuko suspected that Aang survived due to Katara's spirit water, and hired an assassin to ensure Aang's death, fearing his father's wrath.[47] In the Fire Nation, Zuko's only real friend proved to be his girlfriend Mai, with whom he went on a vacation onto Ember Island along with his sister and Ty Lee. However, the trip proved to be an emotional journey for all, though despite its unpleasantness, it was also enriching.[48] Iroh, while imprisoned, managed to lead Zuko to learn that his maternal great-grandfather was Avatar Roku, Aang's previous incarnation, which partly explained Zuko's inner struggle.[49] Prior to the Day of Black Sun, Zuko inadvertently catalyzed his father's plan to destroy the Earth Kingdom with Sozin's Comet when he mentioned the resolve of the people of the Earth Kingdom.[50][51] Zuko became ever more guilt-ridden over his betrayal of Iroh and contributing to the planned burning of the entire Earth Kingdom, leading him to confront Ozai during the eclipse. Zuko openly berated his father and stated his intention to help Aang, using his uncle's teachings to redirect his father's lightning.[52][53] Zuko left the Fire Nation and attempted to join the Team Avatar, but was largely rejected by Aang and his allies, with only Appa and Toph trusting the prince until he proved himself to them by defeating the assassin he had hired. However, Katara still remained bitter and apprehensive after his previous betrayal in the Crystal Catacombs, stating that she would kill Zuko with no second thought if he tried to hurt Aang again.[12] Zuko's change in temperament led to his firebending weakening when he started to teach Aang, though he managed to overcome the block in his firebending by visiting the Sun Warriors and the dragons and discovering that fire was a source of life and light, and not just hatred.[8]

Zuko and Iroh reunited at the Order of the White Lotus camp.

After helping Sokka free Suki and Hakoda from the Boiling Rock prison, Zuko amended with Katara by locating her mother's killer, Yon Rha.[54][55] It was after this manhunt when Katara finally accepted Zuko as an ally and as a friend. In the days before Sozin's Comet, Zuko and the rest of Team Avatar stayed on Ember Island, where they saw a play performed by the Ember Island Players, leaving them embarrassed and uneasy.[19] When Aang disappeared shortly before Sozin's Comet, Zuko led the effort to track down the Avatar, leading him to June in the Earth Kingdom. Although she could not locate Aang, she was able to bring them to Iroh and the Order of the White Lotus.[51][13] Zuko tearfully apologized to his uncle, who easily forgave him, stating that he was never angry with Zuko, only sad because he had thought he had lost his way. Later, Iroh suggested that Zuko become the next Fire Lord, citing Zuko's "unquestionable honor".[13] Arriving at the Fire Nation capital with Katara, Zuko dueled Azula for the throne in a Comet-Enhanced Agni Kai. When Azula faced defeat, she aimed a lightning strike at Katara that Zuko leapt forward to save her from, leaving him wounded and immobile.[56] Katara eventually defeated Azula due to her waterbending skills and quick thinking, and managed to heal Zuko. After Aang stripped Ozai of his bending and ended the war, Zuko was crowned as the new Fire Lord, giving a speech promising world order and harmony with the aid of the Avatar at his coronation.[9]

Reign as Fire Lord (100 AG - 167 AG)

Early reign

Main article: History of Zuko (100 AG - 102 AG)

Zuko asked Aang to make the promise to end his life if he became like Ozai.

After Zuko's coronation, he began to send out search parties for his mother, but their efforts were fruitless.[57] He also started his efforts to end the Fire Nation's imperialistic tendencies by removing most Ozai loyalists from government and supporting the removal of the Fire Nation colonies in the Harmony Restoration Movement.[14][58] Worried that he would turn to the same imperialist tendencies of his ancestors, he had Aang promise to end Zuko's life if he ended up like his father.[14]

Mai broke up with Zuko shortly after becoming aware of his meetings with Ozai.

Zuko's efforts were met with resistance from nationalists, leading to six assassination attempts within his first year as Fire Lord. The last of these assassins was Kori Morishita, the daughter of the mayor of Yu Dao. When Zuko came to the colony to confront Kori's father, he was surprised to learn that the mayor's wife and daughter were earthbenders, and that the residents of the city included people of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom heritage living alongside each other for generations. Realizing that it was unfair to uproot the inhabitants of the oldest colonies, the Fire Lord changed his approach to the Harmony Restoration Movement and ordered the Fire Army to secure Yu Dao. This led to brief a confrontation with Aang and Katara, though it ended when the Fire Lord agreed to the Avatar informing the Earth King about the situation and trying to convince him to change his mind. As Zuko suffered from insomnia due to fears about assassination attempts, Mai arranged for the Kyoshi Warriors to become his bodyguards.[14] Still suffering from the pressures of being Fire Lord, Zuko started secretly seeing his father in prison, but this led to Mai ending their relationship when she found out. When he was told that the Earth King was intending to invade Yu Dao, Zuko ordered his army to defend the city.[20] Zuko traveled to the colony for the Battle for Yu Dao, where he led his forces against the Earth Kingdom army. Aang intervened in the Avatar State, and although he asked Aang to reconsider, he came to believe that his death would be for the best. At that very moment, he was saved from falling into a chasm by Aang, and heard that the Avatar was able to reason with the Earth King. Zuko later acknowledged that the colonies could neither be Earth Kingdom nor Fire Nation, and worked with the Earth Kingdom to form new coalition governments.[57]

Zuko listened as Ursa began to recount the story of her life.

With Ozai still refusing to speak about his mother's whereabouts, Zuko turned to Azula for help. After Zuko released her from a mental health facility, she spoke to her father in prison and later found and burned a collection of Ursa's letters at the palace. Azula promised to tell Zuko what was in the letters, in exchange for being allowed to travel with Zuko unbound. Azula, Zuko, and his friends set off to Ursa's hometown of Hira'a despite the skepticism of Team Avatar. Azula suffered a psychotic episode during the journey and had to be restrained. As the group camped, Zuko found a shocking letter that Azula had saved, which implied that he was the son of Ursa's childhood love, Ikem.[59] In spite of Zuko's doubts and another fight with Azula, the group reached Hira'a, where they were welcomed by a man named Noren, his wife Noriko, and their daughter Kiyi. After hearing that Ikem had gone to the dangerous Forgetful Valley, Zuko and the others made their way to the area, where they were confronted by the waterbenders Rafa and Misu.[18] Afterward, the valley's ancient spirit, the Mother of Faces, appeared before them, and revealed to Zuko that she had given Ursa a new identity and memories as Noriko. Zuko returned to Noren's house, ready to accept his new family, but at that moment, Azula attacked. After Zuko confronted his sister, she fled the house and ran into the wild, leaving behind the letter. Afterward, the Mother of Faces asked Ursa if she wanted to regain her original face and memories, and she accepted. Ursa was overjoyed to see Zuko, apologized for leaving, and told him that the letter about his paternity was a lie to fool Ozai. She promised to tell everything about her life to Zuko, starting at the beginning.[60]

Zuko apologized to his people and resolved to do better in the future.

Zuko searched for Azula in the Forgetful Valley for weeks, but to no avail. Some time later, Ursa, Noren, and Kiyi were ready to come to the capital despite his mother's reservations about returning. Cautious to make a safe return to the capital, Zuko and his family were nonetheless ambushed by the New Ozai Society, intent on Zuko relinquishing the throne. Although Zuko and the Kyoshi Warriors were defeated, reinforcements arrived and fought back against the attackers. One month later, Mai's brother Tom-Tom was kidnapped, supposedly by the mythical Kemurikage spirits.[61] Zuko went to the High Temple with Aang, Mai, and Kei Lo to research the spirits, where Aang learned from a true Kemurikage that they had not returned to the human world in millennia, indicating that the kidnappers were imposters. Zuko discovered that a militia called the Safe Nation Society had been formed in response to the kidnappings, and ordered the group to be disbanded or be imprisoned.[62] The false Kemurikage ended up kidnapping Kiyi and, in response, Zuko locked down the city and ordered the homes of the Safe Nation Society to be searched, which concerned Aang. When the orders were carried out, the Safe Nation Society instigated a riot in the city that led to their imprisonment. At the palace, Ty Lee discovered a passageway where Azula was hiding. As the siblings confronted one another, Zuko told her that the throne would never be hers, but his sister responded that her plan had been to mold Zuko into a ruthless and authoritarian Fire Lord. However, at that moment, Zuko learned that his friends had been able to save Kiyi and the other children. After the end of the crisis, Zuko apologized to his people for his poor conduct and vowed to be a better Fire Lord worthy of their trust.[63]

Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei came to the Southern Water Tribe to discuss the Southern Reconstruction Project.

Head Chieftain Hakoda invited the Fire Lord and the Earth King to a conference in the South Pole, where the world leaders discussed the Southern Reconstruction Project to advance the development of the Southern Water Tribe. Zuko was quick to offer his support to fund the endeavor, but the Earth King was more hesitant. However, Kuei was kidnapped during the conference by Gilak and his band of Southern nationalists. Zuko aided in the rescue of the Earth King, coming to the Bridge of No Return, where he avoided Thod's chi blocking by wearing heavy armor under his winter clothing. Aang managed to save both Hakoda and Malina in the battle, but Gilak fell to his demise. With the crisis over, Zuko joined Kanna and Pakku in their igloo to share a meal with his friends.[64]

Later reign

Aang and Zuko attended an event in Republic City's early days.

Zuko's commitment to allow the older Fire Nation colonies to remain in the Earth Kingdom and regulate the balance of power between them, rather than to forcefully remove them, eventually led to the creation of the United Republic of Nations with Republic City as its capital.[65] Zuko subsequently aided Aang in making the United Republic a prosperous and safe country, which included combating the surging activities of bending criminals in Republic City.[66]

At some point in his life, he married and had a daughter named Izumi. He also became a grandfather to Iroh, who grew up to serve as a general of the first division of the United Forces.[67] Zuko and Aang remained lifelong best friends, with Aang regularly turning to Zuko for advice.[68] Zuko, in turn, would always trust the Avatar's instinct.[69] According to his grandson, Zuko also remained a good friend and an important ally of the Southern Water Tribe.[70] At some point in his life, Zuko also adopted and trained a dragon, whom he named Druk.

In 158 AG, Zuko joined forces with Southern chief Sokka, Tenzin, and Tonraq to deal with Zaheer, Ghazan, Ming-Hua, and P'Li, four criminals who desired to kidnap the new Avatar, Korra. The group was able to defeat the four and send them to specially-constructed White Lotus prisons, which would serve to neutralize their bending abilities.[71] Zuko collaborated with Northern chief Unalaq and ordered the construction of a top-secret prison in the western tundra of the North Pole, specially designed to hold the firebender P'Li.[72]

Zuko continued to remain in power until he abdicated the throne of the Fire Nation in 167 AG to his daughter, Izumi, at which point he chose to leave the Fire Nation Capital in favor of living on Ember Island.[73] He retained his formal title of "Lord" and became an ambassador for world balance, albeit, in an unofficial capacity, all the while making sure the new Avatar's safety was not compromised.[7]

171 AG

Lord Zuko, alarmed about the escapes of Zaheer, Ghazan, and Ming-Hua, traveled north to warn Chiefs Desna and Eska of an imminent attack on P'Li's prison.

Two weeks after Harmonic Convergence, Zuko learned of the escape of the criminals Zaheer, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan from their custody under White Lotus sentries and was particularly disturbed to hear that Zaheer had become an airbender.[74] After sending a notice to Lin Beifong of their escape, he traveled to the Northern Water Tribe, where he and Chief Tonraq met with Desna and Eska, the new Northern chiefs. Zuko told them that they needed to check up on P'Li's prison in the western tundra. While riding the elevator to the bowels of the prison, Zuko explained that P'Li possessed the ability to create explosions with her mind and casually remarked that ironically he once sent an assassin with similar abilities to kill the Avatar, but that it did not work. Eska shared with Zuko her own experience trying to assassinate the Avatar after the latter spoiled her wedding.[72]

Zuko soon scouted the area around the prison atop his dragon, Druk, and only found what he thought to be a snowstorm. When he pointed this out to Tonraq, however, the Southern chief recognized it as Zaheer's doing. The two groups clashed, with Zuko finding himself matched against Ghazan. The old firebender was able to dodge his opponent's attacks for a short while but was ultimately knocked down by a large fragment of rock. Zuko was only left to watch as the fugitives made a successful escape with P'Li in tow.[71]

Sometime later, Zuko flew toward the Misty Palms Oasis on Druk with Tonraq in tow after the latter received word from Lin to meet her there. They awaited Korra's return in a local cantina, where he was pleased to make his reacquaintance with the Avatar. He learned that Zaheer and his friends were called the Red Lotus and that their murder of Earth Queen Hou-Ting was only the beginning of their actions.[75]

Upon Mako and Bolin's return to the Misty Palms Oasis, Zuko came out of the cantina, where he was greeted by a starstruck Bolin, who could barely form a coherent sentence. As Mako excused his brother and bowed respectfully, stating they were honored to meet him, Zuko returned the gesture.

Zuko was glad to serve as Korra's advisor, just as he had done years prior for Aang.

Zuko followed Team Avatar toward Zaofu to use the Metal Clan's radio transmitter to reach the Northern Air Temple to warn Tenzin of the Red Lotus' approach. However, as the others prepared to head toward the temple, he prepared Druk to head back home toward the Fire Nation to protect Izumi in case Zaheer would target her next. Before he could leave, he was approached by Korra, who asked him for advice as Aang's best friend on what Aang would have done if Zaheer had given him a choice between giving himself up or letting a nation be attacked. Zuko answered that it had been Aang's dream to rebuild the Air Nation, though that he also knew that in times of turmoil, the world needed the Avatar the most. Zuko grew surprised when Korra thanked him for his advice, saying that Iroh had been right to go talk to him, as he had been unaware that she had met his late uncle. Before he could ask any more about Iroh, they were interrupted by Mako, who alerted them that they had finally been able to contact the Northern Air Temple, prompting Zuko and Korra to follow him toward Zaofu's communication's room.[68]

As the team departed for the temple, Zuko went home to his daughter, though two weeks later, he journeyed to Republic City, where he bowed respectfully to a recovering Korra. As she left, Zuko voiced his concern, along with President Raiko, about the lack of information concerning the Red Lotus and their true numbers. He subsequently went inside the temple, where he attended Jinora's anointment as an airbending master now that she had received her tattoos.[76]

Later, Zuko reunited with Iroh in Spirit World.[77]

174 AG

After Kuvira had nearly stabilized the entire Earth Kingdom, Zuko traveled to Republic City with his daughter to attend Prince Wu's coronation as the nation's Earth King. However, after Kuvira was bestowed the Kyoshi Medal of Freedom for her service, Zuko bore witness to her declaration of usurping power in the Earth Kingdom, renaming it the "Earth Empire".[78]

Legacy

A statue of Zuko was erected in Central City Station.

Well-respected as one of Republic City's founders, a statue was erected in Zuko's honor at the center of the plaza outside Central City Station in Republic City to commemorate his many accomplishments.[7] However, his and Avatar Aang's creation of the United Republic of Nations earned the animosity of Earth Queen Hou-Ting and Kuvira, who both considered the state of being on illegally occupied territory.[72][79]

Personality

"I've struggled for so long to do what's right; to even know what's right. [...] But asking you to end me if I went bad; that was like asking you to figure out right and wrong for me. [...] I understand now. The struggle isn't something a Fire Lord can escape."
―Zuko to Aang.[57]

During his exile, Zuko was a bitter, impatient, and complex young man, akin to a tragic villain. More than anything, he wanted his place as heir to the Fire Nation throne and his father's love.[53] Zuko had convinced himself to believe that capturing the Avatar would make these wishes come true, making him one of Aang's most determined enemies.

As an adolescent, Zuko demonstrated empathy for others despite his pompous attitude.

Zuko believed one becomes strong by struggling and fighting for what they want. However, he expressed contradicting mindsets; he did not want good luck because he felt he could control his fate, but also believed he was marked unlucky and that the world was against him.[33] His reaction to the perception of the world always set against him is iron-willed defiance and inflexible determination. He was clever yet hot-headed, often letting his temper get the best of him. He seemed averse to the thought of harming others without any motive or benefit, having consented to Aang's request to spare the Southern Water Tribe in exchange for himself as his prisoner, and left the village unharmed.[25] He rarely thinks his situations through, causing him to get in trouble; he captured Aang at the North Pole but chose to make his getaway through the perilous tundra,[33] and he casually took the Sunstone off its pedestal in the Sun Warriors' temple only to fall into a trap.[8] Said traits were criticized by his uncle,[42][80] urging Zuko to try to control himself and think things through more often, which he managed to do over time.[56]

Zuko had other contradictory traits, beliefs, and behaviors. He was domineering and controlling, a result of his upbringing as Fire Nation royalty, and disdained to work with people he believed were inferior; yet he adamantly refused to view people as expendable. He believed it was wrong to sacrifice able-bodied and willing troops as a diversionary tactic. During his banishment, he displayed zeal in pursuing the Avatar, using whatever means he thought necessary. Although he had said capturing the Avatar was a greater concern to him than the safety of his crew or himself, he showed compassion to those close to him, as evidenced when he chose to rescue Iroh when he was captured[27] rather than pursue Aang and by risking his own life to save a member of his crew during a fierce storm. When the crew spotted Aang, he ordered the ship and crew to safety instead of chasing the Avatar.[22] Even after all the hardship that he suffered at the hands of his sister, Azula, Zuko was still willing to vouch for her, giving her several chances for them to work together in order to find their mother. He even went as far as to show brotherly affection for her, inspired by Sokka's actions toward Katara.[59] He was liable to commit brash actions against his sister, however, despite his best efforts to stop fighting her, even going as far as almost throwing her off a cliff.[18]

Zuko was able to show mercy, even to his enemies. When fighting an Agni Kai with Zhao, he decided to spare him unscathed, though Zhao had expressed every intention to hurt Zuko.[23] Even after Zhao had arranged for Zuko to be murdered, Zuko offered his hand in an attempt to save Zhao's life when the Ocean Spirit was about to drown him.[33]

Zuko experienced substantial turmoil due to the events in his life.

The prospect of returning home and earning forgiveness was Zuko's sole motivation. After losing his first chance at the Northern Water Tribe, he was filled with abject despair. He found himself in the direst situation possible—being hunted by his younger sister, the ruthless and relentless Azula,[34] while attempting to survive[81] as a penniless fugitive in the Earth Kingdom.[35] Apart from his ever-supportive uncle, Zuko had nothing. At first, he lashed out and turned to robbery,[36] even stealing from those who were kind to him.[81] After some time, however, partially in thanks to a talk from Iroh, he gained a more reasonable outlook. Theft was still necessary from time to time, but he refused to steal from needy people or people who showed him kindness. He defended an Earth Kingdom village against a group of thugs who terrorized its people.[11] He became more patient, kind, precise, and calculating; said traits necessary to evade Azula's pursuit while staying incognito from local authorities. He set Aang's pet bison and primary mode of transportation, Appa, free from Dai Li captivity at Iroh's suggestion.[42]

These traits became dominant after Zuko's fever dreams and hallucinations,[43] as he displayed an optimistic attitude toward life and the world.[44] However, Azula successfully manipulated his desire for love and approval from his father, convincing him to betray Iroh and become her ally.[1] He continued to insist that he had truly changed but felt conflicted about his choices afterward, uncomfortable with his betrayal of Iroh, a father figure to him.

Upon realizing that Avatar Roku was his maternal great-grandfather, Zuko became increasingly insecure about his destiny.

After his return to the Fire Nation, Zuko thought he had everything he ever wanted: a position of honor, respect, and his father's love. However, he still felt angry and confused. His triumph was nothing like he imagined it would be. His temper went out of control; he became suspicious of Mai and got into fights with several people. Later, he stated he was angry with himself, saying he did not know right from wrong.[48] He received a letter telling him his great-grandfather's death would reveal his destiny. He found Sozin's last testament and learned of his history with Avatar Roku. Assuming the letter was sent by his uncle, he visited him in prison, demanding to know the message's meaning. Iroh explained Avatar Roku was his mother's grandfather, and Zuko's inner conflict was part of the legacy of his forefathers' conflict. Iroh presented him with the Crown Prince headpiece, an ancient royal artifact, traditionally worn by the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation and given to Roku by Sozin in their youth.[49]

Zuko became upset when he was not informed of a war meeting to which his sister was invited and showed happiness when a servant later came and asked him to head to the war room, as Ozai would not start the meeting without him. He told Mai he found himself unhappy, even when his father treated him as the perfect son. He said that he had been the perfect prince during the meeting, the son that his father had always wanted, but he had not been himself.[50]

During the events of Day of Black Sun, Zuko realized it was his duty as the heir to the Fire Nation throne to restore peace to the world by joining the Avatar and fighting his father's (and forefathers') tyrannical regime. His zeal and resolve resurfaced in an entirely different direction. He resolved to confront his father and his many evils. He revealed in a discourse his banishment made him a firsthand witness to the misery and pain the Fire Nation has inflicted on the World. He discovered sharing the Fire Nation's greatness had nothing to do with the war – only fired by a ruthless desire for power. He swore to his father he will do everything in his power to see his defeat. He attempted to free Iroh from prison, but when he escaped by himself, Zuko followed Aang and the others as they fled to the Western Air Temple.[53]

Zuko was finally at peace upon joining Team Avatar.

While at the Western Air Temple, Zuko became regretful about his former disrespect and ruthlessness. He confronted Team Avatar and apologized for his wrongdoings. When his request to join them was rejected, he humbled himself and offered himself up as a prisoner—a stark contrast to the proud attitude he bore before. Zuko also revealed his calculating abilities and problem-solving skills while accompanying Aang to the Sun Warrior ruins, for example, by using his sword to reflect sunlight to hit the temple's sunstone, allowing them to enter the structure.

Zuko's attempt to defend Aang from Combustion Man signified his genuine loyalty to the team. He realized his father could never restore his honor, and he had to restore it himself. He was happy when the Avatar finally accepted him as his firebending teacher and group member.[12] Though he still had some issues to work through, he was far more composed and receptive. Since coming to terms with his own true feelings, he was more laid-back and empathetic though he remained strict and uptight when training Aang. After joining the group, he smiled more than usual, even when jokes were made at his expense,[8] and he seemed very happy as Fire Lord during a break in his uncle's tea shop.[9] Nonetheless, he was one of the more serious members of the group; whenever a situation got worse, such as when Sozin's Comet was near and when Aang went missing, Zuko did not put up with any antics or mistakes.

During his first year as Fire Lord, Zuko became aggressive and conflicted due to night-terrors, chronic insomnia, and paranoia.

At the start of his reign as Fire Lord, Zuko was assertive in having the Fire Nation pay for its crimes and having its colonies disbanded. However, after viewing the situation at Yu Dao and how the lives of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom citizens had deeply intertwined themselves, Zuko became conflicted about his duties, and after being called a coward by Mayor Morishita, he sided with his people, devoting himself to protecting them and their way of life, withdrawing his support of the Harmony Restoration Movement and even fighting his friends, Katara and Aang, because of this.

During this time, Zuko developed night-terrors, chronic insomnia, and a somewhat paranoid attitude. This would have increased further when he discovered that (at least some of) the assassins attempting to take his life were his own unhappy people, as he cared so much for his country. Zuko eventually became so desperate and conflicted over the duties and pressures of being Fire Lord that he turned to his imprisoned father Ozai for advice on how to deal with the pressures of the title.[14] Despite this, he continued to deny Ozai's claims that a Fire Lord's decisions were right by default. However, when being informed of the Earth Kingdom's impending attack, he begrudgingly admitted to himself that his father was right and prepared himself to go to war again.[20]

Eventually, Zuko came to realize that his emotional instability over his position as Fire Lord was not caused by the pressures of being a ruler or by the choices he made for Yu Dao, but due to his fear of ultimately becoming the same tyrant as his father was. However, he eventually came to terms with the fact that there was a side to himself and his personality that he could not understand.[57]

After an Earth Kingdom professor pointed out the similarities between governing a nation and taking care of a family, Zuko began doubting his own qualities as a leader again as his family was completely broken and a large part was due to his actions. However, he did show remorse and the will to fix past mistakes by trying to mend the rifts between his family. He freed Azula from the mental institution and asked for her help in his search for their mother, even allowing her to travel unbound and with dignity. After a conversation with Sokka about siblings, the latter noted how, despite their bickering, he and Katara were family, and as an older brother, he would always look after her. Inspired by those words, Zuko, who never truly attempted to connect with his younger sister, Azula, tried to do the same.[59]

During the search for his mother, and upon finding out that Ozai may not be his legitimate father, he realized that he might not be the true heir to the throne. Despite knowing that he must stay Fire Lord, Zuko felt the most hopeful and relieved in the group upon hearing the news. He believed that he could start anew and "gallivant" around the world helping people, as Azula remarked, much to Aang's dissatisfaction; he believed that Zuko must stay as the leader of his nation to continue ushering a new era of love and peace.

When their search brought Zuko in contact with a young child, Kiyi, he displayed the characteristics of a good father, reflecting the parenting style of his mother and Uncle Iroh, by displaying an inquisitive and doting attitude toward the girl. When she showed him her doll, he kindly played along and chastised Azula for her violent commentary, exhibiting a protective side. He also seemed quite at ease around the child, showing genuine friendship and politeness during their interactions, seemingly truly enjoying the girl's company.[18] His caring feelings toward Kiyi only strengthened after he discovered she was his half-sister, and he disregarded any royal formalities with her.[61]

In his old age, Zuko displayed a more calm and wise demeanor,[72] as well as a strong sense of protecting his family and the Avatar.[68] He also retained a certain penchant for being the source of awkward moments when conversing with others, as evidenced by reactions to his revelation to Chiefs Tonraq, Desna, and Eska that he had once hired a combustionbending assassin to kill Aang when en route to P'Li's prison cell.

Abilities

Firebending

Zuko developed a new foundation of firebending after visiting the Sun Warriors.

While growing up in the Fire Nation, Zuko showed no extraordinary skill in firebending. In his teen years, however, his ability began to develop significantly under his Uncle Iroh's tutelage, most noticeably during the last year of the Hundred Year War. He became able to fight on par with much more experienced firebenders, showing himself to be a late bloomer. Having continuously refined his skills, he has reached the point of becoming a firebending master, but despite his skill and fast development as a firebender, he has noted on more than one occasion that he is not as skilled or as powerful as his younger sister, Azula.

As a child, Zuko could only create small bursts of flame and was by no means focused or controlled in his bending,[11] but by the time he was thirteen, he was confident enough in his abilities to readily accept a challenge of Agni Kai against General Bujing.[22]

Around the time of Aang's discovery at the South Pole, Zuko was still learning the basics from Iroh yet was skilled enough to momentarily knock Aang off his ship, but he was defeated when Aang went into the Avatar State.[24] He utilized what he had been taught to defeat Zhao, an older and more experienced master firebender.[23] Throughout his pursuit of Aang, he demonstrated his skill often; he defeated multiple foes on two occasions.[27][26] Later, his skill grew. He fared well in a duel against Aang, delivering multiple fire blasts for a sustained period without tiring, but was defeated when he was paralyzed by June's confused shirshu.[30] He created a shield of fire to protect himself from a massive explosion on his ship.[31] During the Siege of the North, he fought Katara while the moon was nearly full. He held his own against her while she was strengthened by the moon but needed the power of the sun to gain the upper hand and defeat her with one fire blast.[32] He also landed a decisive victory in a rematch against Zhao.[33]

After the Siege of the North, Zuko's firebending became more advanced and powerful. At first, he was unable to land any blows against Azula and was defeated rather easily.[34] He fought somewhat better during the Confrontation at Tu Zin; in a three-way battle with Azula and Aang, he traded several fire blasts with his sister and kept the Avatar on the defensive.[37] As his travels in the Earth Kingdom continued, however, he learned more advanced firebending techniques from Iroh, such as lightning redirection, becoming more efficient and refined.[38] During a battle with the Rough Rhinos, he sent a small bolt of fire through Vachir's bow, breaking the string.[82] He demonstrated the ability to fire multiple small blasts through two fingers rather than his whole fist.[3] During the battle in the Crystal Catacombs, he demonstrated how far his prowess had grown. His fire blasts were more powerful, and he charged his attacks before releasing them, creating enormous blasts of fire. He also demonstrated the ability to create two fire-whips. He battled evenly with Aang, even though he had skillfully used airbending and earthbending. After switching opponents with Azula, he battled evenly with Katara, a waterbending master who had the upper hand against Azula.[1]

Zuko was able to absorb lightning from Ozai in order to redirect it.

Little was seen of Zuko's firebending after he returned to the Fire Nation; however, he was confident enough in his abilities that he offered to teach Aang. He utilized a wall of flame to stop an attack from Combustion Man and was capable of dodging many of the rocks Toph hurled at him.[12] Later, he temporarily lost his firebending from a subsequent lack of rage, the former source of his power. In order to reconnect with the original source of firebending, he and Aang traveled to the ancient city of the Sun Warriors together. There, Zuko learned "The Dancing Dragon", an ancient firebending form that he performed alongside Aang. Learning this form appeared to have influenced his style of firebending to be more fluid, creating a more dancelike form as opposed to the rigid, militaristic forms commonly used by Fire Nation soldiers. He was also challenged by the Tribesmen to carry a piece of the Eternal Flame all the way up to the cave of the masters. Zuko and Aang performed their newly learned technique in unison with the dragons, who engulfed them in a spiral of multi-colored flames. After viewing this, Zuko found a new source of power in reverence for fire's power as a source of life and energy: "the sun inside you".[8] His stylistic differences and skill are demonstrated at the Boiling Rock, where he briefly battled against Azula alongside Sokka. During the fight, he deflected many of Azula's fire blasts with only his arms or his own fire and traded fireballs with her.[54] When he faced Azula again, Zuko was able to duel her to a standstill, firing several large and powerful fire blasts and deflecting many of her attacks.[55] Later, he attacked Aang with powerful fire blasts to make him fight back. When he chased him into Ozai's old family vacation home, Zuko created several lashes of fire to envelop his surroundings and augmented them to the shape of the hallway Aang was running through.[51] Furthermore, he used his firebending in conjunction with his broadswords,[11] demonstrated an ability to form fire daggers,[34] and limited use of breath of fire.[32][52]

During his training with Iroh, Zuko attempted to learn how to create lightning. His inner turmoil, however, rendered him unable to achieve the required peace of mind, and his attempts to produce lightning would only explode in his face. Instead, Iroh taught him how to absorb and redirect lightning.[38] He later employed this technique against his father[53] and Azula to protect Katara.[56] In the latter engagement, Zuko redirected the blast in an improper stance, as he had jumped into the lightning's path and thus failed to redirect it properly, resulting in serious injury. Though he seems to have overcome his inner turmoil, he does not create lightning for the remainder of the series.

Zuko displayed the extent of his bending skills with the arrival of Sozin's Comet.

With the power of Sozin's Comet, Zuko's firebending was enhanced. In his Agni Kai with Azula during this time, he was able to match her powerful sheets of blue flame and even steadily gain the upper hand, not showing any visible strain in exchanging and blocking Azula's attacks while she was pushed toward exhaustion and increasing mental instability. He displayed several incredibly powerful techniques: blocking an enormous stream of fire with a short fire-blast, spreading to take the shape of a wall and split the stream, unleashing an enormous charged-blast, which Azula was unable to block, forcing her to dodge, propelling himself into the air, charging his fire and sending down a fire attack as he came. His final attack was a fire tornado he created with his feet while spinning, knocking Azula off her feet.[56]

After the War and assuming the mantle of Fire Lord, Zuko's firebending remained as sharp as before and under strict control, despite the mental and emotional turmoils he was struggling with due to his new position. He evaded several attempts on his life, particularly the attempt of Kori Morishita, an earthbender and skilled weapons user, whom he disabled in a matter of minutes. During the battle for Yu Dao, Zuko's skills were again on display as he managed to single-handedly overwhelm a large number of Earth Kingdom soldiers with minimal effort and stand on equal footing against General How.[57] The flames he produced were also hot enough to instantly melt metal chains.[59]

Zuko handled Azula quite well during their fights throughout the search for their mother, blocking her fire blasts and defending his friends simultaneously, especially during her psychotic episodes.[18] This demonstrated how far Zuko's abilities had progressed, matching his sister for raw power despite not being able to generate lightning or blue fire. However, during the Kemurikage incident, when Azula had recovery from her mental breakdown, Zuko was unable to match her skill and was ultimately defeated.

During an ambush by the New Ozai Society, Zuko demonstrated the ability to generate a fire vortex featuring green and purple flames, marking the first known instance that a human had created dragon fire.[61] In his first visit to the Southern Water Tribe as Fire Lord, Zuko also demonstrated the ability to propel himself through the air with firebending for short periods of time, similar to Azula, while carrying the additional weight of Earth King Kuei.[64]

At the age of 88, Zuko still proved to be a capable fighter, although less agile, enough so to face Ghazan, a powerful earthbender, for a reasonable period of time before getting overpowered.[71]

Swordsmanship

Zuko is a highly proficient swordsman.

Aside from his bending, Zuko also developed a masterful skill in swordsmanship, and he specialized in dual wielding swordplay, using a set of dao blades, skills he gained after being trained by the swordmaster Piandao.[21] He would use these skills as his primary tactics whenever he was in his Blue Spirit disguise,[36][29] unable to firebend, or when he needed to fight but also needed to conceal his firebending.[11] He was able to defeat multiple foes using only his swords, including experienced firebending soldiers.[29] He also dueled evenly with Jet and his dual hook swords until the fight was broken up by the Dai Li.[41] Zuko was able to defeat several Earth Kingdom soldiers with minimal effort by employing his swordsmanship skills in combination with unarmed combat and, in the same confrontation, demonstrated the ability to combine his sword skills with his firebending, allowing him to deliver more powerful and destructive attacks.[11] His skill was such that his father, Fire Lord Ozai, opted not to face him during an eclipse when neither of them could firebend.[53] He also defeated Sokka, a very proficient swordsman in his own right and a fellow student of Piandao, with ease in multiple sparring matches.

He also had some experience with knives, being able to pierce a small object, like a horn, from a distance.[29]

Other skills

Disguised as the "Blue Spirit", Zuko made apparent the scope of his abilities without having to rely solely on his bending.

In addition to his firebending and swordsmanship skills, Zuko is highly skilled in unarmed combat, able to break apart oncoming spears with his hands and legs[25] and disarm, subdue, or defeat opponents. Zuko was able to defeat several armed Earth Kingdom soldiers in rapid succession. Zuko is very physically capable, able to almost nonchalantly send a person flying with a single hand and smash through iron shackles with a single kick. He is also quite fast and agile, able to perform great acrobatic feats, such as running across walls,[8] doing mid-air twirls, scaling vertical faces with great efficiency and climbing speed, and jumping large distances to avoid enemy attacks with noticeable agility and free-running skills.[12]

Zuko is stealthy and skilled in the art of infiltration, able to sneak into heavily defended fortresses and conceal himself effectively for long periods of time.[32][55][29] His skills served him well while he was disguised as the Blue Spirit. Zuko is also a skilled tracker; he was able to track the airborne Avatar all across the world, something that his friends later acknowledged in their search for a missing Aang.

While not as naturally adept at strategy and academics as his sister, Zuko is quite intelligent. Throughout his travels, he proved himself to be a skilled strategist, able to exploit any situation to his advantage. For example, Zuko used his ship's damages as a smokescreen to conceal his movements from Zhao.[4] He is also able to form alliances with people with special skills, such as June,[30] and use them to his advantage.[28] As he matured, Zuko developed greater strategic skills and foresight, planning ahead to avoid landing himself in compromising predicaments. When he and Aang needed to enter a specific room in the Sun Warrior ruins, Zuko was able to outsmart the celestial calendar by using his dual dao swords to reflect the sun's rays on the sunstone at the correct angle, activating the mechanism to open the doors.[8] He also displayed good military, organizational, and leadership skills when he became Fire Lord, which he demonstrated when he re-organized the Fire Nation Army into a more compact and effective force and later commanded it in the battle for Yu Dao. His time being a "bad guy", as he put it, also gave him insight into certain situations. In the South Pole, Earth King Kuei was used as leverage by Gilak to capture Hakoda. Upon hearing the demands, Zuko correctly deduced that the man did not intend to keep either party alive and was able to warn his friends against complying.[64]

As a leader, Zuko has also displayed charisma and good public speaking. His speech to redeem the name of the Fire Nation at his coronation was warmly embraced, not only by his own people but by people of the other nations as well.[9] Despite a very tumultuous start, Zuko eventually came to be regarded as an excellent, benevolent Fire Lord, with his actions in helping create Republic City being recognized for many years.

Relationships

Main article: Zuko's relationships

Relatives

Main article: Fire Nation Royal Family
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Yosor
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Descendants
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Huazo
   
   
Chaeryu
   
   
Sulan
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Chaejin
   
   
Zoryu
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Descendants
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Sozin's father
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Sozin
   
   
   
   
   
   
Roku
   
   
Ta Min
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Azulon
   
   
Ilah
   
   
Rina
   
   
Jinzuk
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Iroh
   
   
Ozai
   
   
   
   
   
   
Ursa
   
   
   
   
   
   
Noren
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Lu Ten
   
   
   
   
Zuko
   
   
Azula
   
   
Kiyi
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Izumi
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Iroh
   
   
Izumi's
daughter[83]


Appearances

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book One: Water (水)

Book Two: Earth (土)

Book Three: Fire (火)

Avatar comics

Book Two: Earth (土)

Book Three: Fire (火)

Other comics

Graphic novels

The Legend of Korra

Book Three: Change (易)

Book Four: Balance (平衡)

Trivia

Zuko was played by Dev Patel in The Last Airbender.

  • At Emerald City ComiCon 2017, Gene Luen Yang implied that Zuko and Mai rekindled their relationship three years after their break-up in The Promise Part Two,[84] though it has never been confirmed to have actually happened.
  • Zuko's hair is black in all of his appearances in Book One: Water, differing from the dark brown used throughout the rest of the franchise.
  • Zuko's first major act as Fire Lord was to send out search parties for his mother.[57]
  • Zuko is the first character to have an entire episode, "Zuko Alone", completely to himself with no other main characters appearing except in flashbacks, the second being Korra in the Book Four episode "Korra Alone".
  • Zuko's name was listed on a Fire Nation wanted poster as 祖寇, which translates as "ancestors robber".[82] Later, in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", his name was written as 蘇科 on his segment's title card, which is the phonetic transcription based on the official guide for foreign names, and which can also be translated as "awaken rank". In The Search Part One, however, when Ursa writes a letter to Ikem, she writes Zuko's name as 豎髙 (verb "erect"; lit. "vertical high/tall") with the second character being a variant of "".[49]
    • The name Zuko is phonetically similar to suko, a Cebuano word meaning "angry". This derivation corresponds to Zuko's ill-tempered personality portrayed in all three books.[85]
  • According to Iroh, Zuko is a bad tea maker, though he seemed to have gotten better by the time of "The Boiling Rock, Part 1", as he was seen serving tea to the members of Team Avatar and they drank it without any apparent disgust.
  • Zuko successfully used his uncle's lightning redirection technique twice, against his father and his sister.[53]
  • Zuko had above-average abilities that helped him survive certain situations. In "The Waterbending Master" with Avatar Extras bonus commentary, when the pirates infiltrated Zuko's ship, one of the commentary bubbles said that Zuko had above average hearing abilities, waking up when he heard one of the pirates opening a rusty door. In "The Siege of the North, Part 1" with Avatar Extras bonus commentary, when swimming through the underwater tunnels, one of the commentary bubbles said that Zuko could hold his breath for an unusually long amount of time. In addition, it is stated by Uncle Iroh in "The Avatar State" that they had survived for three weeks without food or water.
  • In the pilot episode, it is shown that Zuko was originally supposed to have a pet hawk, but it did not make it into the show. A pet hawk did make it into the show as Hawky, Sokka's pet, though it only appeared for one episode.[86]
  • Zuko took part in all three Agni Kais shown in the series: the first between him and Ozai,[23] the second between him and Zhao,[22] and the third between him and Azula.[56]
  • According to the Avatar Extras bonus in "The Cave of Two Lovers", Zuko's story throughout the series is similar to that of the Buddha.
  • Zuko is the only person from the Fire Nation known to use dao swords to firebend.[11]
  • According to the Avatar Extras for "The Waterbending Master", Zuko was gifted in playing the tsungi horn, in contrast to Aang, who was terrible at it.[47]
  • Zuko was shown to cry five times, in "The Storm", "Zuko Alone", "Bitter Work", "The Day of Black Sun, Part Two: The Eclipse", and finally, in "Sozin's Comet: Part 2, The Old Masters".
  • Zuko was the first of only two characters to bleed in the series. He bled for the first time in "The Avatar State" when Azula scratched his forehead with her nails. The second character to bleed was Appa in "Appa's Lost Days".
  • According to the Avatar Extras for "The Avatar Returns", Zuko was supposed to be Katara's love interest, though Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have both stated that they never intended to make that relationship happen.
  • Throughout Book Two: Earth, Zuko visibly started losing muscle as he was forced to live off the land of the Earth Kingdom as a refugee. This changed in Book Three: Fire, when he was reaffirmed as a prince; as seen in "The Beach" and "The Ember Island Players", his body was much fitter than it was in Book Two.
  • Taking the throne at the age of sixteen years, Zuko is the youngest known Fire Lord.
    • Additionally, he is the second youngest known person to become the ruler of a state, the first being Earth King Kuei.
  • Zuko is the first of two known rulers in the Avatar franchise to willingly abdicate his throne, the other being Earth King Wu.
    • He is also the second known Fire Lord, after his father, not to have died prior to their successor taking the throne.
  • Zuko's voice actor, Dante Basco, also voiced General Iroh, Zuko's grandson.
  • Zuko is the second of three characters to have joined a Team Avatar and to have a father who is antagonistic toward them and their allies. The other two are Toph Beifong and Asami Sato.
  • There are many parallels between Zuko and Asami Sato.
    • Both were born to upper-class families and lived under the influence of their ambitious fathers.
    • Both characters eventually spoke out against their fathers after realizing that they had little regard for righteousness and could no longer feel actual affection toward anyone.
    • Their reactions to this acknowledgment were also similar, as both Zuko and Asami had to make a choice between joining the Avatar to stop their fathers or serving their fathers, and both characters made the former choice, turning against their parents with quick lightning-based attacks.
    • Lastly, both characters were temporarily reduced to greater poverty and isolation as a result of following their beliefs.
    • Both Ozai and Hiroshi were ultimately imprisoned for their actions.
  • Although the Blue Spirit was Zuko's disguise, the character was depicted as a different person altogether in the play The Boy in the Iceberg and the non-canon short "School Time Shipping".
  • The Blue Spirit mask used by Zuko was among the collection of masks from the play Love amongst the Dragons that Ursa kept hidden in her quarters behind a painting of her and Ozai.[59] She had them secretly made to remind her of Iken and Hira'a Acting Troupe.[60]
  • Zuko has a close relationship with his grandson, General Iroh.[10]
  • In his old age, Zuko holds the title of "Lord".[10]
  • Zuko is the first character in the entire Avatar universe known to have been scarred by a close relative, the second being Lin Beifong in The Legend of Korra. However, he was scarred deliberately, whereas Lin accidentally.
  • Zuko is the last surviving male member of the original Team Avatar.
  • Despite the extent of the burn scar inflicted by his father, Zuko retained full functionality in his left tear duct.
  • In July 2020, the game SMITE launched a battle pass that featured two skins with which the player could alter the appearance of the Japanese storm god Susano to look like Zuko in Book Three or his appearance as the Blue Spirit.[87][88]
  • Zuko's addition to the plot of Avatar came from executive producer Eric Coleman; during production, when Ozai was planned to be the main villain, Coleman suggested that they needed a character who would follow Team Avatar.[89]
    • Additionally, Zuko was initially to be portrayed as an adult. Coleman, however, suggested that the character be portrayed as a really driven kid chasing Aang. It was followed by Konietzko asking whether he can have a scar, to which Coleman agreed. As a result, Coleman was dubbed "the godfather of Zuko".[89]
Preceded by
Iroh
Heir to the Fire Lord
95 AG – 97 AG
Succeeded by
Azula


Preceded by
Azula
Heir to the Fire Lord
Spring 100 AG – Summer 100 AG
Succeeded by
Azula


Preceded by
Ozai
Fire Lord
100 AG – 167 AG
Succeeded by
Izumi


Preceded by
Jeong Jeong
Avatar's firebending master
100 AG
Succeeded by
Unknown teacher

References

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  2. Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series, page 127.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Estoesta, Joann, Wahlander, Lisa, Huebner, Andrew, Scheppke, Gary, MacMullan, Lauren, Mattila, Katie, Ridge, Justin, Volpe, Giancarlo (writers) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (September 29, 2006). "The Tales of Ba Sing Se". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 15. Nickelodeon.
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  6. Casey, Dan (2013-03-20). Comic Book Day: Join 'The Search' with Gene Luen Yang. Nerdist. Retrieved on April 27, 2013.
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  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 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.
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  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 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.
  65. San Diego Comic-Con 2011
  66. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Legacy of the Fire Nation, Letter: "Greetings from Republic City!"
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  68. 68.0 68.1 68.2 Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Heck, Colin (director). (August 15, 2014). "The Ultimatum". The Legend of Korra. Book Three: Change. Episode 11. Nick.com.
  69. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (June 23, 2012). "Skeletons in the Closet". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 11. Nickelodeon.
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  75. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & Zwyer, Melchior (director). (August 8, 2014). "Long Live the Queen". The Legend of Korra. Book Three: Change. Episode 10. Nick.com.
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