The Spirit World In Avatar: The Last Airbender Fully Explained

Warning! This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.


Summary

  • The Spirit World is home to the spirits of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s universe, residing in an otherworldly plane.
  • The Avatar is connected to the Spirit World, maintaining balance between both realms and acting as a bridge between humans and spirits.
  • Anyone in touch with their spirituality can venture into the Spirit World, though their spirit does not possess the power of bending, meaning it is not possible in the Spirit World.


Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1 introduces the Spirit World, with a lot of questions about the equally wondrous and terrifying realm being raised in the process. The Spirit World first appears in full in Netflix’s The Last Airbender episode 5. In the episode, the trio of Aang, Katara, and Sokka travel to the Spirit World to investigate a case of missing villagers who have been taken by dark spirits, leading to an inherently fantastical journey found in Book One of the original Last Airbender show.

Through their journey in the Spirit World, Aang, Katara, and Sokka reckon with the threats it poses physically but also the effects it has on their mental psyche. From revelations concerning what happened to Sokka and Katara’s parents in The Last Airbender to connecting Aang with his history and even bringing the character closer to The Last Airbender‘s past Avatars, the Spirit World marks a turning point for a lot of stories in both Netflix’s live-action show and the original cartoon. This journey raises several questions too, specifically concerning the Spirit World itself and how it connects to Avatar’s lore.


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The Spirit World Is Where The Spirits Of The Last Airbender Reside

The home of the spirits is an otherworldly plane in Avatar’s universe.

Hei Bai snarling in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1

As evident by the name given to the realm, the Spirit World houses the spirits of Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s universe. The two worlds somewhat coexist within the same plane, though are notably very different. Existing together, however, means that spirits can cross over into the physical world as shown in Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1. Despite this ability, the spirits mostly always return to the Spirit World to live as they have not coexisted in peace with humans for centuries.


How Does The Avatar Connect To The Spirit World?

Several of the Avatar’s duties tie directly to the world of the spirits.

Aang entering the Avatar State in Netflix's The Last Airbender next to Korra entering the Avatar State with the Spirit of Raava on her chest

One element of the Avatar’s role in the world of The Last Airbender is that they are connected to the Spirit World. That said, Netflix’s live-action show does not delve too deeply into exactly how the Avatar is connected to the other realm. Aang, along with the countless other Avatars before him, is responsible for maintaining balance in the world. As evident, this is done by keeping the Four Nations in harmony, with Aang’s attempt to stop the Fire Lord’s war being the primary way this is focused on in The Last Airbender‘s overall story.


While this is a crucial part of the Avatar’s responsibilities, keeping a balance between the Spirit World and the physical world is just as important as holding together the Four Nations. This is later supported by Avatar Kuruk, the last Waterbending Avatar before Aang, who tells the titular Airbender that most of his life was taken up fighting dark spirits. As the Avatar, it is the duty of Aang and his predecessors to act as a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, allowing both humans and spirits to live peacefully together.

The following paragraph contains minor spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender’s sequel show, The Legend of Korra!


While not mentioned in Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, the sequel to the original animated show – The Legend of Korra – outlines exactly why the Avatar holds this responsibility. In The Legend of Korra, it is revealed that the Avatar is powered by a primordial spirit named Raava, the spirit of Light. Raava holds the power of the four elements and the Avatar State, imbuing every human whom she regenerates into with those abilities. Given the coexistence between the Avatar and Raava, both must maintain balance between their two worlds.

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Who Can Go To The Spirit World?

Is the Spirit World accessible by anyone, or can only specific people travel to the other realm?


In Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, an interesting change is made concerning Aang’s journey into the Spirit World. In the original show, only Aang crosses over to investigate the missing villagers, with Sokka being one of the people taken by a vengeful spirit. In the Netflix show, however, Sokka is never taken and he, along with Katara, travels into the Spirit World with Aang. Aang’s spirituality pulls Katara and Sokka across the Spirit World barrier with him, meaning all three embark on the quest to save the villagers.

Anyone in the world of
The Last Airbender
who is in touch with their spirituality can go to the Spirit World.


This raises the question of who can travel to the Spirit World. Given the Avatar’s connections to Raava, any reincarnation of the being naturally holds the ability to cross into the Spirit World on command. However, this is not to say others cannot cross over too. Anyone in the world of The Last Airbender who is in touch with their spirituality can go to the Spirit World. In the original show, Iroh was mentioned as one who regularly visits the Spirit World, while Netflix’s The Last Airbender revealed that Monk Gyatso also can do the same.

Why There Is No Bending In Last Airbender’s Spirit World

Bending is not a spiritual power, but a physical one.

Aang using his airbending and Sozin using his firebending in Avatar The Last Airbender

Another element of the Spirit World that is mentioned, but not explained, in Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender is that there is no bending in the Spirit World. Neither Aang nor Katara can use their bending skills when present in the Spirit World, meaning it is incredibly difficult to defend themselves from the various threats the realm poses. The reason for this is that it is the body that holds the power of bending, not the spirit. This means that when someone’s spirit crosses over into the Spirit World, it loses the abilities possessed by the body.


The Spirit World’s Future Avatar Importance Explained

The realm of the spirits will continue to be important as Netflix’s live-action adaptation continues.

Legend of Korra background with Gordon Cormier as live-action Aang from Avatar The Last Airbender

Finally, it is worth exploring the importance of the Spirit World in the future of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Last Airbender season 1 alone proved how vital the spirits are to the overall lore of the show, from the spirits of the past Avatars helping Aang to the season finale’s Moon and Ocean Spirits. This importance will only grow as The Last Airbender continues, as supported by the story of the original show.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is yet to be renewed for season 2 by Netflix.


In the original show, the Spirit World continues to have great importance in seasons 2 and 3. As the Avatar itself is an inherently spiritual being, several of Aang’s major storylines from the original animation coincide with the Spirit World, from the further exploration of the Avatar State to the spiritual journey he embarks on in the series finale. All of these elements have been adequately teased in Netflix’s The Last Airbender via the inclusion of the Spirit World and the exploration of some of its core elements.

Furthermore, the original show’s sequel – The Legend of Korra – delves even deeper into the Spirit World than The Last Airbender did. The entire second season of The Legend of Korra is centered on spirits and provides much more depth and exploration of the Spirit World. Should the Netflix adaptation eventually reach the point of adapting The Legend of Korra to live-action, the set-up of the Spirit World in Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1 will become even more integral to the universe’s lore than it already was.


All episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1 are now streaming on Netflix.

Avatar the Last Airbender Netflix Poster

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Live-Action)

Based on the acclaimed animated Nickelodeon television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an action-adventure fantasy series developed by Albert Kim. The series follows Aang, a young man training to harness the four elements to live up to the title of Avatar – the one who will restore balance to the world.

Release Date
February 22, 2024

Cast
Gordon Cormier , Dallas Liu , Kiawentiio , Ian Ousley , Daniel Dae Kim , Paul Sun-Hyung Lee

Streaming Service(s)
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