It's pretty obvious watching the series that Iroh must be significantly older than Ozai. Iroh's gray hair, long memory, and (more importantly) son who died when Zuko was still young clearly denote him as the older of Azulon's children.

Yet Ozai gained the throne, not Iroh. Generally, succession follows primogeniture, and Zuko's role as Fire Nation Crown Prince (whereas Azula, Ozai's obvious favorite, is generally accepted as not inheriting) seems to indicate that this is the norm here, as well.

So: Why is Iroh not the Fire Lord?

Is Iroh illegitimate? (This could explain how he gained military rank and enjoyed palace life without being allowed to inherit.) Or, did Iroh refuse the throne? Did his loss as Ba Sing Se lead to him being stripped of his birthright?

  • Seriously, though, this is something that's always bothered me about the show.
    – Aarthi
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 4:08

5 Answers 5


If you watched the episode called Zuko Alone in Book 2, it explains how Iroh lost the Battle at Ba Sing Se and become a shame to the fire lord.

It then shows that the Fire Lord died "suddenly" and it was Ozai who said it was his father's "dying wish" that he be made Fire Lord instead of Iroh. Which was probably a lie.

from Gabe Willard's comment:

Additionally, that request is why Zuko's mother was banished. Initially, Azulon was outraged that Ozai wanted to supercede Iroh, after he had given his reason as being since Iroh had no heir. Azulon ordered Zuko killed so that Ozai would learn what it felt like to lose his heir. It's strongly implied that Zuko's mother agreed to be banished, in order to prevent Zuko's death.

  • I might have the episode wrong, but I do know that it was Ozai who is thought to have "convinced" his father to have Ozai be firelord and not Iroh. Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 4:42
  • The episode with the flashbacks you're thinking of is "Zuko Alone" (from season 2); there are a few more key details in "The Eclipse" (season 3).
    – Micah
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 4:43
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    Additionally, that request is why Zuko's mother was banished. Initially, Azulon was outraged that Ozai wanted to supercede Iroh, after he had given his reason as being since Iroh had no heir. Azulon ordered Zuko killed so that Ozai would learn what it felt like to lose his heir. It's strongly implied that Zuko's mother agreed to be banished, in order to prevent Zuko's death. Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 4:46
  • @OghmaOsiris You should edit in Gabe Willard's information into your answer. It adds more detail and background.
    – Aarthi
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 3:06
  • 5
    @GabeWillard I would say that it's strongly implied that Zuko's mother killed Azulon in order to prevent Zuko's death, and then either went into hiding or was banished by Ozai.
    – evilsoup
    Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 23:22

As the eldest son of Fire Lord Azulon, Iroh was the Crown Prince. The reason Ozai became Fire Lord instead was because of the chain of events following the failure of the siege on Ba Sing Se.

As explained in the episode "Zuko Alone" (and expanded upon in the comics), Lu Ten, Iroh's son and only child, was killed during the siege. Overwhelmed with sorrow, Iroh stopped the siege.

In a meeting with Azulon, Ozai tried to convince his father to strip Iroh of his birthright: he argued that Iroh had disgraced himself by abandoning the siege, and that Lu Ten's death left Iroh without a successor to continue the Royal Bloodline. The disgusted Azulon shot down the idea almost immediately, and ordered Ozai to kill Zuko so that he would know the pain of losing a son (and as we all know, Ozai would have done it without losing any sleep). Desperate to save her son, Ozai's wife Ursa made a deal: in exchange for Zuko's life, she would create an untraceable poison that Ozai would use to kill his father. Ozai agreed, but forced Ursa to leave, knowing that she could use the poison on him.

The next morning, Azulon was found dead, and Ozai claimed that his father's dying wish was for him to be made the new Fire Lord. For whatever reason, Iroh didn't challenge Ozai's claim.

So...long story short, Iroh didn't become Fire Lord because Ozai usurped the throne.

  • Haven't read all the comics, so maybe I'm wrong, but I always got the impression that the dying wish wasn't really a lie. Azulon might have been disgusted by Ozai's power-grubbing, but still recognized that Ozai was right. Iroh had abandoned the siege, and seemingly all interest in ruling. (The last-of-his-line problem would've been minor; it could be been remedied in nine months with a young wife.) Maybe a dying Azulon had had time to write his will? Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 20:45
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    @PlutoThePlanet: Actually, the show doesn't really do anything to indicate if it really was Azulon's dying wish. The only indication the show gives is the Fire Sage stating it as such, but we have absolutely no information of where he got that information. Azulon could have shared this with a Fire Sage directly, or Ozai, being a Prince, could easily claim (or coerce someone to claim) that Azulon wished Ozai over Iroh to be his heir. We're given absolutely 0 context for the basis of the Fire Sage's statement at the funeral/coronation. We only have the flashbacks with Azulon and Azula.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 23:44

Book 2 Episode 7 first explains this situation through flashbacks.

Upon Iroh's only son being killed in battle at Ba Sing Se, (notoriously power-hungry) Ozai requested of their father Firelord Azulon to make him his heir instead, seeming how he had live offspring to secure royal succession.

Such a request was met with disgust and outrage by Azulon and the details of his reaction were picked up by Azula while eavesdropping: Ozai was to suffer a penalty for this insult by sacrificing Zuko, his own firstborn.

Ursa (Ozai's wife) seemingly learned about this from Azula upon questioning (she was teasing Zuko about it and Ursa overheard) and all we know from there is that Ursa suddenly leaves; Azulon, who was "perfectly healthy" as described by Ursa at the begging of the episode suddenly dies overnight and that on his "death wish" he was to be succeeded by Ozai, even though the audience knows better, from Azulon's previously depicted outrage at this idea.

The dubious circumstances of this event were not clarified until Book 3 Episode 11, when Zuko confronted Ozai. Ozai explained that the reason Ursa was banished is that she proposed a plan to spare her beloved Zuko's life, a plan on which Ozai agreed because it meant him getting the power he wanted.

So, pretty much they both threw a coup of sorts: Ursa killed Azulon (she is the most heavily implied culprit of this) and was subsequently banished (I can only assume so she wouldn't be tempted to tell anyone the truth) while Ozai became the new Firelord, to which we can only speculate he either flat out lied about Azulon's "death wish" and people believed him, or he forged Azulon's will. All this being possible because Iroh was still away at the Earth Kindgom, or on his way home, as implied in B2E7, or maybe too grief-stricken to act. Either way, Iroh is not depicted as being present at Ozai's coronation ceremony.

  • 1
    Here lies a criminally underrated answer that provides a lot of the details to fill in context.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 23:47

Iroh was not made fire lord due to the death of his son Lu ten. Instead the tyrant, Ozai was made as successor allegedly at the deathbed of Azulon. It is thought that the mother of Fire lord Zuko the peacemaker was involved in the death of Azulon and for that reason was banished by Ozai. Azulon was as much of a tyrant and a savage as his son Ozai and as his father Sozin


After the battle of Ba Sing Se, Iroh was heart-broken with the loss of his son. Ozai took advantage of that and asked his father if he can Inherit the throne. Saying that Iroh no longer has an heir and no longer capable to become leader, since Iroh was in anguish over the loss of his son.

So Ozai successfully convinced the Firelord that he would be more capable of being Fire lord since he has a son and a daughter. So then the Fire Lord picked Ozai over Iroh

Iroh wasn't Fire Lord because he didn't have a successor (a son).

  • why the down vote?
    – Blue
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 20:28
  • 3
    Because Ozai didn't convince Azula. Ozai's mother comitted treasonous acts against the Firelord and after he died 'suddenly', then Ozai claimed that Azula chose him as his successor. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 2:53
  • 2
    @OghmaOsiris Do you mean "Azulon" and "wife" ? I'm not sure I follow your comment.
    – Aarthi
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 3:07
  • 1
    Yeah, lol. I get all of their names mixed up... Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 4:55

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