Element Benders can pass on their abilities genetically. I'm wondering is an avatar that has access to more elements than usual is able to pass on more than their native bending talent. We haven't, to my knowledge much to go on but this family tree.

enter image description here

I doubt we'll see any hard evidence soon (i.e. proof by contradiction), but if there is something I've missed theory wise, it would help answer.

I see two lines of thought on this:

  1. Being an avatar is if not hereditary, some how genetic. Some portion of gene could be passed on unlocking non-native bending.
  2. Being an avatar is purely spiritual, and cannot be 'passed on' as with normal bending genes. This may imply however that non-avatars can become avatars if they contemplate their navels thoroughly enough...

Which one is correct, or is there a third option?

  • You need to use different terminology. "The Avatar" is way too specific a term, as what you mean to say most of the time here is instead "can bend non-native elements".
    – user1027
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 15:10

5 Answers 5


TLDR; No -- because the Avatar doesn't have all the bending genes.

The Avatar does not have the genes to bend all the elements; rather, as shown in The Legend of Korra, the Avatar's multi-bending is due to his or her spirit being merged with Raava, the Spirit of Light.


Raava, being a spirit, is able to hold multiple bending arts at once. Human spirits, on the other hand, can only hold one. The merger of the first Avatar, Wan, with Raava allowed him and his reincarnations to bend multiple elements at once.

On the interesting end of things, the state of the Avatar franchise in the first two series had people who self-segregated into nations by the predominant bending ability. This assured that any Avatar was born to a member of a tribe that was known for a type of bending.

From that point, we see that the Avatar will not only be merged with the spirit of Raava, but will also have the genes of a bender in their own right, (incidentally, it's impossible to tell if they're currently expressed, as the Avatar's bending comes from Raava) which can be passed on to their children. They cannot, however, pass on the genes they do not have.

Eventually, however, all the bloodlines will mix as they have begun to in Korra (the nations, now at peace, have started fusing and their people intermixing), and all people will have the potential to be born benders of any single variety.


The Avatar is a non-hereditary process. Each Avatar is from a different nation every time they manifest, so there is no genetic process that would be able to account for how it moves from nation to nation in an understandable form. So a bender who is the Avatar, may pass on their primary element (their native one) and that would be it. The rest of their power is derived from a spiritual connection to the elements from their past lives.

  • Avatar Roku (Fire Nation, Roku's Island), 82 BSC - 12 BSC
  • Avatar Kyoshi (Earth Kingdom, now Kyoshi Island), 312 BSC - 82 BSC
  • Avatar Kuruk (Water Tribes, Northern Water Tribe), Unknown - 312 BSC
  • Avatar Yangchen (Air Nomads, Western Air Temple), Years unknown
  • Unnamed fire Avatar (Fire Nation), Years unknown

An image of previous avatars, including Aang

An image of previous avatars, including Aang


I would say number 2:

Being an avatar is purely spiritual, and cannot be 'passed on' as with normal bending genes. This may imply however that non-avatars can become avatars if they contemplate their navels thoroughly enough...

I believe this because as of yet, we have no information that Korra is related to Aang, nor that Roku or any of the other past avatars are related to each other.
Also given the fact that there is a new avatar only at the correct time, ie the old one is always gone before the new one arrives, I would say that 'passing on' the avatar status is spiritual and not genetic.

However, I do not beleive that "non-avatars can become avatars if they contemplate their navels thoroughly enough".

The avatar is a spiritual thing, the avatar is the bridge between the spirit world and the human world. The Avatar Wiki backs me up on this:

The Avatar is the spirit of the planet incarnated in human form

The world is an entity, entities only have one spirit, Therefore there is only one bridge between the spirit world and the earthen world at a time.

One world, one avatar, that is all there can be.

  • Perhaps though a genetic predisposition to being able to accept the avatar state? Like how there are many 'potentials' in Buffy.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 8:21
  • 2
    But the Avatar is reincarnated into the next body. For it to work like Buffy, the spirit would have to be jumping into an existing body, not reincarnating. Where do you get the requirement regarding being strong spirited? This is a requirement for a person/body being "chosen" as the Avatar? An unborn person has no spirit (in the sense of personality, not soul) or enthusiasm until they are born.
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 13:38
  • The point is that if the Avatar is reincarnated into a new body as the series says, it throws out the whole idea of potential Avatar bodies existing for the spirit to just take hold of. My point regarding the strong will is that that is something the person must learn to have AS the Avatar. It's not a requisite for them to BE the Avatar.
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 14:14
  • @phantom42 yeah I guess... I just realized that second part of my answer doesn't help answer the question anyways, the question was about passing on bending, not the origin of new avatars. I'll delete all these comments and remove that section from my post, it doesn't belong here. Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 14:29
  • Might need to update the part about the Avatar being a spiritual being. At one point, Nickelodeon's website did describe the Avatar as the planet incarnated into human form, but The Legend of Korra retconned that to be Raava, spirit of peace and light. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 16:36

I think that from was shown in the shows, being an Avatar is completely spiritual thing. And there is always exactly one Avatar, a reincarnation of the previous Avatars.

Based on that:

  1. Being Avatar is not hereditary and Avatar's children can't inherit any of the “extra” powers.
  2. You also can't become Avatar through navel-gazing, you have to be born as one and there is only one (living) Avatar at any given time.

All of this is also connected to the origins of bending and possibly energybending, which wasn't explained yet.


No, the avatar can only pass on their native elements to their children. Hope that helps. :)

  • 2
    What makes you say that?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 18:36
  • Because if you think about when they spend most of their life trying to master the four elements and when they open all their chi's and have children, their children have their blood so they can only pass it to them as the same as regular benders. And plus would you want you just want to give your bending to a random person after spending all your life on mastering it? I sure wouldn't.
    – Danielle
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 19:14
  • 1
    @Danielle it's not just a random person you're giving it to, it would be your child. I'm no parent, but I'm pretty sure any parent would love to share their gift with their children. Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 19:18
  • @Danielle I'm not following you argument, I think: Because it's part of the avatars chi, not their blood it doesn't get passed on?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 20:23
  • 2
    Well I mean yeah you could pass it on to anybody you would want to, but wouldn't you rather pass it on to your own child and blood then someone else? @hammythepig, I didn't mean the child I just meant any random person you don't even know.
    – Danielle
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 23:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.