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At the end of Book 3 when Korra finally defeats Zaheer he is locked in a special prison deep underground. We see this is Book 4 when Korra speaks to him. He is chained to the floor but still floating so he still has his bending.

We know Korra learned energybending from Aang in Book 1 and she returned people's bending after Amon took it away. (Lin most notably)

My question is why didn't she take away Zaheer's bending? He was one of the biggest threats ever faced and he almost succeeded, if anyone deserves it, it would be him and considering he was a non-bender before it even makes more sense. So why didn't she take his bending?

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  • I don't think she knows how to do that.
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:11
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    @Wade She does; as the OP explains, she learns it directly from Aang at the end of Book 1
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:21
  • @NathanS I guess I forgot. So whose bending did she take?
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:22
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    @Wade Towards the end of my answer, I explain that she has only ever used energybending to restore people's bending, not take it away, probably why she thought better than to test herself against Zaheer of all people, especially in a weakened state as she was at the end of Book 3. Regarding her using energybending to restore people's bending at the end of Book 1, this is also mentioned on the Avatar wiki page on energybending.
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:23
  • @NathanS Hmmm, so maybe she just knows how to restore it, not to take it away?
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:28

1 Answer 1

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It might have corrupted Korra, and she was already weakened anyway

The Avatar wiki page on energybending (the method by which it is possible to remove someone's bending abilities) has a "Dangers" section, which says:

Energybending is an extremely powerful and potentially dangerous technique. If the bender's spirit is even slightly weak, or bendable, they will be infected by the spirit of the one they are bending. As a result, the bender can be corrupted and even destroyed.

We see this in Avatar: the Last Airbender; when the lion turtle first teaches Aang energybending, it warns Aang that his spirit must be strong in order to not be corrupted by the other who's bending it being taken away.

Lion turtle: To bend another's energy, your own spirit must be unbendable or you will be corrupted and destroyed. (from Sozin's Comet, Part 4)

In the last episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender, we see that Ozai's corruption nearly takes hold of Aang as Aang attempt to energybender his bending away, but Aang proves stronger is able to do so without being corrupted.

... Ozai's energy begins to make its way to Aang's body, consuming the blue and replacing it with red energy. Cut to a view above Aang looking down at his face as the energy reaches his face and continues to cover the beams shining out his mouth and eyes. Cut to a side-view as the red light begins to take control and the blue light diminishes. Cut to close-up of Aang as the red energy has taken over almost completely with just one eye left. The blue energy begins to disappear, but at the last second it blasts out of Aang's eyes, overwhelming the red energy in the process and proceeding to take over Ozai's own body. Cut to a wide shot of the area as Aang completely takes over Ozai's energy and an intense beam of blue energy erupts into the sky... (from Sozin's Comet, Part 4)

Part of Korra's character arch is that she is, unlike Aang, far less spiritual. She might not trust herself to be strong enough in spirit, especially compared to someone both very spiritually strong and also corrupt (Zaheer). Previously, Korra had only used energybending to restore people's bending (and even then, it has just been "blocked by Amon", not actually taken away via energybending).

Also remember that at the end of Book 3, Korra is not exactly at her strongest, having been poisoned, so that's another reason why Korra might not have been too keen to test herself. She is shown to be rather weak in the last few minutes of that last episode of Book 3:

Asami: [Side shot, revealing Korra in a wheelchair.] You know, nobody expects you to bounce back right away. It's only been two weeks. You need time to heal. (from Venom of the Red Lotus)

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  • Thank you, I do like this answer but i am not sure that the red/blue light thing happens everytime you take someones bending. In the flashback where Aang took Yakones bending for example that did not occur and it simply looked very similar to when Korra restores bending and was a very quick process. Plus it isnt neccasarily true that taking away bending is harder or more succeptible to corruption than restoring bending since it only says that energy bending at all requires you to have an unbendable spirit so i would assume restoring bending requires this also.
    – GamerGypps
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:43
  • @GamerGypps The red/blue light thing happened the first time Aang tried it (also this was the climax of that episode, so more of a song and dance was made about it), as an older Avatar taking Yakone's bending away, he might have been better at it, or "more unbendable" than when he was a kid. As for restoring bending, yes, you are correct in that there's nothing inherent about "restoring vs. taking away" bending that makes corruption possible or not possible, but those Korra was restoring at the end of Book 1, I wouldn't describe as being corrupt in the same way as Ozai, Yakone or Zaheer are.
    – NathanS
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 13:49

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