How does the Fire Nation survive the 100 years of war? There were several reasons why it shouldn't:

  • The terrain of Earth Kingdom is perfect for partisan fighting. They have the support of locals and places to hide (mountains, canyons etc.).
  • A 100 year war is war of attrition. A quick look on the map seems to point out that the Fire Nation does not have the resources even to cover the Earth Kingdom. However the only indication of any stretching of resources is that the teenage prison guard did not arouse suspicions.
  • To downvoter: what is wrong with question? Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 20:36

3 Answers 3


I think another factor not wholly covered by Keen is the mind set of the nations, and the associated benders.

Earth benders have a stubborn, passive defensive mindset. Perfect for resisting a siege but not counter-attacking.

Fire benders have an arrogant, actively aggressive mindset. Perfect for endlessly laying siege, but not defending.

I don't remember any group of earth-benders forming a resistance on the scale needed to defeat the fire nation. Anyone thinking like that was an outsider, with a slightly different mind set to the other earth benders. If Ba Sing Se had mobilized it could have flattened the fire nation, they just don't think like that.

The water tribes had already been harried soon after the suspected death of Aang, as they would be the next holders of the avatar. Also because water beats fire, so the fire nation wanted to close off that threat as soon as possible. Being so marginalised they would struggle to mount a direct offensive, as well as the fact they have a counter-attacking attacking mindset (think how Jiu-jitsu and Aikido work); to a water bender you never strike first.

The air nomads...I don't really understand how they think. Crazy hippies.

In short effectively taking out water and air left two nations suited to siege warfare, meaning that the fire nation were rarely threatened.

  • 1
    In fact the thought of Ba Sing Sae mobilizing is scary they could literally tear open the ground beneath their enemies....
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 23:36
  • 3
    The air nomads were pacifists, and were never suited to war in the first place. Taking them out had more to do with trying to capture (not kill) Aang than with any strategic issues relating to the war.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 4:55

I think it comes down to one of the themes of the show, balance. The existence of 3 opposing nations and the Avatar provides enough opposition to prevent any nation from taking over. However, by killing the Avatar, and starting the invasion on the day of Sozin's Comet, resulted in them being able to get a solid foothold. Then there was no replacement Avatar due to Aang getting frozen. The Fire Nation quickly took out the Air Nation, so even if the remaining 2 nations combined their forces they were doomed. Without an Avatar to restore the balance between the 4 nations, the Fire Nation was able to become stronger than the other nations without a suitable force to return them to balance.

edit: I think the other issue is that the Fire Nation had 2 things going for it that none of the other nations could pull off. Firstly, they had advanced war machines. Between their ships and those tank-like vehicles, they have formidable weaponry. Secondly, fire bending is uniquely suited to be adapted to industrial revolution technology. When your army consists of people who can create fire at will, it means you can construct steam-powered machines, and your army can easily fuel it. You don't need to chop down trees or mine coal, just have fire benders. To my recollection, we never see a water bender turn water to steam, they are only able to freeze or thaw water, so they couldn't power steam engines. Once the invasion occurs, you then have your army lock down sources of resources you need. This is when they can procure large amounts of metal, coal, etc that can then be used for more ambitious devices, like the massive drill they attacked the Earth Nation with.

  • 3
    While you are right it seems logical for me that Avatar was an additional safeguard. Anyway it is unlikely that the only one nation would be so much powerful in state of constant warfare. The natural balance should be much more 'in check' even for such short time. Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 18:45
  • I expect the other nations didn't react as they should have, because they expected the Avatar to help. I may not have sufficiently emphasised the importance of the Avatar in my answer, but I agree that he's an important enforcer of the peace. I also expect that if they'd failed to wipe out the Air Nation, they wouldn't have been so wildly successful.
    – user1027
    Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 19:30
  • While it might be a factor remember time scale - 100 years. Even slight delay should not affect this on such scale. Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 19:56
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    Given the technological advances the Fire Nation had, I don't think time would result in a traditional war of attrition. Look at colonialism in the real world, we had countries ruling others for hundreds of years.
    – user1027
    Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 20:13
  • @Keen: Like those advances made by Earth Kingdom Mechanist? They are in begin of process of industralisation and once the invention is made (say tanks) it is followed by Earth Kingdom (Earth Kingdom tanks). The factory from Painted Lady is also recent. As of colonialism - it the Fire Nation used tanks and conquer Earth Kingdom I would have no problems with that (Earth Kingdom forces would be reduced to Guerrilla fighters). However the active warfare of 100 years would put enormous stress on country. Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 21:59

The first 50 or so years into the war, due to their technological advancements and stable economy, the FN were successful in capturing and colonising most of the towns and villages along the western coast of the EK, and manage to drive most of the earth kingdom armies and refugees into the heart of the EK, and force them to take refuge in Ba Sing Sei. Furthermore, capturing the the towns and cities on the coast would have allowed the FN to establish strong supply lines and allowed them to advance further into the EK.

It is safe to say that the first few decades of the war and the FN pre-emptive attack devastated the rest of the world, rendering the earth kingdom armies and people crippled, and due to their technological superiority, were unable to launch an effective counter attack ; The FN had both air and naval superiority over the EK military.

However, later on into the war, the EK military had a chance to capitalise and turn the tide in the war when General Iroh leading the siege of Ba sing sea lost his son and abandoned the siege, subsequently resulting in FN defeat. With the FN army having delt many losses in numbers and pratically demoralised after the failed seige, the EK could have successfully launched an effective counter attack and drive the FN forces back, but the EK people decided it best to sit back and rely upon the walls of ba sing sea and live out the war,

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