I'm just wondering why in the Avatar series are the nations so strongly divided?

Each nation seems to have cut itself off from each other, even before the fire nation started the war. Air Benders kept themselves up in the mountains (or under cliffs), the earth benders behind their big walls.

I know it seems nice for an earth bender to be surrounded by mountains, an ice bender to be surrounded by water etc, but if people have spread out across this world it seems likely that there ought to be far more integration between the nations.

  • Maybe not a dupe, but at least very related: what determines a bender's element.
    – phantom42
    Sep 23, 2013 at 12:43
  • It's also important to note that the three remaining kingdoms were at war during the events of The Last Airbender. During Korra, however, benders ARE intermingled throughout the world.
    – phantom42
    Sep 23, 2013 at 12:45
  • @phantom42 I have watched Legend of Korra and I did notice that. I figured that it was used only to show a cultural progression from the first original time-line. Sep 23, 2013 at 13:16
  • @phantom42 I wouldn't put that down to the reason why there's such a split though Sep 23, 2013 at 13:54
  • Earth/Water nations were at war with Fire. That's why Fire benders weren't integrated. Why there wasn't more integration between Earth/Water isn't clear - that's why I didn't make it an answer. But the war was likely a major driving point.
    – phantom42
    Sep 23, 2013 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


All source based on Legend of Korra - Beginnings Part 1 & 2:

Before the first Avatar - the humans did live together - though they did not possess the ability to bend. When Vaatu broke the barriers between the mortal and spirit worlds - humans had to break apart and go into hiding to protect themselves from the spirits. The lion turtles offered shelters to humans and villages were built around the lion turtles' backs. These lion turtles possessed the ability to bend and shared that art with humans when they needed to go among the spirit wilds to gather food - but usually took the power back once the humans returned home.

One such human - Wan - refused to give back his firebending ability and instead went on travels to find the other lion turtle cities. He eventually mastered all four elements and became the first Avatar. He was also crucial in releasing Vaatu and banishing the spirits back to the spirit world.

Now - with the humans no longer needing protection - the lion turtles encouraged the humans to live on their own. However - since the villages and the culture that the humans had built when under the protection of the lion turtles - the humans were comfortable in their own territories and did not bother living together again. The comfort factor may be added by the fact that they chose to stay in areas where their bending will be more in touch with the elements.

From various accounts of both Aang and Iroh among others - it looks like they did live in harmony and did travel frequently among other territories. The reason they probably chose to stay isolated was probably because of their cultural differences.

  • +1 though IIRC Wan was banished for tricking the lion turtle and keeping his bending in village. Only afterwards did he encounter the other lion turtles and learn about the other bending abilities...
    – Zommuter
    Sep 1, 2016 at 19:18

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