Water Tribe

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The Water Tribe are a civilisation that features in Avatar: The Last Airbender.



The Water Tribe



The national insignia of the Water Tribe is a circle containing a waning crescent moon and three wavy horizontal lines representing ocean waves. This emblem symbolizes the Moon Spirit and the Ocean Spirit, Tui and La, beings who give the tribes theirs power and life and guide their beliefs. The two spirits coexist in perfect harmony, with the Moon's force exerting a gravitational pulling and pushing motion on the ocean's tides. The relationship between the spirits is the foundation of Waterbending and the Water Tribe's philosophy in maintaining peaceful cooperation among all four nations.

There were multiple different tribes that included:

  • Southern Water Tribe : the members of Southern and Northern Tribes originally lived as one in the North Pole. However, following civil unrest, a group of Waterbenders, warriors and healers departed to begin a new tribe at the South Pole. Since this division, the two tribes evolved quite differently. Prior to the war, the Southern Water Tribe was a thriving nation and its members dwelt in beautiful, bustling cities made from ice and snow. Over the years, the tribe was ravaged by Fire Nation raids and because so many Waterbenders were captured or died fighting, the art of Waterbending was nearly erased from the South Pole. With their cities gone and contact with the Northern Water Tribe severed, the remaining Southern Water Tribe population split apart into smaller groups and scattered across the South Pole, dwelling in small igloos and simple sealskin tents. In appearance, members of the Southern Water Tribe typically have light or deep brown hair, blue eyes and a brown skintone. Men may wear their hair long and half-up or in short ponytails, referred to as a "warrior's wolf tail." Women plait and braid their hair in various styles, sometimes with accent beads, and some sport hair loops. Clothing is typically a set of blue anorak and trousers trimmed with white fur and worn with mittens and mukluks.
  • Northern Water Tribe : the much larger Northern Water Tribe lives in one huge city built of ice on the shores of the Northern Sea at the North Pole. The city is several miles wide, surrounded by ice cliffs and frozen tundra, and sits inside a horseshoe-shaped cove. Dominated by large temples, it is an enormous, multi-tiered structure built into the landscape. The city itself is interconnected by a system of canals that act as its roads. In terms of architecture, structural supports are constructed from giant pieces of whale bone while the city is filled with beautiful buildings, bridges, fountains, waterfalls, and sculptures formed from ice. In the city's center, a long set of white stairs with lofty waterfalls on either side leads up to the Waterbending training grounds and the temple. The highest structure within the city is the chief's temple, where the chief and his chieftains make decisions regarding the tribe. Though similarly based on Inuit in appearance, the creators sought out to make the denizens of the Northern Water Tribe more elegant and cosmopolitan than their more rugged sister-tribe. Men wear clothing with a darker shade of blue and purple while women wear long dresses trimmed with fur.
  • Foggy Swamp Tribe : the Foggy Swamp Tribe was a Water Tribe settlement occupying a swamp in the southwestern Earth Kingdom. Coined as "Swampbenders," their ancestry lies in the Southern Water Tribe. A group migrated from the South Pole thousands of years ago and feeling comfortable with the large amount of water within the swamp, decided to stay. This information, however, has been lost to both tribes' history, resulting in neither of the two knowing the other exists. The swamp itself actually consists, in large part, of a single, massive tree, at least several hundred feet tall, whose roots and tree limbs have spread out for miles to form the foundation of the dense swamp. Unlike the tribes of the South and North, which are influenced by the culture of the Inuits of North America, the inhabitants of the Foggy Swamp imitate the dialect and mannerisms of Mississippi Delta. The people of the Foggy Swamp Tribe also dress very differently than their polar counterparts. They use loincloths, armbands, hats and other clothing fashioned out of plants, leaves, and bark to cover themselves.

Groups of fully trained warriors protect the tribes from harm, wielding weapons made from the bones of artic animals such as whales, polar bears, and wolves. These weapons include clubs, spears, boomerangs, knives, and machetes. Water Tribe warriors typically wear black and white warpaint on their full face before going into battle and put on protective armor in more severe combat. This "lunar wolf" armor came from unused toy-idea submissions Konietzko did for the consumer products department. The dark blue body armor includes black and blue-gray plated arm and leg guards, a silver helmet shaped into wolf's head, and a fierce moon symbol unique to each warrior. It is designed to intimidate the enemy; when warriors charge, they resemble a pack of wild wolves. High ranking warriors wear a black colored wolf helmet instead of a silver one to show authority.

The ships of the Southern Tribe are cutter sailing ships, containing wooden hulls and utilizing the wind for propulsion. The boats are shown to be operated by at least two people, one to maintain the mainsail and one to control the jib, a smaller sail at the rear. The Northern Tribe's most common ship is a double-hulled gondola powered by Waterbending. Though its small, compact size enables it to be used for a variety of applications, including transporting civilians across the canals within the city, its main purpose is to be used for short, open ocean trips. Even though its not necessarily designed for long voyages, it is capable of being used to travel over a thousand miles and withstanding the harshest ocean conditions. Warriors use this ship to patrol and protect the waters just outside the Northern Water Tribe city. The Foggy Swamp Tribe ride skiffs made from wood and propelled at high speeds by Waterbending, making it resemble a motorboat.

Conceptualized by Sokka and constructed by the Earth Kingdom inventor the Mechanist, Waterbending-powered submarines were used to sneak into the Fire Nation capital's harbor during the early stages of the invasion. Resembling a whale-dolphin, these large underwater vehicles possess a hull composed of waterproof wood and metal equipped with watertight glass windows that allows the crew to traverse deep beneath the ocean surface. The watercrafts function by propelling through the ocean with flexible fins on each side and the rear while sinking or floating by means of the Waterbenders riding inside. The submarines are also equipped with firepower in the form of torpedoes encased in ice. Crafted by pouring blasting jelly into a hollowed out section of a torpedo and freezing it along with the lit fuse, the projectile is launched via Waterbending and designed to explode upon making contact with its target. There was only one real flaw that the vessels retained, that being their limited air supply, which makes it necessary to resurface periodically for air.


Ice dodging is a rite of passage that young male Southern Water Tribe members undergo when they reach the age of fourteen. This come-of-age rite is a ceremonial test of wisdom, bravery and trust and serves as the boy's first step in being recognized as a true Water Tribe warrior. The goal of the ritual is for the boy navigate a boat through a narrow field of water filled with icebergs. He may choose two friends to assist him, one to secure the mainsail the other to operate the jib. Although his father is onboard, as soon as the ritual begins, the boy cannot any receive help from him and is the only person who commands the crew and makes maneuvering decisions.

If the voyage is successful, the boy and his crewmates each receive marks of the warrior, applied with cuttlefish ink. These marks are the mark of the wise, the mark of the brave, and the mark of the trusted. The mark of wise is awarded for achievement in decision-making under pressure and overall leadership ability. The mark of the brave is awarded for inspiring displays of courage. Lastly, the mark of the trusted is awarded to outsiders who prove themselves worthy of the trust of others.

Arranged marriages is a common practice among the people of the Northern Water Tribe. In the tribe, when a girl reaches the age of sixteen, she has already been arranged to be married to a boy. The match and ceremony are orchestrated by their parents, after which the young man carves and gives his bride-to-be a betrothal necklace. Though the members of the Southern Water Tribe live a simpler kind life, they tend to be more open-mined than their strict sister-tribe. They do not force girls into arranged marriages and instead allow them to marry whomever they choose.

Because they inhabit the frozen poles and ice caps near seas and oceans, the Water Tribes inherently are dependent on the oceans for the majority of their natural resources and food. Giant sea crabs are considered a delicious delicacy to those in the Northern Sea while sea prunes, served stewed, are a favorite in the South. Squid and seaweed can be used to make a wide variety of dishes, including soup, seasoning, and even bread and cookies. Bones from artic animals are crafted into and used as weapons by Water Tribe warriors. Skins from seals are used to create decorative tents, while pelts from polar bears and other furry animals are used to make clothing and mats to cover barren surfaces. Naturally, hunters and fishermen of the Water Tribes are some of the best in the world in their field.


Waterbending is an ancient art unique to Water Tribe culture. This mystical art gives men and women—referred to as Waterbenders—the ability to manipulate water. The ancestors of the Water Tribe originally learned how to "bend" water from the Moon. They observed how it pushed and pulled the tides of the ocean and eventually learned how to do so themselves. Waterbending's strongest asset lies within its defensive capabilities. A Waterbender can manipulate water in any of its forms—be it solid, liquid, or gas—allowing them to freeze, melt, or evaporate water at will. This ability to alter the physical state of water provides Waterbenders with an array of defensive, evasive and offensive techniques. Waterbenders can suspend a body of water around themselves, and then batter enemies with lashing whips and concussive waves. They can halt an attacker's movement by encasing them in a blanket of ice. A Waterbender can also use water to escape from an opponent by creating a veil of mist for cover. In the event that there isn't a source of water in the vicinity of a battle, an expert Waterbender has the ability to collect all available moisture in the air and ground surrounding them, concentrate it, and use it for bending. As with the other bending disciplines, weapons can be used in conjunction with Waterbending. Though never fully explored within the series, according to Avatar martial-arts consultant Sifu Kisu, a katana or a cane sword would be the best weapon suited for a Waterbender given their almost "Samurai-like" cutting techniques.

Not only can Waterbenders manipulate water, but also things containing large amounts of water within them. Members of the Foggy Swamp Tribe, such as Huu, are shown to be able to bend the vines and roots of plants utilizing the water found inside. In addition, a plant can be turned into an external water source by draining all of water from it, ultimately killing the plant in the process. The highest level of Waterbending is the ability to bend the water within living creatures, giving the Waterbender complete control over it like a puppet. This dark technique was discovered by Hama, a southern Waterbender, when she was a captive during the war. Dubbed as "Bloodbending" by the writers, the technique can only be used during the full moon, when a Waterbender's power is at its peak.

A Waterbender's powers comes from an internal life force known as chi. For this reason, a Waterbender's strength is directly proportional to his or her emotional state. If an inexperienced Waterbender were to become extremely angry, their bending force would increase in intensity, but decrease in control. This can prove hazardous to a bender with very little proper training. This trait is exhibited in the series premiere, when the novice Katara inadvertently causes a giant iceberg behind her to shatter to pieces while angrily berating her brother Sokka. However, it can serve as a boon to a bender with proper training, experience, and balance over his or her emotions. Along with their water manipulation abilities, Waterbenders also have the unique ability to heal injuries and sicknesses. They accomplish this feat by opening and redirecting chi paths within the human body using water as a catalyst. In the Northern Water Tribe, due to the traditionally patriarchal culture of the tribe, healing is the only aspect of Waterbending taught to females, with classes assigned for young girls held in huts towards the development of the ability.

The art of Waterbending is home to various strengths and weaknesses. Due to the fact that they draw strength from the Moon, a Waterbender's power is stronger at night than during the day and is at its absolute zenith during a full moon. Furthermore, Waterbenders' powers are strongest when they are situated in colder climates, during the winter, or when they are near their native polar homelands. The primary weakness behind Waterbending is its need of an external source of water. It is much more likely for a Waterbender to find him or herself in a place without water than it is for an Airbender winding up without air or an Earthbender without earth, while Firebenders generate their own fire using the heat surrounding them. To compensate for this weakness, in case there isn't enough moisture in the air or ground, Waterbenders typically carry skins filled with water. As a result of their connection to the Moon, a Waterbender's powers are weaker during the day than during the night. In the event of a lunar eclipse, Waterbenders lose their bending abilities entirely.

Each of the four nations is influenced by a distinct, dominant season. Winter is the dominant season of the Water Tribe. To an effect, more Waterbenders are born this season than any other. Also, Waterbenders' powers are at their strongest during the winter. Because the Water Tribes live mostly near the poles, their terrain is mostly ice and snow and they experience cold, winter-like weather constantly, with snow falling year-round.


  • Kuruk :
  • Katara :
  • Sokka :
  • Hakoda :
  • Yue :
  • Tahno :
  • Tonraq :
  • Unalaq :
  • Kya :
  • Eska :
  • Desna :


  • The Water Tribe
  • When designing these weapons, Avatar co-creator Bryan Konietzko drew reference from traditional Native American weaponry.
  • For the Water Tribe, the creators were inspired by Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, a film which illustrated the life in a small Inuit tribe.
  • Waterbending is based upon the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi. Like Tai Chi, it expresses smooth, fluid movements and elegant forms. Emphasis is placed on controlling an opponent and redirecting strikes rathing than attacking; focusing on turning an opponent's own strength against themselves, rather than directly harming them. Both Waterbending and Tai Chi are less about brute force and more about breath, body alignment, and visualization


  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:

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