Dawn of Yangchen makes a MAJOR revelation about the Avatar State
The following contains minor spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender – Dawn of Yangchen, out now.
part of the mythology of Avatar: The Last Airbender what made it feel so immediately expansive upon its 2005 debut was its sense of story. With the concept of the Avatar itself tied to the centuries of stories leading up to its present timeline, the franchise thrives on constantly alluding to the past lives of its central figure. Dawn of Yangchen represents the final exploration of that past as the Avatar novel delves into the life of the Avatar Air Nomad before Aang.
However, the novel proves unhappy to end there. Centered on the most spiritual Avatar ever seen, Yangchen’s point of view allows Avatar fans have unprecedented access to the lore of the unique figure’s special abilities. These prove to be some of the most valuable assets in the Avatar arsenal, but most intriguing of all are the limitations that come with the Avatar State.
One of the first Avatar abilities introduced in the series was their unique mastery of the four elements. While all other masters exclusively manipulate their single native element, the Avatar’s power allows them to use a wider arsenal of elements. Combined with the experience of their past lives, reincarnating in each generation in a new form, and then added to the cosmic power of the Avatar State itself, there is little doubt about the sheer scale of the power level of each Avatar compared to all others in the world. And yet, it may not yet be their most valuable ability.
Accessing their past lives not only allows an Avatar to tap into a vast pool of elemental mastery, but also to seek sage guidance. Much of the original series saw its plot advance only through the invaluable information that Aang’s predecessor, Roku, provided to the Air Nomad. If knowledge equals power, then access to centuries of experience should make the Avatar the most powerful person in the world. The franchise has always limited the application of this particular ability, never truly exploring its full implications, but the recent novel Dawn of Yangchen meeting him head-on with the most spiritually tuned Avatar fans who haven’t met yet.
Much of Yangchen’s early development as an Avatar revolved around his extraordinary level of access to his past lives. Even before discovering her Avatar status, she had episodes of powerful memories from centuries past, and once she learned to commune with those past lives, it made Yangchen a true jack-of-all-trades. In addition to mastering the four elements, the ancient Avatars allowed Yangchen to become an expert in tactics, espionage, and commerce. This is largely the reason why Yangchen’s reputation throughout history has become so legendary. The Avatar is not only a fighter wielding his power like a blunt hammer, but, if practiced wisely, the wisest and most capable leader to lead the world into harmony.
With the most recent novel centering on Yangchen’s point of view, readers were able to truly delve into the full implications of the Avatar’s power for the first time. However, it was also a new insight into their limitations. Although Yangchen’s access grants her untold wisdom from past generations, she also notes that her life can only offer so much guidance. Unable to form new opinions or respond to current affairs regardless of their own life experience, Yangchen makes it clear to the reader that despite seeming possession of past lives or their cryptic advice to guide their current incarnation, the Avatar State n can’t just hand over the pilot’s seat to the past life that wants to control it.
This reveal casts pivotal moments from the original series in a new light. The times when Roku or Kyoshi possessed Aang’s body can be understood more broadly as their spirits working through Aang rather than completely controlling him. The Air Nomad’s advice in “The Old Masters” leading up to the series finale also takes on a different meaning, as cryptic words from his past lives seemingly urging Aang to take the life of Fire Lord Ozai turn out to be more limits. They weren’t specifically advising Aang to kill Ozai – they couldn’t, as they had never known Ozai in their own lives – but instead provided more general advice on actions they might have taken in their own lives. life.
With another yangchen novel along the way, there are no doubt still other implications to be explored. Yangchen has other depths to dive and greater heights to reach, and no doubt when she does, she will have the experience of a thousand lifetimes behind her. Yet, in the end, the decisions Yangchen has to make will come down to her alone.