Iroh (also known as The Dragon of the West, and most commonly referred to as "Uncle") is a character in Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender. The character was voiced by Mako Iwamatsu in the first and second seasons, but after Mako's death of esophageal cancer, Iroh was voiced by Greg Baldwin in the third season and The Legend of Korra. The short story "The Tale of Iroh", in episode 15 of Season two, "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", was dedicated "In Honor of Mako".
Iroh is a Firebending master and a former Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, a race of people who can create and manipulate fire. He is a retired General of the Fire Nation, and older brother of Fire Lord Ozai. Iroh accompanied his exiled nephew, Zuko, on his quest to capture Aang, the long-lost Avatar, in order to restore the young prince's honor and rights to the throne.
In the second season, Iroh was revealed to be the firstborn son of Fire Lord Azulon and Fire Lady Ilah. Iroh was destined to succeed Azulon as Fire Lord of the Fire Nation. Although the change was never officially announced by Fire Lord Azulon, Ozai became Fire Lord. Even when Ozai had seized the throne, there was never any action taken by Iroh to take back the throne.
In "The Firebending Masters", Zuko tells Aang that Iroh killed off the last of the dragons, earning him the nickname "Dragon of the West". In truth, Iroh lied to conceal and protect the last two dragons, who had taught him the true art of Firebending. The method that the Fire Nation currently uses gets its source from anger and rage, as opposed to the form that the dragons taught Iroh, Zuko, and Aang, which draws its energy from life.
In the series finale, "Sozin's Comet", it is revealed that he is a high-ranking member of an international secret society named the "Order of the White Lotus", which is also composed of Katara's, Aang's, and Sokka's old masters: Waterbending Master Pakku, Swordmaster Piandao, Omashu King Bumi, and Firebending Master Jeong Jeong.
The show itself is divided into three seasons. The producers of the show have named each season as a "book". When the show opened, Iroh is shown accompanying Zuko on his journey. It is revealed that the pair spent two years at sea, searching in vain for any sign of the Avatar, who is the spirit of the planet manifested in human form. Near the end of the first episode of the show, a strange beacon lit the skies off the coast of the South Pole. When this is investigated, Zuko discovers that the Avatar has reappeared. Zuko and Iroh quickly engage in hot pursuit, tracking the Avatar and his friends across the globe. In order to get Zuko to the Northern Water Tribe in the end of season 1, Iroh hides Zuko aboard Admiral Zhao's ship and serves as Zhao's chief adviser for his invasion of the North. When Admiral Zhao's plan threatens the spiritual balance, Iroh attacks Zhao and later is labeled a traitor and blamed for the failure of the invasion.
At the beginning of Season Two, Iroh and Zuko have been branded traitors to the Fire Nation. They later take refuge in Earth Kingdom towns, acting as homeless beggars. Iroh decides to teach Zuko the advanced Firebending techniques he would need to defeat Princess Azula, who is sent to capture him and the Avatar. Iroh teaches Zuko a technique of his own creation—to absorb and redirect lightning, which he developed after studying Waterbenders. Iroh and Zuko eventually reach Ba Sing Se, where they soon begin a very prosperous life running a tea house. Iroh eventually convinces Zuko to stop his search for the Avatar, though this does not last. Azula arrives in Ba Sing Se and convinces Zuko to help her conquer the city and defeat the Avatar and Katara in order for him to regain his honor and his father's love. Iroh defends the wounded Avatar and Katara after Zuko had betrayed him, later to be imprisoned by Azula's new allies, the Dai Li, for his actions.
In season three, Iroh has been imprisoned for his actions defending the Avatar. While in prison, he refuses to talk to Zuko until eventually telling him he is descended from Avatar Roku, and exercises to become very muscular, and finally escapes during the solar eclipse. In the series finale, he is revealed to have reunited with his fellow members of the White Lotus and he is located by Zuko and the others. Iroh forgives Zuko and declines his birthright to the Fire Nation's throne after Zuko tells Iroh his intention for defeating Azula. Here, Iroh states his wish to return to his tea shop. He later plays the role of liberating Ba Sing Se from Fire Nation control. He is later seen with the rest of the cast, relaxing at his new tea shop.
Easygoing, friendly, and dryly good-humored, Iroh treats his self-imposed exile of the first part of the series as though it were an extended vacation. Something of a hedonist in his old age, he focuses more on the pursuits of relaxation and amusements than on the pursuit of the Avatar, clashing with the dedication of his nephew. However, beneath the easy going exterior lies a wise man experienced in the ways of the world, a seasoned and wily strategist, a powerful Firebending master and a good mentor. He believes that Zuko will not succeed in bringing Avatar Aang to Fire Lord Ozai, but does not share this belief with his nephew. Iroh sees this pursuit as a way to give Zuko a goal that would occupy his mind and keep him busy, thus healing his psychological well-being, damaged by Fire Lord Ozai.
Iroh is particularly fond of food, good tea, the strategy game Pai Sho, and pleasant music. He later displays skill at playing the pipa, singing lullabies to pacify a crying child. Most likely because of his love of tea, he has shown himself to be an amateur botanist with knowledge of a wide variety of plants, though misinterpretation of some plant characteristics lead him to accidentally poisoning himself.
He also demonstrates a respect and appreciation for all cultures, which seems to be a rarity among those of the Fire Nation. This partially stems from his trip into the spirit world, which left him with a certain spiritual awareness. He also tends to act as a mentor to everyone he meets, including the Avatar and his friends. In his respect, he is something of a father-figure to Prince Zuko and cares deeply for him, to the point of willingly following his nephew into a self-imposed exile. In Tales of Ba Sing Se, it is suggested that his perpetual optimism and generosity are a form of post-traumatic growth resulting from the death of his son.
Despite his age, Iroh is seen flirting with various older women throughout the series, and has been addressed as "handsome" on multiple occasions.
It is revealed that in his younger days, Iroh was a great general and war hero, once known among his enemies as the "Dragon of the West" because he supposedly slew the last two dragons in the world, as well as his particular aptitude for breathing fire during combat. It is revealed in "The Firebending Masters" that he did not kill these dragons, but pretended to do so in order to hide and protect them. It should also be noted that Firebenders that have defeated dragons are given the honorary title "Dragon". Though Iroh still commands a great deal of respect, he fell from grace when after six hundred days of siege he failed to conquer Ba Sing Se. Iroh gave up the assault when his son and only child, Lu Ten, was killed. While many, including Ozai, viewed this failure as a disgrace, Iroh believed he did the right thing and later claimed that he and his men were tired after the long siege. As a result of his long service in the military, Iroh knows many of the Fire Nation soldiers personally, although many are now enemies due to his being branded a traitor to the Fire Nation.
In addition to his extensive military service, Iroh has endured other trials, the hardest and most painful being his beloved son's death, and a journey to the Spirit World, which has left him with respect for the other world. It also gave him the unique ability to see the characters of the spirit world from the regular world. The nature and events surrounding his journey to the Spirit World has yet to be revealed. At one point in his life, he also encountered the last surviving dragons in the world, who judged him and deemed him worthy to know the true nature of Firebending. In order to protect them, he lied and fabricated a story about him having actually slain the last dragon, thus stopping any further hunts from being conducted Near the finale, he is addressed again by his former title of "General".
Iroh is a renowned and the most powerful Firebender in the Avatar world. A wise old man who exercises 'neutral] jing', Iroh's style of Firebending tends to be less aggressive than others. Iroh has a tendency to not involve himself in battle, but when he does partake in them, he displays great skill. He has a famous "Breath of Fire", which resembles a dragon breathing flames on its opponent.
Iroh stands as one of the select few Firebenders the show has revealed who possess the ability to generate lightning. Most notably, he is also the inventor of a unique technique involving the absorption and redirection of lightning. Iroh developed the technique by observing Waterbenders, who use their fluid movements to redirect attacks. Thus far, he, his nephew Zuko, and Avatar Aang are the only ones to show this ability, although Firelord Sozin possessed a similar ability to redirect heat.
This ability to both generate and redirect lightning makes Iroh the only character to demonstrate the ability to both use lightning as a weapon and defend against while all other characters only demonstrate the ability to generate or redirect lightning, not both.
Recently Iroh used time in prison to secretly improve himself in a more physical manner, although the exact level of fitness that he has reached is unclear. It is here implied that his large, ungainly stomach is at least partly a ruse created by placing a pillow under his robe. After his escape (off screen) the bars of his cell are seen to be bent and the tied up warden informs Zuko that his uncle was "like a one-man army". Due to Sozin's Comet, Iroh finally realized his dream to take Ba Sing Se, albeit in the name of the Earth Kingdom.
|Created by: Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko|
|The Last Airbender||Characters||Aang • Katara • Sokka • Toph • Appa • Momo • Zuko • Iroh • Azula • Suki|
|Episodes||Book 1: Water • Book 2: Earth • Book 3: Fire|
|Other media||Video releases • Trading card game • Roller coaster ride • Lego • Video games (The Last Airbender • The Burning Earth • Into the Inferno) • Movie • Comics • Live-action series adaptation|
|The Legend of Korra||Characters||Korra • Mako • Bolin • Asami Sato • Tenzin • Lin Beifong • Pema • Jinora • Naga • Pabu • Oogi • Tarrlok|
|Episodes||Book 1: Air • Book 2: Spirits • Book 3: Change • Book 4: Balance|
|Other media||Video releases • Video game • A New Era Begins • Comics|