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Avatar The Hero And The Monomyth Character Analysis Research Paper

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” (Mother Teresa). Indeed, as human beings, we all share some common needs and wants. A majority of people would agree that we want to live in peaceful world. However, is it possible? Peace is almost impossible because people are greedy and always fight for power. We can see these themes throughout the anime, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Fire Nation led by Sozin, who is thirsty for power. He wants the power that comes with conquering the world. So, he starts a war against three other nations, Air, Water, and Earth.

The war goes on for about 100 years. According to Joseph Campbell’s theory of the Monomyth, also known as the Hero’s Journey, it suggests that all mythical and legendary tales told throughout human history share a common structure, involving a hero who departs from known reality in order to confront a series of trials and tribulations before returning home as an initiated master of both realms. However, the Monomyth only outlines a basic archetypal pattern of a hero, not going into the depth of what kind of hero it is. For instance, follows Campbell’s theory Aang is labeled as a hero.

However, he is not just any hero, but a peaceful one, which makes him different and unique in a way. In this paper, I will demonstrate how Aang is a peaceful hero through his follow of the Buddha’s teachings, which lead Aang to forgive others and himself, and compares Aang to Beowulf, a violent hero. Avatar: The Last Airbender, by Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko, is an American animated television series. It is about the four nations: the Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. Each nation can bend their own element which means that they have control over it.

Then, there is the Avatar who can control all four elements. The main character Aang, who is the current Avatar, runs away as a child and get himself trapped in an iceberg under water. During this time, the Fire Nation starts a war against other nations and takes over the world. Aang has to stop the war; however, he has not mastered all four elements yet. The series goes from Aang trying to master each element to defeat the Firelord Ozai and end the war. Joseph Campbell’s theory, Monomyth, outlines some common journey of the hero across the ancient myths, legends, and fairy tales from around the world.

Campbell’s model theory can be applied to everything from the ancient to the modern myths, to anime, to movies, and to the real-life heroes. In the anime, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aang fits perfectly into the model from the call to adventure to the belly of the whale moment, to meeting with the goddess, and master of two the worlds. In the anime, Aang’s call to adventure is when monk Gyatso reveals Aang’s true identity as an Avatar. His duty is to protect the innocent and keep the balance of the four nations.

Belly of the whale is when Aang learns that Fire Nation kills all the monks, they all are Airbenders, this makes Aang the last Airbender. Meeting with the goddess is Aang’s mentor, Avatar Roku, along with other past avatars appear to Aang when he needs guidance along his journey. Master of two worlds when Aang enters the Avatar state, the connection between the spiritual and physical world, and he is able to communicate with the spirits of his past lives. So through Campbell’s foundational framework of the seventeen stages of the hero’s quest, Aang is definitely a hero.

In order to understand the unique quality about Aang that makes him different from other heroes, we need to understand his belief and practices. Aang is considered a peaceful hero because he follows the Buddha’s teaching. Buddhism originated in India, and is based off the teachings of the “Enlightened One,” the Buddha, who was born in Nepal as Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Leela George). The four central beliefs containing the essence of Buddhist teaching are: The truth of suffering Dukkha, The truth of the origin of Dukkha, the truth of the cessation of Dukkha, and The truth of the path of liberation from Dukkha (Andre Ferdinand Herold).

Ron Epstein states that “Buddha taught that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and peaceful actions. If the minds of living beings are at peace, the world will be at peace” (Ron Epstein). So like the major religions around the world, at its core, Buddhism is a religion of peace. Air Nomads, including Aang in a way seem to have some parallels with Buddhist tradition and peacefulness. The anime Avatar: The Last Airbender is conceptually influenced by many different real-world cultures, which the characters are clearly from a Buddhist influenced cultures.

For instance, Tibetan Buddhist monks have a specific influence on the anime. According to one source, Monk Gyatso, the head monk of the Southern Air Temple, shares his name with the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (TJ McDonald). In addition, a lot of Air Nomad rituals and traditions are similar to Tibetan Buddhist practices. According to an article Dalai Lama: a spiritual leader who is found, not chosen, Samira Shackle points out that “the process of finding a new Dalai Lama is similar to the process of discovering the Avatar.

After Roku dies, Aang is discovered as the Avatar through the task of choosing three toys shortly after his birth. The same process is used in choosing a new Dalai Lama: asking questions to the candidate to see if they truly are the new Dalai Lama. (Samira Shackle). Samira also said that Aang’s later appearance is even modeled after that of the Dalai Lama, with the right arm continuously exposed and the red and yellow robes. Not only the way the monks chose Dalai Lama and Aang is similar, but in the anime the Air Nomads are particularly based off of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Air Normans are being portrayed as monks. They usually depicted as wearing traditional Air Nomad robes with a completely shaved head. They live at Nomads’ Southern Air Temple. While the main character Aang is raised by these monks he follows their footsteps and becomes a monk as well. He practices meditation that associates with the mind control. Toward the end of the story, the most obvious scene that shows meditation when Aang wants to gain control of the Avatar state. He goes through what called seven chakras.

The seven chakras are: “let your fear flow down the creek”, “forgive yourself”, “accept and love all aspects of who you are, even your mistakes”, “release all your sadness and loss”, “release your denial and the lies you tell yourself”, “release all illusions within yourself”, “complete control of your thoughts and actions” and “release all your earthly attachments, let go of all you’ve grown to love”. Aang is just like Buddhist monks, who have devoted their lives to the practice of meditation, compassion and non-attachment.

In similar, Erick states that “the current Avatar, named Aang, is from the Air Nation, which seems to be based off of the Buddhist Sangha. While Nickelodeon does not directly associate them with Buddhism in any way, the people of the Air Nation are dressed in robes, live among temples, practice meditation, and most importantly, many of the things Aang, the main character of this show, says are similar if not the same as the Dharma” or the Buddhist teachings (Eric Kudos). Moreover, Erick states that “the main character Aang journeys through his mission of saving the world using Buddhist values and philosophy”(Eric).

Aang is kind, selfless, goofy, somewhat naive, and adventurous. He has a deep respect for life and freedom, refuses to eat meat, and is often opposed to fighting. Aang prefers not to use his bending skill in battle due to his peaceful nature. He prefers to solve problems non-violently. Even when forced into combat, Aang typically holds back, fighting defensively and trying to subdue opponents without seriously hurting them, even if they are not human. This embodies one of Buddha’s Five Precepts teaches not to kill or hurt another living being (Dr. Sunthorn Plamintr).

Aang also said “the monks used to say that revenge is like a two-headed rat-viper. While you watch your enemy go down, you’re being poisoned yourself” (Aang). This is what makes Aang different and unique. It is important to forgive yourself and others. Buddhism says that “forgiveness is a critical step to achieving this peaceful state of mind” (Buddha). The ability to forgive make Aang a peaceful hero. Aang’s forgiveness of himself and the Firelord makes him unique and different from most other heroes. Throught the meditation Aang achieves peace and able to forgive himself.

One of the seven chakras in the show is to “forgive yourself”. It “deals with pleasure and block by guilt”. One of the guilts that burden Aang’s soul is his abandonment of his Avatar duties for over a hundred years. While Aang remains in pretty good spirits after waking up from his ice ball, he perhaps he does not realize the consequences of a world without an Avatar fully until finding the long dead skeleton of his friend and mentor, Air Nomad Gyatso. The Southern Air Temple is destroyed to the Fire Nation’s pursuit of total domination.

So Aang blames himself for the death of all the Air Bender. Then, Aang is able to release all blame and guilt within himself through the opening of the second chakra or meditation. Aang is not only forgiving himself, but he is also forgiving the villain as well. Aang chooses not to take revenge against the Firelord for killing the monks and instead rejects his own vengeful desires to kill the villain. Since Aang loses his chance to gain the control of the Avatar state, he asks the Lion Turtle to help him so he could help the people.

Through Aang’s belief of nonviolence, Aang said that he can take one’s life to save other’s life. Then, the Lion Turtle help Aang became the Avatar without the seven chakras. The Lion Turtle also tells Aang to wait on top of a hill, where the Firelord comes to find him; it is one of the last fight before the show end. Aang uses the energybending to take away the Firelord’s firebending. This way the Firelord becomes harmless to others and Aang does not have to kill anyone.

Through his belief and practice of nonviolence, Aang forgives the Firelord; however, this does not mean that Aang approves the Fire Lord’s raging actions. For a comparison, Beowulf is a violence hero. The story of Beowulf sets in Scylding ( Tokien, 14). Beowulf is a proud warrior in Geatland, who comes to help Hrothgar in Scylding. Hrothgar is the Danish king. He decides to build the mead-hall, also known as Heorot to celebrate their numerous victories. While the king, his wife, and the warriors enjoy eating and drinking, there lives a monster near the dark swamp.

Irritated by the noise of the king and warriors’ revelries, the monster named Grendel attacks the mead-hall and terrorizes the place and the people. However, king Hrothgar and his wife evacuate the place safely. Later, Beowulf hears the story and bring fourteen men with him to Scylding. He decides to help because he wants to return the favor, Hrothgar sheltered Beowulf’s father during a deadly feud. Beowulf also decides to fight for another reason, to be a legend. In the story of Beowulf, there is a great amount of violence, and that is accepted as action of a hero.

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