The Arrows on Airbenders' Bodies Have a Cultural Purpose in 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'

Some Airbenders in 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' receive arrow tattoos along their bodies. They're a right of passage for Air Monks.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Feb. 23 2024, Published 11:09 a.m. ET

While the franchise's sequels, spin-offs, and live-action adaptations have run the gamut over the years, the original Avatar: The Last Airbender remains a beloved animated series to this day. The original series follows Aang, a young Air Nomad who is the latest incarnation of the Avatar, a spiritual conduit who can command the elements of Water, Earth, Fire, and Air at once in a world where people can typically only wield one element at a time. The original cartoon is widely regarded as one of the greatest animated series of all time.

Article continues below advertisement

Part of the series' successful storytelling involves its sense of culture and worldbuilding. ATLA draws heavy inspiration from several different Asian cultures to build its own internal lore. The world of ATLA features a variety of nations, fighting styles, and individual customs to which the Water, Earth, Fire, and Air Nations adhere.

One of the most iconic cultural symbols in the ATLA world is the arrows on Airbenders' bodies. What do these tattoos signify?

Article continues below advertisement

The arrows on Airbenders' bodies are a rite of passage for Air Monks.

Airbenders like Aang are easily recognizable by the arrows along their bodies. Blue arrows typically run down their foreheads, across their arms, and down their legs. In Aang's case, the arrows even glow whenever he enters the powerful Avatar state.

However, these arrows hold special cultural significance to Aang's people.

Aang was born into a tribe of Air Nomads, who were a peaceful race originally based in air temples placed on four massive mountaintops around the world. As one might expect, many of the Air Nomads were natural Airbenders who could command wind at will. Like benders of any element, an Airbender undergoes training in martial arts in order to refine their control over air. Once they have reached a certain level of mastery, however, they received arrows along their bodies.

Article continues below advertisement

The arrows themselves are meant to represent the flow of one's chi through the body for optimal Airbending techniques. The design is also inspired by the natural fur pattern of flying bison, an animal species generally known to be natural Airbenders.

The fact that Aang already has arrows speaks a lot about his experience as an Airbender. Although he's a young and foolhardy child by the time we meet him, he already has arrows on his body. This suggests that he was already a prodigal Airbender before even learning that he was the latest Avatar.

After Aang is frozen for 100 years and the Air Nomads are nearly made extinct by the Fire Nation, Aang is the only existing Air Nomad for much of his adolescence. Thankfully, he can restore peace and balance to the world, which allows him to rebuild the Air Nation anew. Several years after his passing, the Air Nomads begin to thrive as a people once again and the arrows continue to be used as a sign of mastery over Airbending.

More from Distractify

Latest Stream & Chill News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.