Ever since Avatar: The Last Airbender first introduced the Spirit World it was clear that it was steeped in mystery and intrigue. The franchise's most fantastical elements all tie back to the Spirit World, be they giant monsters or the mythology behind the world itself. Or even energies that would later be harnessed into science fiction doomsday devices in the sequel series The Legend of Korra. As time wore on and new aspects to the Spirit World grew and so too did its many mysteries.
Just how do the various facets of the Spirit World work? What are the origins or backstories behind some of its most influential characters? There are many burning questions future installments in the franchise need to answer, and the best place to start is with these five dangling plot threads.
Who is Koh the Face Stealer?
One of the Spirit World's most familiar figures, the Face Stealer Koh first appeared in the original series' first season where his ancient origins granted him knowledge Aang desperately needed. The massive centipede body topped with an eyelid that shifted his face to the visage of past victims had a memorable design and a creepy persona as he slithered around his cave attempting to provoke a reaction from the Avatar, and his appearance is so hypnotic it's almost easy to forget how pregnant his words are with story potential.
A hint at a past conflict with Avatar Kuruk remains mysterious even after Escape from the Spirit World details its ties to Kuruk's arrogance. Koh's name cropped up again in the comic book The Search where a feud with his mother hinted further at his motivations. He even came up in The Rise of Kyoshi novel where the older Father Glowworm referred to him as a "young upstart." So far every mention and appearance of Koh only ever deal with his backstory in vague generalities. It's long past time the franchise delves into his character full force to give fans the answers they spent years hungering for.
Are There Open Passages Between The Real & Spirit World?
Speaking of Father Glowworm, one of the more recent questions involving the Spirit World only cropped up recently with The Shadow of Kyoshi novel. With its plot centered far more on spiritual matters than the previous novel was, Shadow does a fantastic job of offering answers rather than simply just raising questions. Kuruk's backstory and relationship with the spirits is fleshed out along with Father Glowworm's own place in the Spirit World mythology. One aspect of Glowworm's activities even explains a seeming conflict between the original series and The Legend of Korra, yet raises questions of its own.
While certain spirits seemed to travel freely between the human and Spirit World in the original series, The Legend of Korra made them far more distinct and necessitated the spirit portals and Harmonic Convergence to facilitate their crossover. Shadow explains how Glowworm burrowed holes between the two worlds that other spirits could utilize, which helps explain how some spirits in Avatar made their way to the human world without a portal. But a question still lingers... whatever happened to these burrows over time, and are they completely gone by the time of Korra?
Where Is The Aye-aye Spirit?
There are perhaps no two episodes in either series that do more heavy lifting where worldbuilding is concerned than the two parts of "Beginnings." The Legend of Korra episode delves into the origin of bending, the Avatar and civilization itself in a beautifully arranged mythology of Avatar Wan and his journey around the world and relationships with humans and spirits.
But even as it answered questions, "Beginnings" only raised more -- and one of the easier ones to forget about is the Aye-aye spirit who became Wan's friend. Although the spirit called Wan "Stinky" as a term of endearment and grew past his prejudice of humans during the course of their friendship, he was never seen again after the episodes ended. Spirits are presumably immortal, with Raaava and Vaatu surviving the millennia since their first struggle, so where is the Aye-aye spirit at in the modern-day and why has he never revealed the Avatar's origin once Wan's story became forgotten?
Can Spirits Grant Immortality?
It's easy to get swept up in the fanfare of Uncle Iroh's return in The Legend of Korra, but the shorthanded explanation provided for his presence stokes a curiosity the series never really satisfies. Always known for his exceptional spiritual attunement, Iroh briefly explains how he survived past his death by parting his spirit from his body and entering the Spirit World to live in peace and harmony among the spirits. He drinks tea, collects items he finds and plays pai sho in celebration with his friends.
He essentially discovered the secrets to immortality and an eternity of bliss, but it's not clear whether he's willing to share the knowledge or if anyone else discovered it before him. Such secrets could have massive implications for the world of Avatar, and if there are other individuals walking around the Spirit World with knowledge of centuries past then that would surely be valuable information. Perhaps the biggest question of all revolves around the opening of the spirit portals following Harmonic Convergence. Could Iroh reenter the human world freely, or at the very least, is Zuko now free to visit him whenever he wants?
The Fate of the Avatars
Iroh is not exactly the first person who survived past their death in the Spirit World, but the nature of the afterlife for those we do know about is far more mysterious as it involves all the previous Avatars. In the original series, it seemed as though the past Avatars resided in the Spirit World, with Aang visiting Roku there and speaking with several of his past lives during Escape from the Spirit World. The Legend of Korra even featured a scene where the deceased Aang spoke with his son Tenzin in the Spirit World's Fog of Lost Souls, indicating that the otherworldly realm is a home for the past protectors of world harmony.
So what does it really mean for them that Korra's connection to her past lives was severed? The series never really explores it, but if Raava's essence is separate from the spirits of those she bonds with, as the case seems to be, then it would not make sense for her destruction at Unalaq's hands to eradicate the souls of all the other Avatars. They could well be out there, just waiting for Korra or a future Avatar to rediscover them and reestablish the Avatar cycle. If such is the case, however, fans will need to wait until a future installment in the franchise explores that direction. For now, the Spirit World is as much a mystery as ever.