While bending the elements may have been the central focus of Avatar: The Last Airbender, there were plenty of other aspects to the fantasy series' world building that fans love, and its chimeric animal kingdom stood at the forefront.
There are plenty of fantastical fauna in Avatar, from sky bison to shirshu and many more beyond. Now, fans may get their best insights yet as the upcoming Beasts of Four Nations guidebook makes the animals its central focus.
Beasts of Four Nations promises to cover the full range of animals from the Avatar world, "From the Air Nomads’ flying bison, to Kyoshi Island’s elephant koi," and in so doing will offer a new opportunity to focus on the fauna like never before. Much of the series concerns the aspects to its mythology, revolving around the Avatar mastering all four elements in their role to restore harmony to the Four Nations of the world. With that in mind, the animals that made Avatar feel so unique and fantastical were often just set dressing compared to the series' core elements -- but a book focusing primarily on the animals will change that.
So many animals truly were important to Avatar, but other than scraps of info here and there fans rarely gained insight into their details and histories. One of the series' biggest animals, both narratively and physically, was Appa the sky bison, who served as Team Avatar's primary means of transportation. Over time we've gotten various tidbits about sky bison being the original airbenders: that Appa weighed ten tons, and that airbenders bond with a young bison for life to serve as their animal companion. But such fascinating details only tease a richer world that could explain more about where bison come from, how they survived into the days of The Legend of Korra, and what grants them the unique ability to airbend.
Sky bison are only the tip of the iceberg. The description for the art book mentions more obscure animals like the singing groundhogs that performed a musical number for the Gaang and the purple pentapuses that allowed Sokka to create his penta-pox ruse to infiltrate Omashu. Beasts of Four Nations will serve as an exhaustive review of the animals in Avatar, and could even include some that have never been seen. Species like the arctic hippo or armadillo lion have been referenced in the franchise without directly appearing, and an art book would offer the perfect opportunity to illustrate those animals for the first time.
Beasts of Four Nations represents a valuable chance to engage fans between the release of movies, television series, comics and novels that currently constitute Avatar's canon. Some art books in the past, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender: Legacy and The Legend of Korra: An Avatar's Chronicle, came as tepid disappointments to those looking for new details, merely recapping knowledge many fans already had. Much like the upcoming Avatar: The Last Airbender Cookbook: Official Recipes from the Four Nations -- set for release on August 24, 2021 -- Beasts of Four Nations offers a new opportunity to break away from recapitulations and offer the kind of unique world building the series is best known for.
With a mythology that spans thousands of years filled with hosts of fascinating characters and magic, it is past time that the creatures of Avatar's world get their due. Beasts of Four Nations has a unique opportunity to do that, and fans may finally get the chance to scratch an itch they've had ever since Aang first rode an otter penguin down an icy slope in the South Pole.
Beasts of the Four Nations — Creatures From Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra will be available on October 13, 2021.