Telling a 12-year-old boy to save the world and win a world war isn’t exactly a great way to experience childhood, but luckily, Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender can get help from all the previous Avatars. He just needed to talk to them—all of them who existed throughout the 10,000-year cycle of Avatar reincarnation. Alright, fine, that’s still a tall order for a 12-year-old, considering how many Avatar are there.
Speaking of which, just how many Avatar are there? The first Avatar came about 10,000 years before the events of the series. That’s 10,000 years of new Avatar reincarnations just popping up one after the previous has died. Imagine how many generations of cabbage merchants went bankrupt because of these Avatar menaces—assuming all of them share Aang’s sociopathic bloodthirst against cabbages.
Sadly, we can’t provide a figure on the tally of the cabbage genocide; we can, however, calculate or inform you of how many Avatar there are up to Avatar Korra’s iteration. It should be easy to calculate the mass graves needed for cabbages that way.
The Southern Air Temple’s Statues: Source of Clues
In the Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1 episode titled “Southern Air Temple,” viewers were granted a glimpse into a chamber containing a remarkable collection of statues representing previous Avatars.
These statues are tiered in seven ascending rows, with an additional 51 statues positioned at floor level; altogether, they sum up to approximately 181 previous Avatars. This, at first glance, appears to be the comprehensive list of Avatars that have come before Aang.
To further reinforce this estimation, we only need to watch the movie adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. We know it’s a hard ask, so we did the viewing for you to save you of that torture. Anyway, in the Shyamalan film, the same temple is depicted with six tiers, each containing 30 statues grouped in blocks of six.
Additionally, a more prominent statue of the most recent Avatar, Roku, takes its place among these representations. Strangely, this configuration also leads to a grand total of 181 Avatars.
Given this striking identicality in numbers between the series and the movie adaptation, it becomes apparent that this figure of 181 is likely intended to be the canonical count.
Counting Aang and Korra, that’s a total of 183 Avatars.
There is more to the tale, of course.
A Perspective on Avatar Mortality and Lifespan
To gain a more comprehensive understanding of an Avatar’s legacy, we can further look into the mortality rates and average lifespans of these extraordinary beings.
Avatar Wan was born 20 years before his Harmonic Convergence, and Avatar Korra was 18 when her Harmonic Convergence took place.
This means that approximately 10,002 years elapsed between their births. Divided by the 182 Avatars, from Wan to Aang, this calculation places the average life expectancy of an Avatar at approximately 54.95 years.
Surprisingly, this number suggests that the typical lifespan of an Avatar is relatively short. When we pair this information with the appearances of older-looking Avatars who come later in the line, it becomes apparent that many earlier Avatars might not have lived to an advanced age.
Do keep in mind that average doesn’t mean that all Avatars died at the range of 53-54 years of age. Aang, for example, was technically 166 years old when he died (since he was encased and preserved in ice for a century). Meanwhile, Avatar Kiyoshi lived to a whopping 230 years despite her murderous tendencies and penchant for attracting villains.
It’s fair to assume these two, along with the similarly long-lived Avatars, brought that average up.
183 Avatars: A Close Approximation
Returning to the Southern Air Temple’s statues, which presented 181 Avatars, including Aang, there is strong evidence that there are, in fact, 183 Avatars if we include Korra.
The grand total of 183 Avatars is considered a close approximation of the real count of Avatars throughout the 10,000 years from Wan (the first Avatar) to Korra (the last Avatar we’ve seen).
However, a more paranoid question remains: Does the number of statues in the Southern Air Temple genuinely represent the complete history of the Avatars? It’s fair to believe that there must be more Avatars in the grander scheme of things.
Avatar Roku’s Ambiguous Claim
One of the series’ prominent Avatars, Roku, once conveyed a conflicting notion in passing when he said to the prodigal firebender Jong Jong that “the Avatar has learned the elements a thousand times in a thousand lifetimes.” This happened back in Book 1 as well.
Such a statement suggests the existence of a significantly higher number of Avatars throughout history. But was this just a poetic exaggeration?
Roku Implied That There Have Been 1,000 Avatars
If we entertain the idea that there were indeed a thousand Avatars, it would imply that the average lifespan of an Avatar would be a mere 10 years. Such a short lifespan seems unlikely, given the complexities of mastering the elements and fulfilling the Avatar’s role in maintaining balance in the world.
That would mean the majority of the Avatars died way too young. Roku’s implication that there have been “a thousand Avatars” muddles up the discussion even more.
Still, the show’s writers might have just retconned Roku’s claim and that there might not have been an established Avatar lore that far back yet. That’s still just speculation, however. It’s worth noting that Wan’s history and background as the first Avatar was revealed only in The Legend of Korra and not in The Last Airbender.
While the Southern Air Temple’s statues present a count of 183 Avatars from Wan to Korra, there remains a lingering mystery regarding the true scope of Avatar history. Roku’s claim suggests the existence of a multitude of Avatars beyond this count, but the practicality of such a notion raises doubts.
The world of Avatar is rich in history, culture, and mystery, and the true number of Avatars may remain an enigma. More so, the number of cabbages they annihilated and how many generations of cabbage merchants they aggrieved.