Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra introduced viewers to a new generation of Team Avatar in this beloved franchise, starring the hot-headed but brave Korra, the pro bender brothers Mako and Bolin, and the inventive and kind Asami Sato. And like Avatar Aang before her, Korra learned to bend the elements from many masters, and none of them feature as prominently as Tenzin, son of Avatar Aang.
The air bender master Tenzin stands at an interesting point in the franchise. He's the head of a new generation of air benders, leading the way to rebuild the Air Nomads. At the same time, he's a councilor of Republic City in season 1, and he must teach Korra how to bend air and embrace her spiritual side. And don't forget that he's a family man! All of this makes Tenzin quite the character. Here's the top 10 facts about him.
10 All of his kids are benders
It's common in the Avatar world for a bender to have bender children, such as Fire Lord Ozai's son and daughter Zuko and Azula, and Toph's daughters Lin and Suyin. But not even Avatar Aang had more than two bender children. Tenzin, meanwhile, has four air bender children, making for a big family of benders! Only his wife, Pema, does not bend, and she's a bit frazzled from all the bending going on.
9 He carries a great burden
Like his father before him, Tenzin is under a lot of pressure to protect the legacy of the Air Nomads. Even without the pressure of being the Avatar, Tenzin has his hands full, and it's clear early on that he's tense about embodying the entire Air Nation by himself.
Fortunately, he got to see many new air benders join the ranks when Korra's actions allowed new air benders to awaken their powers for the first time. He once had a few air bender kids to train. Now a whole crowd of air bending strangers!
8 He's quite emotional
Tenzin is every bit the air monk, but he's not a total rock. Between his energetic family, being the head of the new Air Nomad nation, and being Korra's teacher (not to mention dealing with his brother Bumi), Tenzin loses his cool sometimes. It's understandable, given all he's burdened with, and it shows that he's only human. That makes him a well-rounded character, and sometimes it's tragic, but other times, it's pretty funny! He and Korra sometimes even have yelling matches, like Aang once did with Toph.
7 He's stubborn
When Tenzin makes up his mind about other people, it takes some real convincing to change his ways. He's not quite as flexible as the air; he's quick to get comfortable with his relationships, and he doesn't see much need to see another side of people. Make a bad impression on him, and you'll have to prove that he's wrong about you. Even after decades, he's sure that his brother Bumi is just a lout, but he changes his mind when Bumi becomes a reliable air bender and hero.
6 The Avatar's favorite
This ties into the fact that for a long time, Tenzin was one of few precious air benders alive. It is certain that Avatar Aang loved all three of his children, but season 2 makes it clear that Tenzin was the favorite.
Tenzin was the only air bender among the three, and Aang spent a lot of time to train him and educate him in the ways of air bending and spiritualism. Both Kya and Bumi resented this for years, until the three of them made amends at last.
5 Tenzin is an expert bender
Kya and Bumi resented Aang's focus on Tenzin, yes, but at least it paid off! It's clear early on that Tenzin is a masterful airbender, and he has 100% earned that arrow tattoo on his forehead. He may not have been a prodigy like Aang was, but that's a pretty high bar anyway. Even the vicious anarchist mastermind Zaheer easily admitted that Tenzin is an air bender master, and relished the chance to see Tenzin's skills in battle. And Tenzin was the only member of Republic City's all-bender council to escape capture once the Equalists attacked in earnest.
4 He's willing to ask for help
Despite being stubborn and under a lot of pressure, Tenzin knows when it's time to ask for help, and this unlocks the solution to any problem he might have. Tenzin is a smart man, but it helps to have friends and hear their advice.
He was impressed when Korra laid out a plan to deal with Zaheer's attack at the air temple in season 3, and he deferred to Bumi about how to whip the new air bender recruits into shape. He also turned to Lin Beifong to watch over his family while he helped Korra fight the Equalists late in season 1.
3 By the book
Tenzin is stubborn not only with people, but with protocol, too. He's not a total tool, but then again, he'd rather do things by the book and defer to tradition. This conservative view may come from the detached and non-ambitious ways of the Air Nomads, and it causes him to butt heads with the more daring or adventurous people around him. For example, while Korra was delighted with pro bending, Tenzin was simply disgusted with the very concept. How dare these bending athletes misuse bending arts for a cheap sport? He warmed up to it eventually, though, and cheered Korra on. He even learned the rules so he could follow the game better. Go team!
2 His Tibetan name
The characters of the Avatar world have names inspired by real-life China, Japan, Korea, India, Tibet, and Alaskan Natives. In this case, "Tenzin" is a real Tibetan name, meaning "upholder of teachings." It's a staple Tibetan name, and fits this man perfectly. In fact, the current Dalai Lama is His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso. Observant fans will realize that Monk Gyatso, seen in flashbacks in Avatar: the Last Airbender, also got his name from this real-life monk.
1 He knows all about spirits
Although Tenzin doesn't share Unalaq's spirit bending style, he is quite well versed in the ways of the Spirit World and the spirits who walk among mortals. In fact, he was Korra's only real way to learn about all this, and Korra considered him "Mr. Spiritual," in her own words. Tenzin expertly taught Jinora and Korra how to navigate the spirit world, and he was delighted when Korra opened the bridge between the spirit and mundane worlds. It was Korra's decision to make, as Tenzin said, and he liked the result.