Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Avatar: The Last Airbender - General Iroh

Go To

Iroh (艾洛)

Voiced by: Makoto Iwamatsu (original), Greg Baldwin (after Mako's death) (original); Mario Santander (Latin American Spanish), Corey Yee (Smite), Marc Cassot (European French), Dov Raizer (Hebrew)
"Sick of tea?! That's like being sick of breathing!"

Zuko's and Azula's uncle and Ozai's elder brother, Iroh was once the heir to the Fire Nation throne, a mighty general known as the "Dragon Of the West". After the death of his beloved son, Lu Ten, Iroh lost his thirst for conquest and retired, developing a new thirst for tea. Afterwards, Iroh came to think of Zuko as his own son. When Zuko was exiled, Iroh went along with him to mentor and protect him. While he tends to act very silly most of the time, he is one of the most capable of the cast, and likely a match for Ozai himself. And seriously, Iroh loves his tea.

    open/close all folders 
  • Abdicate the Throne: At the end of the series, he could technically reclaim his birthright as the Fire Lord, but passes up on that in order to retire to a tea shop and let Zuko run things.
  • The Ace: Iroh's firebending rivals Ozai's for strongest in the world, and he possesses far more martial ability (both as a physical combatant and a tactician), to the point where he was seen as the clear choice for a successor by their father. However, his son's death caused him to break down, becoming a shadow of his former self... but this experience ultimately caused him to rethink things and become not only a better person, but even stronger than he was before by incorporating the philosophies of the other nations. He's also one of the most charismatic, personable, and intelligent characters in the entire series, and judging by his position as leader of the White Lotus (a team consisting of a lot of Old Masters), he is likely the second most powerful bender after the Avatar.
  • Acrofatic: During Seasons 1 and 2, he's a tubby guy who is nonetheless agile and combat capable. He successfully knocks out Azula by leaping at her and tackling her with his belly.
  • Action Dad: He was this back in his army days, when his son Lu Ten was alive.
    • Whilst biologically speaking he is Zuko's uncle, he still fulfils this role for him too after he takes the banished prince under his wing.
  • Affably Evil: A mellow, easy-going, Cool Old Guy who loves tea, Pai Sho, and just relaxing. He also just happens to work with Zuko, his Troubled, but Cute Anti-Villain nephew (although Iroh is never seen doing anything particularly evil, and he never really helps Zuko make any major progress toward capturing the Avatar). Other than in the pilot episode, he never attempts to attack Team Avatar, and is usually seen casually pilfering objects while his nephew fights Team Avatar. Subverted royally when it that turns out he did an off-screen Heel–Face Turn several years ago and, since then, he's never supported the Fire Nation in their quest to Take Over the World. And he's also a prominent figure of the Order of the White Lotus. Pre-Heel–Face Turn, though, he fit this trope to a T. In one flashback, he's seen writing a kind letter to his family in the Fire Nation while leading a brutal siege against Ba Sing Se (in the letter, he even casually jokes about the possibility of burning the city to the ground). Later during this siege, his son died, and this seems to have triggered his Heel–Face Turn, possibly because of the uncomfortable realization that this is the kind of emotional trauma that he's been inflicting on Earth Kingdom families for years on end.
  • All-Loving Hero: Even moreso than Aang, as he actively befriends anybody he meets, sometimes going out of his way to give them advice and an understanding ear to listen to their problems. If he does participate in violence, he shows mercy and compassion, even though he is one of the greatest benders in the entire world. The main exceptions to his love are Ozai and Azula, who are extremely toxic and dangerous, and cannot be reasoned with. Iroh's a gentle soul, but he's no fool.
  • Always Someone Better: Part of Ozai's motivation clearly stems from a resentment towards Iroh's superiority over him in their father's eyes. In all flashbacks before Azulon's death, Iroh is leading the majority of the Fire Nation's forces to battle while Ozai simmers in rage at the palace doing nothing in particular.
  • And Then What?: When Zuko attempts to steal Appa from the Dai Li and use him to bait Aang without even thinking about what to do with him afterwards, Iroh forces him to confront his Didn't Think This Through tendencies this way and demands to know what he wants to do with his life, contributing to Zuko's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Anger Born of Worry: It takes a lot to get under Iroh's skin, but he absolutely loses it when Zuko is once again planning on going on a reckless mission. This jolly old man is generally very patient, but he is extremely afraid of his nephew getting himself killed due to not thinking things through, and it manifests as one of the very few moments where he raises his voice. Iroh has already lost one son, he's not losing Zuko.
  • Anti-Villain: He has no malicious plans of any sort and is mostly concerned with helping Zuko. The only reason you can even call him a villain is by association.
  • Asians Love Tea: The Fire Nation is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture that mixes Imperial Japan with Southeast Asian aesthetics, but Zuko's uncle Iroh is the only member of their royal family with a Japanese accentnote . In keeping with his wise old mentor role, he has an impressive love of tea, to the point of opening a tea shop whilst he and his nephew are undercover in the Earth Kingdom. In Iroh's own words:
  • The Atoner: Iroh was once a ruthless general in the Fire Nation Army. But the loss of his only son changed him. Now, he wishes to help bring back harmony in the world.
  • Badass Boast: A magnificent one to Zhao.
    Iroh: Whatever you do to that spirit, I'll unleash on you ten-fold! LET IT GO, NOW!
  • Badass Teacher: Served as Zuko's firebending instructor during his nephew's banishment.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: He is one of the nicest, most patient, most fun-loving people you could ever hope to meet, and he makes friends with total strangers at the drop of a hat, even those who are supposed to be his enemies. But if you prove yourself to be an irredeemable and immediate threat, he will take you down before you can even raise a hand to defend yourself.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Iroh is getting on in years, out of shape, and cares more about his tea than the world-ending dangers around him. He's still a crafty and powerful firebender who can dish out attacks when needed.
  • Big Beautiful Man: Aunt Wu and the ticket woman in Ba Sing Se comment that Iroh's quite "easy on the eyes." Some audience members undoubtedly agree.
  • Big Fun: Season 1 and 2. He's a jolly guy who can get along with everyone, even Toph, who should technically be his enemy.
  • Big Good: Grand Master in the Order of the White Lotus, which is dedicated to the same sort of 'global harmony' as the Avatar, thus making them a collective concealed Big Good.
  • Breakout Character: His tragic past, kindness (especially in being the Morality Pet of the also extremely popular Zuko), sheer badassness and Big Fun attitude made him one of the most well-loved characters in the show, and expanded his role (which was initially so different, he would have been Evil All Along) from the tag-along to the initial main antagonist, to one of the major characters in the story.
  • Breath Weapon: "Did I ever tell you how I got the nickname Dragon of the West?" While he's not the only firebender who can do this, this is his signature move.
  • Broken Ace: Iroh was one of the greatest strategists of his time. Then, his son died in the war...
  • Bullying a Dragon: Somewhat literally, given his Red Baron title. Many characters, some of whom know both who he is and the reputation that precedes him, continually dismiss him as a doddering, overweight old man who's past his prime (and, optionally, needle him for his failure to capture Ba Sing Se). Almost all of them end up having their asses handed to them because they're messing with the "Dragon of the West."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He is one of the greatest firebenders in the world, and the leader of an organization of Old Masters who have all dedicated their lives to mastering their art/fighting style. Simultaneously, though, he's a goofy, dirty-minded old man who would much rather drink tea and play pai-sho.
  • Cain and Abel: The Abel to Ozai's Cain, though the two never fought directly. Ozai sought the throne after the death of Iroh’s son and he sent his daughter to capture his son and his brother, viewing both of them as failures and traitors. When he was given the chance to fight Ozai in the final battle, Iroh declined, as it was Aang's job.
  • The Caretaker: To Zuko. All those years abroad searching for the Avatar and it was he who keep Zuko on the straight and narrow.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Iroh has displayed the strength to toss boulders, while out of shape. When he got into shape, he managed to bust out of a jail cell despite being depowered at the time, and can casually flick much larger men away from him, as he did to Zhao in the third episode. However he does it, he seems to have passed it on to Zuko.
  • Chick Magnet: When necessary (and even when not), Iroh can be quite the ladykiller. He politely (though not without a slightly flirtatious tint) declines Aunt Wu's offer to tell his fortune, and he successfully sweet-talks the ticket attendant at the Ba Sing Se monorail station.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: During the fight between Team Avatar, Zuko and June, June's shirshu, who has a tongue with neurotoxins that can paralyze anything that it licks, is "blinded" and lashes out, stunning Zuko and June. When June fell, Iroh "fell" so she was on top of him. Zuko comments that he didn't see Iroh get hit, and Iroh shushes him and goes back to enjoying his "paralysis." June was not amused.
    • Then again, this could have simply been him trying to break her fall.
  • Cincinnatus: He is a brilliant general, arguably the greatest firebender of his era, and a staunch leader in the fight against the Fire Nation and its lust for conquest. As brother of the tyrannical Ozai, he could fight Ozai and take the throne for himself. But he recognizes that fighting his brother will merely look like a familial power struggle, and leaves that task to the Avatar. And he has no desire to rule, letting his nephew take the throne instead, himself retiring to run a tea shop. He does briefly take the throne during The Search, to allow Zuko to search for his mother.
  • Cool Old Guy: He's friendly, insightful, and a major badass, has a charming sense of humor, and plays a mean game of pai-sho.
  • Cool Uncle: To Zuko, specifically, who sees him as the source of all wisdom. He's a better dad to the poor kid than his actual father ever was.
    • He also serves as this to Toph, who refers to him as "uncle".
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Despite being a laid-back guy now, one must remember that he earned the moniker Dragon of The West. Exemplified by the conversation between Ozai and Zuko during the Black Sun: While Ozai was derisively referring to Iroh's expertise in "tea and failure"... Iroh was busting himself out of prison by himself.
  • Cultured Badass:
    • Not only can he kick your tuchis in the battle arena, he can kick it in pai-sho and tea brewing!
    • Unlike the rest of the Royal Family, he respects and has carefully studied the cultures of the other nations, even incorporating some aspects of waterbending into his fighting style. In fact, we see him using wisdom drawn from all the world's cultures at some point; the aforementioned lightning redirection is derived from waterbending, his prison escape is done by simply waiting and picking the right moment, as earthbender King Bumi did, and he tries to detach himself from Fire Nation politics to lead a care-free life, like the Air Nomads' desire to detach themselves from worldly concerns.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: With a few rare exceptions, every single fight Iroh gets involved has him dishing this out.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Inverted. It's implied that if his son hadn't been killed in the Battle of Ba Sing Se, Iroh would've been a different person rather than the cheery, yet tragic Cool Old Guy. Not necessarily evil, but he definitely would've been a powerful, feared Fire Lord after the victory.
    "Leaves from the vine...falling so slow..."
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Iroh was once a very powerful warrior and general in the Fire Nation army, leading a siege on Ba Sing Se. Then, his son died, he went into a Heroic BSoD, and 'betrayed his nation'.
  • Dirty Old Man: More of a Chivalrous Pervert version, but he still enjoys his "paralysis" underneath June, and he sings of the charms of young women:
    ♬ It's a long, long way to Ba Sing Se/ But the girls in the city, they look so pretty/ And they kiss so sweet, that you've really got to meet/ The girls from Ba Sing Se ♬
  • The Dragon: Implied he was the leading general to his father Azulon in the past until his son's death because he is the general in charge of the siege of Ba Sing Se.
  • The Dreaded: As a Fire Nation general, he struck terror into the hearts of his enemies for his firebending skills and tactical genius. After Lu Ten's death the Fire Nation leadership largely writes him off as a senile has-been but his reputation still precedes him. When Earth Kingdom soldiers capture him they immediately attempt to remove his hands to prevent him from firebending for how dangerous he is. Firebenders also realize how dangerous he is - Zhao was ready to fight the Avatar, but initially backed down in the face of Iroh’s threat.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In the finale, Iroh mentions that when he was young, he had a vision that he would capture the city of Ba Sing Se. It was not until years later that he understood that his destiny was to take back the city from the Fire Nation.
  • Drink-Based Characterization: Tea. The drink is basically given form to a positive and reassuring kind of warmth that differs greatly from the burning destruction which characterize fire in early Avatar, pairing with Iroh's own nature as a jolly and patient Fiery Stoic well - especially being a beverage he specifically offers and shares with others, which is shown several times to help with what ails them, essentially representing Iroh's kind qualities. It can also be said that tea requires balance of all four elements to be served (water for the liquid, leaves grown from the earth to make its flavor, fire to give it heat, and air to cool it to a safe temperature for drinking), which nicely reflects Iroh's own value of the elements and differing bending styles and what one can learn from each of them.
  • Eccentric Mentor: He's obsessed with tea, acts goofy, and is so casual that he might forgive you for thinking he didn't know there was a war on, but he serves as Zuko's firebending teacher and is the key to Zuko's Character Development; for that matter, he helps along Aang's and Toph's development, too. He could also be seen as a Trickster Mentor.
  • Enlightenment Superpower: Iroh is an embodiment of Buddhist enlightenment, having discarded many of his worldly attachments, like his military accolades and his ascendency to the throne, and negative emotions, such as his cruelty to the peoples outside of the Fire Nation. He now seeks to become one with the world, by studying the philosophies of the Four Nations and building relationships with as many people as he can. His inner wisdom and his friendships thus make him far more powerful than when he was young and a Fire Nation general.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • His first scenes have him first attempting to get Zuko to stop obsessing over the Avatar and have some lunch, and then lecturing him on the importance of the fundamentals of firebending. He may look like a lazy old man, but he hides a very insightful mind.
    • A few episodes later, he casually catches a firebending kick from Zhao, a Firebending Master, and easily shoves the General across the floor with a tiny flick of his wrist. This goofy old man is clearly a superlative fighter, he just doesn't like showing off when he doesn't need to.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: He really must have felt disappointed when Zuko betrays his trust to help capture Ba Sing Se for Azula and Ozai's approval.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Though the Evil part of this trope has been thrown out long ago. He does care for his family even prior to his Heel–Face Turn, as shown by several flashbacks of Iroh with Lu Ten and the letter he sent to his niece, nephew, and sister-in-law (joke about burning Ba Sing Se to the ground aside). Loved ones end up being more important than evil after the loss of his son.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • He may be a part of the Fire Nation, but he has some morals. For example, in the finale of Season 1, he tries to protect the Moon Spirit by saying that even the Fire Nation needs the spirit. Of course, Zhao doesn't listen to him and Iroh angrily fights Zhao's soldiers.
    • Iroh loves his family greatly and wants what is best for them, but even he was aware that Azula is too 'crazy' for Zuko to try to talk her down.
    • He's always understanding and empathetic to others but on occasion he expresses disgust at how Ozai has treated Zuko.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: One sympathetic example despite Iroh being a hero in his own right. He protected the dragons from extermination by claiming to have killed the last of them himself, something he was lauded in the Fire Nation for.
  • Fatal Flaw: Iroh's bizarre fatal flaw is his love of tea. While normally the wisest and most sensible figure in the entire series, he makes some monumental mistakes when around the stuff. Once, when having to hide his identity as a Fire Bender, he used his bending to heat up some cold tea and nearly blew his cover. While the fandom has sometimes speculated that he did that to get Zuko away from Jet's toxic influence, an unquestionable example is when, after finding a plant whose leaves were either the world's most refreshing tea or pure poison, he ground it up and drank it due to temptation. It was poison.
    Zuko: What are you doing Firebending your tea!? For a wise old man, that was a pretty stupid move!
  • Feeling Their Age: Subverted. Age seems to have done little to diminish Iroh's firebending or his immense physical strength. That doesn't stop him from exploiting his age by pretending to be a harmless old man while on the run with Zuko, or acting like a senile madman when imprisoned by the Fire Nation to avoid suspicion when getting himself back into physical shape.
  • Fiery Stoic: He's the current page image. Where most firebenders are, well, fiery (and their bending is revealed to be fuelled by anger and aggression), Iroh is relaxed, laid-back, and one of the best firebenders in the world. This is later explained as him having learned from the dragons the true nature of firebending, no longer needing to fuel it with anger and rage. When Zuko learns the same, he goes from barely able to survive Azula to comfortably beating her in an Agni Kai before she cheated.
  • Fights Like a Normal: A lot of his fights don't have him firebending, and even then, he rarely utilizes his full strength (which is a lot more than you might think - the only Firebender bar the Avatar who might be stronger than him is Ozai). This comes in handy during the Day of the Black Sun, when he busts out of jail when all firebenders were depowered.
  • For Happiness:
    • Everything he ever does is to make people happy. He constantly tries to keep his nephew on the right path, helps Toph along in her Character Development, and commends Aang for refusing to let go of his love for Katara to achieve mastery over the Avatar State.
    • Used devastatingly in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se," where he is able to bring some happiness to everyone's lives just by doing simple gestures. Until the end, where it's revealed his greatest regret is not being able to help save his son.
  • Formerly Fit: Iroh was a strapping soldier in his youth, but let himself go after his son's death. Later, he gets it all back after a stint in prison, though it appears that he regained that weight sometime before he died, as his appearance in The Legend of Korra indicates.
  • Four-Star Badass: Believe it or not, he's one of the Fire Nation's most decorated generals.
  • Friend to All Children: In brief flashbacks, he is shown to have been a loving father to Lu Ten. In the series proper, he first shows signs of this when having a heart-to-heart with Toph in "The Chase." Further solidified in "The Tales of Ba Sing Se," where he gives some helpful advice to some kids playing earthbender soccer when they accidentally break a window, and sings to a crying toddler to calm him down.
    • It's easy to miss, but there's also that sweet little moment towards the end of "The Drill," where he admires Thanh and Ying's newborn daughter, Hope.
  • Frontline General: Several Fire Nation characters mention that he personally led his soldiers into battle and became widely feared by the Earth Kingdom for his fighting prowess.
  • Generation Xerox: He more closely resembles his genocidal grandfather Sozin than his lanky father. There is double irony there, given that Iroh is far nicer than Sozin was, and that he was his father's favorite (rather than Ozai, who resembled Azulon the most). Mind you, it is somewhat fitting: Sozin ended up regretting his role in starting the war, just as Iroh did — the difference being that Iroh's change of heart ended up much more meaningful. Furthermore, unlike Sozin, it didn't take Iroh until his deathbed to change his mindset and attitude, nor did it stop him from changing what he did.
  • Good All Along: He never does anything that would really hurt the heroes; the reason he stuck with the Fire Nation was to protect and guide Zuko. The first look Beneath the Mask comes in the season 1 finale, when he learns of Zhao's plans for the moon, and by the end of season 2 it's become clear he'd rather side with the Avatar than with his brother. We later find out his Heel–Face Turn happened long before the events of the series, most likely when Lu Ten died.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: He's an All-Loving Hero who always makes an effort to work things out peacefully, even sharing tea with a would-be mugger in Ba Sing Se. He's still savvy enough to recognize when someone is far too dangerous (such as Ozai) or unstable (such as Azula) to be simply talked down and when battle is necessary.
  • Good Parents: While we don't see how he was with his biological son Lu Tennote  (although, given how he still grieves the latter's death years later, it's presumed he was a loving father), Iroh is very much Zuko's father in all but genes, and - despite the corruptive influences coming from Ozai and Azula - Zuko becomes a well-adjusted young man under his parenting. Iroh is everything Ozai is not: loving, supportive, and protective, all of this being completely unconditional.
  • The Hedonist: A very interesting example. Although he often appears hedonistic, Iroh's life philosophy is about living life to the fullest, appreciating the little things, and experiencing happiness whenever possible, hence his enjoyment of the finer things in life. He developed this philosophy after Lu Ten's death, which likely caused him to question his path in life and realize the pain he was inflicting on others as a war general.
  • Hero Antagonist: Accompanies Zuko in his quest to capture the Avatar, but barely does anything to help his nephew accomplish his goal and is only on his side out of concern for him.
  • Hero of Another Story: Following his son's death, he went on a journey around the world, during which he got his pre-series Character Development.
  • Hidden Depths: Iroh just seemed like a cheery, goofy old guy there to annoy Zuko...until he's captured by Earth Kingdom troops who are amazed to have captured the famous "Dragon of the West," one of the greatest Fire Nation generals. Later reveals of his past eventually make him probably the deepest character in a show already full of them.
  • Honorary Uncle: Kiyi calls him “Uncle Iroh,” too, even though she’s not related to him by blood. Likewise, Toph also refers to him as "uncle".
  • Hot Blooded Sideburns: In Season 1, he had these, but the personality was inverted; he's probably the biggest sweetheart in the entire franchise.
  • Humble Goal: He renounced his claim to the throne, and when Zuko becomes Fire Lord by the end of the series, Iroh just wants to run a tea shop.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Even after kicking tail throughout the series, the man just wants his tea shop back.
  • Inconsistent Dub: In the Japanese dub, Books 1 and 2 translate his Red Baron, the Dragon of the West, as Nishi no ryū, only to switch to Nishi no Doragon in Book 3.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Develops one with Toph in "The Chase".
  • Irony: Years ago, he failed to conquer Ba Sing Se for the Fire Nation, which Azula later did. In the series finale, he successfully conquers the city... so the Earth Kingdom can take it back. He even lampshades it.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In The Promise, he apparently invents bubble tea, but Aang and Zuko aren't very keen on it.
    Zuko: {Ptah!} What is that trying to sneak into my mouth?!
    Aang: I've never had tea that's quite so...chewy.
    Iroh (sadly): I am a man ahead of my time...
  • Know Your Vines: In the second season, Iroh has a run-in with some of these.
    "Delectable tea?... Or deadly poison?"
  • Leitmotif: A calming pipa melody that plays when he dispenses words of wisdom. There's also a similar flute motif that plays when Zuko imitates him in "The Western Air Temple" and "The Boiling Rock, Pt. 1."
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Most of the time, he leaves the fighting to Zuko, but occasionally he demonstrates how he earned the title "Dragon Of The West".
  • Lightning Bruiser: Like the rest of his family, he has power, speed and durability in great measures.
  • Like a Son to Me: Explicitly tells this to Zuko at the end of the first season. By the end of the series, the feeling is returned completely.
  • Lost Food Grievance: Has a moment of this when his tea is spilled while traveling to Ba Sing Se, noticeably mourning his beverage more than worrying about having possibly just outed himself as a firebender.
    "I know you're not supposed to cry over spilled tea, but... *sniff* it's just so sad!"
  • Loved by All: As Crown Prince of the Fire Nation and commander of the Fire Nation's armies, he was Azulon's favored son, hailed as a hero by the Fire Nation at large and highly respected by his soldiers. His abandoning of the Ba Sing Se siege and being passed over as the heir to the throne in favor of Ozai caused him to lose political clout, but he's still well-liked and respected by most of the Fire Nation, even Admiral Zhao. Even Ozai and Azula begrudgingly acknowledge some respect for Iroh. He's also respected and even loved by many of his so-called enemies, like Aang, Katara, and Toph, who have zero fear of him despite him being the uncle of their most persistent foe and a great Fire Nation general. He also often commands this from random strangers that he meets and helps along the way.
  • Martial Pacifist: He has no love for fighting, at least not since his Heel–Face Turn. He always attempts to solve problems through words and diplomacy, and typically only uses combat as a last resort or in self-defense. Whenever he does fight, though, he will obliterate his opponent.
  • Meaningful Name: His Red Baron, "the Dragon of the West" isn't just a badass nickname. He even lampshades it as a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner before unleashing his flaming breath:
    Iroh: Did I ever tell you how I got the nickname "Dragon of the West?"
    Azula: I'm not interested in a lengthy anecdote, Uncle.
    Iroh: It's more of a demonstration, really.
  • Mellow Fellow: Iroh is a calm man who gives out advice to others while drinking soothing tea.
  • The Mentor: He's a wise old mentor who helps Zuko when they're both in exile. Even though they're technically enemies (though only in terms of his alignment with Zuko), he also helps Toph and Aang through their own turmoil.
  • Morality Pet:
    • Implied again that he and his son Lu Ten were this to his ruthless father Azulon, both being the only two people toward whom he showed any shred of kindness.
    • He's definitely one for Zuko in a mentor capacity.
  • Muggle with a Degree in Magic: Zig-Zagged. He's no Muggle, being a powerful firebender. But he's also become an expert at the other three elements, despite being unable to use them. He's even used what he's learned to develop new firebending techniques, like lightning redirection.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • The failed siege of Ba Sing Se. Most of the Fire Nation think that it's because he wasn't able to breach the walls, but in actuality, it was because his son Lu Ten died during it.
    • The book "Legacy of the Fire Nation" reveals he knew that Ozai, like his niece, had an ambition in him that he didn't quell in time. He laments how he wishes he could've done something different between them to avoid how Ozai turned out.
    • He carries great shame from allowing Ozai to mutilate Zuko and spends the rest of his life making up for it.
  • Mysterious Past: We just know the footnote version; born a Fire Nation Prince, served in the war, retired after a semi-successful siege of Ba Sing Se.
  • Mythical Motifs: Dragons. Refers both to his well known title, the Dragon of the West, and the fact that he protected the last of the dragons, from whom Zuko and Aang later learn the true nature of firebending.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Dragon of the West.
  • Near-Villain Victory: His siege of Ba Sing Se was the closest the Fire Nation got to defeating the Earth Kingdom until the main series, going so far as to break through the outer wall of the city.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: By the time Iroh received word of Lu Ten's injury during the Siege of Ba Sing Se, his son had already passed.
  • Nice Guy: Iroh is the nicest person in the entire Fire Nation royal family, and probably in the entire Fire Nation itself. He's got a charming sense of humor, a keen understanding of human nature, and he's got a sweet, jolly personality, which has earned him the love of both the characters in the show and the fans alike.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Iroh has no problem eating, socializing, or gambling with the crew of Zuko's ship, and in general is much friendlier to common folk than the rest of his family.
  • No Badass to His Valet: No matter how brooding and angry Zuko gets, he can never defy Iroh - at most, the prince will give a lot of lip and just go along with what Iroh insists upon. Unlike many examples of this trope, however, the "valet" in question is unquestionably more powerful than Zuko is, just a lot less motivated.
  • Nominal Villain: Iroh is the White Sheep of the Fire Nation royal family. He initially helps Zuko in his quest to capture the Avatar, but not because he believes it's truly for the best: rather, because the quest gives Zuko some much-needed hope. He becomes the Big Good later in the series as the leader of the Order of the White Lotus, a group of ancient masters who help Team Avatar and a now-redeemed Zuko defeat the Fire Nation.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • We never found out exactly how he managed to escape his cell on the Day of Black Sun.
    • We never find out what Zhao was alluding to when he noted Iroh's "experience in the Spirit World". Whatever it was, it seems to have left him with a degree of the True Sight and close connection to the Spirit World, so much so that after his death, he essentially retires to the Spirit World and serves as a guide and mentor to Korra and, briefly, Tenzin, Kya and Bumi.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never get to see Iroh's actual escape from prison during the Day Of Black Sun; just his bent cell bars...and a trail of unconscious bodies. Keep in mind, he couldn't use his firebending, either; he did all of that with his bare hands! "Dragon of the West," indeed.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Not that any of the characters ever treat him like he is, but as far as the audience is concerned, for most of Season 1, he's Zuko's uncle, goofy teacher, and sidekick. In the Season 1 finale, however, we see how devious he can be when he and Zuko outplay Zhao, but it's when he learns that Zhao plans to kill the Moon that Iroh shows just what a badass he truly is—he drops the whimsical facade and demands that Zhao stop his crazy plan, and effortlessly curbstomps Zhao's Elite Mooks when he doesn't listen, and sends Zhao running for his life. The villain part is subverted when it turns out that Iroh's Heel–Face Turn happened well before the series, and that he's far more concerned with Zuko's well-being than actually carrying out the Fire Nation's will.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Iroh's escape from the Fire Nation prison in Book 3. He pulls his Obfuscating Stupidity whenever anyone's watching, while training determinedly in private. When Zuko finally makes his last Heel–Face Turn and goes to rescue Iroh, he's long gone, having trashed everyone and everything in his path. All we find out is that he was "like a One-Man Army." Yikes!
  • Older Sidekick: Old enough to be Zuko's dad. Heck, he's old enough to be Zuko's grandfather, as pointed out by June.
  • Old Master: Before the series started, he was already one of the world's greatest firebenders and the most accomplished general of the past century. It's later shown that he had also absorbed the philosophies of the other nations, and is one of four people in the entire series to invent a completely new bending technique: lightning redirection (the other three are bloodbending, metalbending, and energybending). He also serves as Zuko's mentor, although he tends to hide the true extent of his knowledge from his immature nephew.
  • One-Man Army:
    • Iroh is more than capable of defeating multiple powerful opponents by himself, such as when he made short work of Zhao's troops at the North Pole or defeated Azula and her royal guards single-handily.
    • The prison warden calls him this word-for-word when he breaks out of prison during the eclipse by himself.
    • Zuko explicitly says that Iroh is the only person besides Aang who has a chance of beating Ozai. While Iroh expresses uncertainty that he could defeat his brother, that still makes him, at minimum, the second most powerful Firebender alive.
    • During the finale (with the assistence of Sozin's Comet) he rips through an entire Fire Nation tank batellion as if they were toys made of cardboard without breaking a sweat.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The one time he raises his voice to his nephew is in "Lake Laogai," when Zuko impulsively tries to resume his plans to capture Aang by stealing Appa.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Before the start of the series, Iroh's son, Lu Ten, died in the siege of Ba Sing Se. Iroh took his death so hard that he abandoned the siege, retired from being a general, and embarked on a Redemption Quest.
  • Out of Focus: Doesn't appear as much in season 3, though not without good reason.
  • Papa Wolf: When Azula tries to kill Zuko with lightning after a botched attempt to imprison them both, Iroh steps in at the last second, redirects the lightning into a nearby cliff, and then kicks her overboard.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • We hear very little about him trying to bond with Azula compared to Zuko. It is possibly justified, though, in that Azula was on the receiving end of this from Ozai, meaning the man basically ruling the world had an iron grip and controlling influence over her from a young age. Even if Iroh were able to defeat his brother in a fight, it's unlikely either him or Ursa would have been able to truly help Azula and intervene with her brainwashing in the long-term without at least being separated from Zuko. By the beginning of the show, it's unlikely Azula would be receptive to anyone, let alone the uncle Ozai regards as weak, attempting to guide her away from her father's influence, and she would likely need a lot more help than one supportive adult to break his conditioning. In other words, as Iroh himself put it - she's "crazy, and needs to go down." before any kind of peaceful resolution could be reached with her or help her.
    • Iroh was also on the receiving end of this; his own father Azulon preferred him over Ozai.
  • Parental Substitute: Though his birth father hates his guts and has actively tried to kill him, Zuko is fortunate enough to have a replacement in Iroh, who accompanied him throughout his banishment, raised him as his own son and absolutely refuses to give up on him and his happiness, even after being stabbed in the back. It's not a stretch to say that Zuko is, for all intents and purposes, Iroh's son, not nephew.
  • Playing with Fire: As a firebender, natch. However, Iroh ups this to an absurd degree, as someone who not only knows the true form of firebending, but also has single-handedly invented firebending techniques that his nephew and Aang both adopt. It's all but showcased that while Aang is the Avatar and can control all four elements to a high degree, Iroh is still one of the best in the world - if not the best - in a straight firebending contest against anyone.
  • The Pollyanna: His son was killed in a battle he lost, his reputation was destroyed, he lost his rightful place on the throne and was banished from his home, his beloved nephew treats him like dirt, and yet, he not only remains patient and cheerful, but is eventually able to help his nephew solve many of his personal problems without even breaking a sweat. It's implied that the first four experiences had a huge impact on him becoming the wise, collected uncle he is when the show starts. That doesn't change the fact his cheerful demeanor helps numerous characters, his nephew especially, over the course of the show.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Not that he's ever considered a villain, but from the audience's perspective Season 1 has him supporting actual antagonist Zuko. He plays along as Zhao's adviser during his invasion of the Northern Water Tribe for the sake of helping Zuko capture Aang. He drops the act and turns on him when he discovers Zhao's plan to destroy the Moon Spirit, knowing that even the Fire Nation needs the moon. Subverted big time when it's discovered that Iroh was Good All Along and stopped supporting the Fire Nation a long time ago.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: During Iroh's time in prison, his cell did double duty as a gym.
  • Prophecy Twist: He once had a vision that he would conquer Ba Sing Se, and his attempt to do so cost his son's life. He is destined to conquer it, but only to save it from the Fire Nation.
  • Proverbial Wisdom: Tends to overdo it sometimes, which is why Zuko has trouble understanding him.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Normally just tries to gently discourage Zuko from his self-destructive path, but when the headstrong prince tries to abduct Appa, Iroh finally throws the book at him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: He delivers an apt one to Zhao after the latter's cowardly attempt to attack Zuko from behind after an Agni Kai, calling his behavior disgraceful and telling him that Zuko has more honor than Zhao ever will.
    Iroh: So this is how the great Commander Zhao acts in defeat? Disgraceful. Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you.
  • Red Baron: He's notoriously remembered as "The Dragon Of the West" in the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation since his 20-month siege of Ba Sing Se.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Iroh admits that part of the reason he took it upon himself to raise Zuko is that he lost his own son, Lu Ten. Unlike most examples, though, Iroh loves and accepts Zuko for who he is, and never tries to mold him into a copy of Lu Ten.
  • Retired Badass: Retired pre-series, after (nearly) penetrating the impenetrable city of Ba Sing Se. Still a powerful Firebender well into old age, enough so that Zuko tried to get him to challenge Ozai when Aang disappeared.
  • Sad Clown: Underneath his goofy façade, he's just a father who is still grieving the loss of his son, many years after the fact. He's also done plenty of things in the past that he's not proud of.
  • Samurai Ponytail: The Fire Nation seems to use the hairstyle just as the trope indicates with the style being indicative of his status, even in exile. He and Zuko cut theirs at the beginning of the second season, after Azula betrays them. Then he readopts his during the Final Battle
  • Self-Deprecation: Part of Iroh's charm is that he's not above poking fun at himself from time to time.
    • For example, he has been known to crack a couple of jokes about his weight. See this bit during "Bitter Work":
    "The stomach is the source of energy in your body. It is called the "Sea of Qi".... Only, in my case, it is more like a vast ocean."
    "[In the spirit world,] you won't gain any weight. [Chuckles as he pats his bulging belly] Of course, you won't lose any, either."
    • He's not exactly sensitive about his age, either, if this exchange with Toph is any indication:
    Iroh: You seem a little too young to be travelling alone.
    Toph: You seem a little too old.
    Iroh: (chuckles) Perhaps I am.
  • Shipper on Deck: Often in regard to his nephew:
    • He believes Katara would be a good match for Zuko when his point of view is covered in the novelization of "Sozin's Comet."
    • Iroh is also very supportive of Zuko dating Jin during their stay in Ba Sing Se.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The reason he stopped fighting was because he witnessed his son die in battle during the legendary siege of Ba Sing Se. By Season 3, he finds the resolve to fight again, and he is one of the Masters leading the liberation of Ba Sing Se.
  • Shipper with an Agenda: Completely supported the idea of Zuko dating the Earth Kingdom girl Jin in "Tales of Ba Sing Se". Although that was mainly to get him to lighten up.
  • Shock and Awe: One of the only three firebenders we ever see shooting lightning. Although we don't get to see him use it in combat, he is the most skilled in its use because he invented the lightning redirection technique.
  • Smart People Play Chess: He's a master at pai-sho.
  • Smelly Feet Gag: Zuko uses his foul-smelling sandals to track him twice.
  • So Proud of You: When they are reunited in the Grand Finale, Iroh expresses how proud he is of Zuko for finding his way to the light.
  • Stern Teacher: To Zuko, when teaching him firebending. While he is a hedonist and easygoing, he becomes more serious and demanding as teacher.
  • Stout Strength: One of the physically strongest characters in the franchise, if not the strongest, but he's rather portly until about halfway through the third season.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Subverted. Zuko and the Gaang try to convince him to be the one to fight/kill Ozai during Sozin's comet after Aang goes missing, but he refuses; while he could maybe beat Ozai, he states that history would view it as "one brother killing another to grab power" and that only the Avatar defeating Ozai would make a lasting difference.
  • Super Strength: Displays this trope throughout the series (a trait he shares with his student Zuko). Iroh has, over the course of the show:
    • Sent Zhao skidding backwards along the ground with just a flick of his wrist. This is actually more impressive than it sounds due to their positions at the time: such a simple movement should have caused Zhao to merely put his foot down to regain his balance, if it did that much. Instead, he goes flying.
    • Used his chains to catch a boulder in midair that an earthbender was using as a projectile, then swung it back around and took out two earthbenders with it. Said boulder had to weigh more than Iroh.
    • Broke himself out of prison on the Day of Black Sun, without his firebending. The bars of his cell don't even look like he blasted them open; it looks like he grabbed hold of them and shoved through.
  • Supreme Chef: Not with food per se (although he certainly enjoys a good meal, when offered one), but he brews a mean pot of tea! His tea is so good that he was instantly promoted from a lowly tea shop waiter in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se to the owner of his own gourmet tea house in the luxurious Upper Ring.
  • Supporting Leader: He leads the White Lotus.
  • Tareme Eyes: He has round eyes.
  • Token Good Teammate: To the Fire Nation during Zuko's time as an antagonist, because he's the only non-evil or antagonistic Fire Nation character.
  • Took a Level in Badass: He was already badass enough before then, but in "Sokka's Master," he trains for his great escape while imprisoned. As a result, he loses most of his fat and replaces it with pure muscle.
  • Took a Level in Idealism: Flashbacks hint that Iroh being was just as much of a believer of the Fire Nation's ideology as his family before the death of his son caused him to rethink his beliefs.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: While Iroh was always just as affable as the present, his letter to Ursa has him casually joke about burning Ba Sing Se to the ground. He's a lot more merciful and accepting of the Earth Kingdom now.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: TEA. The man drinks it every chance he gets, critiques others' brews, becomes the best tea maker in Ba Sing Se, gets his own shop (which he retires to after the series), and at one point even fuels his Breath Weapon with (hot) tea. Toph even mentions to Aang that he's a brilliant tea-maker, as well as a great dispenser of advice. Azula calls him "His Royal Tea-Loving Kookiness."
  • True Sight: Thanks to his unexplained experience in the Spirit World, Iroh was able to see Aang riding Roku's dragon, Fang, in the Spirit World while he was in the Physical World.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • Azula was caught off by his lightning redirection technique in their first confrontation and thrown off the ship. Averted in other encounters as she seems to have taken the lesson to heart: the second time he is the one she takes out specifically due to both his momentary distraction and being the most skilled opponent there, and in the encounter after that, while she and Zuko fight him shortly when Iroh is holding them off to let the Gaang escape, she lets Dai Li take care of capturing him rather than going at it single-handedly.
    • When captured by several Earth Kingdom soldiers, they take several attempts to avert this trope. They still failed to keep Iroh captive (though, in fairness, it was a close call).
  • Undying Loyalty: To Zuko. He stays with his nephew through exile, war and conflict. In Season 2, Iroh decides to go back with him to the Fire Nation despite knowing it is almost certainly a trap, but not wanting Zuko to be on his own.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Despite his wisdom, he has an unfortunate habit of causing these situations (though not through any fault of his own). In Book 2, his decision to use firebending to heat up his tea caught Jet's attention, leading the latter to fanatically stalk Iroh and Zuko throughout Ba Sing Se, thus attracting the attention of the Dai Li and Team Avatar, and eventually resulting in Jet's death by Long Feng. This even extends to his military career, where his decision to call it quits and abdicate his right to rule after his son's death allowed Ozai to rise to power and nearly complete his plans of world domination and genocide.
  • Unexplained Accent: Speaks with a Japanese accent, despite his brother, nephew, and niece having American accents. Out-of-universe, this is because his original voice actor, Makoto Iwamatsu, spoke Japanese as a first language, while the rest of his family had American-born voice actors.
  • Villain of Another Story: His involvement within the Fire Nation's military prior to his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Villainous BSoD: The death of his son during the siege of Ba Sing Se caused him an emotional breakdown that made him realize the atrocities of the Fire Nation, and eventually pull a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Warrior Therapist: Though he never talks his opponents down while fighting; he's more likely to invite you over for tea and some good life advice. If he does fight his opponents, he's already decided that they need their rump kicked, and he will deliver it in spades.
    • Villain Has a Point: His letter to Zuko has him acknowledge that the Red Lotus' goals to reconnect the Spirit World and the physical world are noble. Downplayed in that he doesn't like the group's Bomb Throwing Anarchist nature, and believes that it was contradictory to the White Lotus' core tenets.
  • Willfully Weak: With all the times he gets into trouble and/or captured, he never really steps in or puts up a fight until it's completely necessary. It's pretty clear that he does this because 1) he's never in any real danger, 2) he wants to let the Gaang solve the problem instead, and 3) he doesn't want to hurt his antagonists, because he really, really could if he wanted to.
  • World's Strongest Man: Quite possibly, even to the point of challenging the Avatar for the title. While he may not have the Avatar's advantages, he's the Grand Master of the White Lotus for a reason, and between his prodigious bending ability, martial skill, and history as a tactical commander, Iroh is extremely formidable to the point that he's considered the only person other than Aang to be able to defeat Ozai. Even Aang, for being the Avatar, is still just a pre-teen who lacks Iroh's decades of experience.
  • Would Hit a Girl: His own niece, even, though it's always in self-defense.
  • Zen Survivor: In the past, he was a famed general who lost his only son in a war, and subsequently lost his will to fight. He now serves as a mentor to his nephew, and occasionally to Toph and Aang.

    Tropes that apply to him in The Legend of Korra
"You have light and peace inside of you. If you let it out, you can change the world around you."

The late uncle of Zuko and namesake of Zuko's grandson. Thanks to his trip to the Spirit World in his mortal life and his large amount of spirituality in general, he transcended to live in the Spirit World since about 30 years after the original series. Now he helps guide Korra whenever she is in the Spirit World.

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The nature of his "death" is unclear, but he did state that when his work was done in the material world he chose to let his soul depart and live in the spirit world. In any case, his body is certainly long dead by now.
  • Big Fun: He still likes to have a joke and laugh. As he notes, one downside of the Spirit World is that he cannot lose his gut.
  • Cool Old Guy: As much as ever. The first thing he does after finding Korra is take her to a tea party to give advice.
  • Energy Beings: Word of God is that if one were to visit Iroh in the next few centuries, they'd find him transcending to become one of these due to both the large spiritual energy within him that allowed him to enter the Spirit World upon death, and the growing period of time since his time as a mortal.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: In a series that draws a lot from Eastern themes, his ascension to the spirit realm has heavy parallels to one who has broken their cycle of reincarnation through enlightenment.
  • Fantastic Nirvana: In a setting in which characters normally reincarnate, Iroh has somehow escaped this cycle and resides in the Spirit World with the non-human origin spirits, which is not where human souls normally go.
  • Foil: To Korra's Evil Uncle Unalaq. It becomes more evident in "A New Spiritual Age", when both appear in the Spirit World.
  • Formerly Fit: Regained all that weight sometime before his death. Unlike before though, the Spirit World doesn't allow Iroh to lose it.
  • Mentor Archetype: To Korra; helping her grow into a better Avatar, and understand the Spirit World much better.
  • Mr. Exposition: Explains a lot of the Spirit World to Korra and how her emotions have an influence on it.
  • Nice Guy: Is still just as kind, gentle, and encouraging as he was in the original series.
  • Older Than He Looks: Physically not much older than he was in the first series, even though he has to be pushing 140 by this point.
  • Posthumous Character: Similar to Aang, though his spirit lives on, he's long since been dead in the material world. The fact that he's a spirit is more of a surprise, though, given his age.
  • Retired Badass: The former Dragon of the West is treating his death more or less like retirement, spending his days sipping tea and playing Pai Sho with the local spirits.
  • Spirit Advisor: Is technically this now that he is a resident of the Spirit World and still dispenses advice. Deconstructed in that while Iroh is wise and kind, he just can't give the kind of advice Aang or the other previous Avatars could, and can only help so much due to being from a long past era (much how Roku's outdated worldview hindered his advising of Aang in The Promise).
  • Time Abyss: Downplayed, but he has been around for about 140 years, and admits the passage of time is beginning to matter less to him thanks to living in the Spirit World.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Still a huge fan of tea. He even came across Korra while looking for a teapot to add to his collection!