Nation: Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, Pirates
This is a broad class of wooden vessels that use the wind for
propulsion. All sailing ships have four main elements: hulls, at least
one mast, at least one sail that uses the wind to power the ship and
rigging to control the sail.
vessels aren't much use in naval combat once reliable steam propulsion
technology is developed. Still, the skiffs used by the Northern Water
Tribe did see limited action in "The Siege of the North, Part I."1
Even without much of a combat role, sailing vessels of all types remain
useful as transports or merchant vessels. Earth Kingdom fishermen are
known to use schooners, or double masted sailing ships, to ply their
The warriors of the Southern Water Tribe used what appear to be sloops
or cutters to transport themselves to the Earth Kingdom. Lastly, the
pirates first seen in "The Waterbending Scroll" used a Chinese junk, a
multi masted ship with battened sails, to travel the world.3
Nation: Fire Nation
Siege towers are large wooden or metal structures designed to
facilitate a direct attack against walled fortifications. The tower
must be as high or higher than the wall the attackers are attempting to
overcome so infantry or other troops can be easily deployed. The troops
are deployed using a drawbridge or gangplank to connect the tower to
the top of the wall.1
towers are generally difficult to build and are not very mobile. For
these reasons, they are generally constructed at the site of a siege.
If built within the range of the defender's weaponry, however, they can
easily be destroyed during construction. To prevent this, many siege
towers are designed with wheels or casters so that they can be built
beyond the defender's range and then rolled into place only when needed.
These devices were used by the Fire Nation during the successful siege
of Omashu that occurred between the episodes "The King of Omashu" and
"The Cave of Two Lovers."2
At least four of these enormous siege towers were constructed by the
Fire Nation around the city walls. The drawbridges are so large they
look somewhat like the massive tower cranes used in modern real world
Nation: Earth Kingdom
This ingenious machine, developed by the Mechanist, is a tracked
vehicle made of metal and stone. The body of the tank is series of
movable, overlapping stone plates. These allow the tank to vary its
length and bend in seemingly impossible directions (like a slinky toy1) at the will of the operators. It is propelled by a crew of four earthbenders and has room in its hull for dozens of soldiers.
The slinky tank is able to perform a variety of functions in high
intensity combat situations. It can crush enemy tanks and smaller
fortifications with ease2, and it serves as an armored troop transport carrier that can deploy dozens of combat troops directly into battle.
Like their Fire Nation counterparts, however, the Earth Kingdom tanks
are not invulnerable. A direct hit from a catapult, ballista or
trebuchet can do considerable damage to these machines3. Also, tipping these weapons on their side immobilizes them, rendering them useless in combat.
Nation: All Nations
One of the oldest edged weapons, spears are simple weapons composed of
a shaft that ends in a sharpened head. The heads of the most basic
spears are made of the same material as the shaft, for example a wooden
spear with a whittled head. Compound spears have a shaft made of one
material and the head made of another. Spears of the latter type allow
for better tailoring for the different applications described below.
Easy to use and manufacture, spears were popular weapons before the
advent of gunpowder. Additionally spears are versatile, and can be used
as both melee and throwing weapons. Those used for melee tend to be
heavier and longer than those used for throwing.
Nation: Earth Kingdom
This underwater craft, conceived by Sokka and constructed by the
Mechanist, appears to be around a hundred feet long and is propelled by
a crew of waterbenders. Reminiscent of Captain Nemo's "Nautilus"1,
the skin of this ship is apparently a combination of wood and metal. It
unknown how deep the craft is able to dive, but it clearly cannot stay
submerged for long as it has no native air supply beyond what is
present in its compartments when it goes underneath the water.
Flexible fins manipulated via controls on the bridge allow the ship to
be steered. A series of windows on the bridge deck and portholes in the
forward section of the conning tower allow the pilot and crew to
observe the surroundings outside the craft. A periscope2
allows the captain or pilot to observe activities on the surface when
the ship is submerged.
The ship is armed with two forward torpedo tubes. These are loaded by
waterbenders with large ice torpedoes filled with blasting jelly that
are capable of blasting through large stone barriers. The ship is also
able to carry a "slinky tank" in its forward section and disgorge it
immediately upon beaching itself at its destination.3
The submarine was a novel invention created specifically for the "Day
of Black Sun" invasion of the Fire Nation. The purpose of the ships was
to allow the allied forces to penetrate heavy Fire Nation defenses
without detection and then to deploy the land army before the enemy
Nation: All Nations
First manufactured in the early Bronze Age, swords are edged weapons
that come in a startling number of varieties. They all consist of two
main components, however, the hilt and the blade.
The hilt usually consists of three pieces, the pommel, the grip and the
cross guard. The pommel is the counterweight at the bottom of the sword
that balances the weight of the weapon across its length. The grip is
where the wielder holds the sword, and the cross guard is a
perpendicular piece of metal just above the grip that prevents an
opponent's sword from sliding down the wielder's blade and cutting his
or her hand.
The blade of a sword can be either single or double edged and generally
tapers toward a point. The size of the blade generally determines
whether the sword requires one or two hands to wield. Swords are often
differentiated by the shape and width of their blades. Some of the
swords seen in Avatar include:
Broadsword: This sword is a one handed, single edged, wide
bladed weapon. In the west, most notably in Europe, this is referred to
as a broadsword. In China, it is referred to as a dao.1 Prince Zuko used a pair of these ancient, ornamental blades when disguised in his Blue Spirit persona.2
Straight Sword: Many different types of straight edge swords are
seen throughout the show. Some are two handed great swords such as that
used by some of the Fire Nation troops in "Jet,"3 others are one handed swords such as that used by The Pirate Captain.4
Scimitar: Many curved blades appear in the show that can be loosely termed "scimitars," from the Zhang Leader's sword5 to the Water Tribe blade seen in "Bato of the Water Tribe."6
Swords are used at close quarters to stab or slash an opponent. The
exact utility of a blade is determined by its length, weight and shape.
Long thin blades, such as rapiers, are generally used for thrusting,
whereas wider bladed swords are best for slashing.
Nation: Water Tribe
Invented by Sokka and Katara's father, Hakoda, this spherical device's
main body is constructed of brown or dark colored animal skins. Inside
it is stuffed with seaweed and stinkfish. The bottom of the device is
plugged with a knot of wooden stubs and rope. The top is sealed with a
cork that rests in a fabric collar. The base of the collar is
penetrated by a wooden pin.
Application: The mine is
buoyant and so floats when deployed in water. The men of the southern
Water Tribe use these to mine waters plied by Fire Nation naval
vessels. When struck, the mines explode, ejecting seaweed and
stinkfish. The smell of the fish is so awful that men prefer to abandon
ship rather than endure it. The seaweed tangles the screws and
propellers of the ship, immobilizing it.
Nation: Fire Nation
These machines are armored, four wheeled, steam powered vehicles that
can carry three soldiers into battle. They are capable of moving faster
than infantry at least over short distances, though their maximum range
is not known since the nature of their power source is not well
The chassis and cab of the vehicle rides low to the ground. It has a
fixed turret on its top with openings that face forward and to the
sides. These openings allow a firebender to release fire blasts at
targets with virtual impunity. If the vehicle gets flipped over for any
reason, the crew compartment between the two wheel axles can rotate 180
degrees to allow the tank to continue moving forward unimpeded.
The wheels also have large serrated spikes around their circumference.
The spikes help provide traction. Depending on the situation, the tank
can be fitted with treads over its wheels to provide a much greater
surface area over which to distribute the vehicle's weight. When fitted
with treads, the Fire Nation tanks look somewhat like the Ford M1918
tank that was produced for the U.S. Army in World War I.1
Besides its firebender arsenal, the tank also has another powerful
weapon: it's grappling hooks. Small grappling hooks can be shot from
inside the tank and huge grappling hook can be fired if the tank is
retrofitted with a ballista.2
Fire Nation tanks are versatile vehicles that are useful in many combat
situations, for example urban assault and mountain warfare. Relying on
its spiked wheels and its small grappling hooks to help negotiate sheer
rock faces, these vehicles were used without treads to scale cliffs in
"The Northern Air Temple."3
When assaulting the Northern Water Tribe city, Admiral Zhao used these
machines fitted with ballistas to reduce the city's secondary wall. The
tanks fired spears from the ballista that, once they penetrated the
wall, would open into a grappling hook.4 The tanks, properly braced, would then reel back the chain that connected the tank and the hook.5 After the chains pulled taught, the hooks were able to rip down pieces of the wall.6
These breaches were then exploited with infantry. That situation also
required the tanks to use treads to prevent them from falling through
Nation: Fire Nation
This machine is a three car, tracked vehicle capable of moving at
tremendous speed. All three cars are heavily armored and move on tracks
like a conventional tank. The cars are connected to each other by rigid
The front car has a smokestack and a forward scoop (called a "cowcatcher" in 19th century American railroad terminology)1
designed to deflect debris away from the vehicle when traveling at high
speed. It also has two, long metal cylinders that look like rockets on
either side above the tread wells.2
The last car is a storage hold that Azula and her friends use as a pen
for their giant lizard mounts. When triggered, the side of this car
opens onto the ground. It serves as an exit ramp when in that position.3
The middle car serves an unspecified function. Like the last car, it
does not have windows and does not seem to be powered. Possible
functions include carrying fuel or weaponry.
Application: Though large and heavily armored,
this machine is the ideal pursuit vehicle. Capable of high speed over
virtually any terrain, the tank train was able to exhaust and
eventually overtake Appa in "The Chase."
Tiger's Head Hook
Nation: Earth (Jet)
Often classified as a type of sword, this double edged weapon was first
developed in China about four thousand years ago and is called a Hu-Tou-Gou.1
The blade of this weapon, as its name implies, is bent into a fish hook
shape at its end. Instead of a traditional pommel, this weapon has a
smaller blade below the grip that acts both as a counterweight and as a
Almost as striking as the hooked blade itself, the Tiger's Head Hook
also uses a very distinctive cross guard. Most cross guards are
perpendicular pieces of metal just above the grip that prevent an
opponent's sword from sliding down the wielder's blade and cutting the
wielder's hand. The cross guard on this weapon is a crescent shaped
piece of sharpened metal that acts both to protect the user's hand and
as a stabbing or jabbing weapon.
Application: The Tiger's Head Hook is often dual wielded, that is, the typical practitioner uses one in each hand, as Jet did.2
It is a difficult weapon to learn because it is bladed in every
direction, making it easy for the user to cause self-inflicted wounds.
This weapon is extremely versatile, however, and the hooks make
elaborate trapping and throwing maneuvers possible.3
Nation: Fire Nation
The trebuchet is a gravity driven mechanical artillery weapon of
tremendous power. The device is made of metal and consists of a beam
mounted on an axle that rests between two "A" frames or similar support
towers. The "A" frames and the beam are parallel to one another, while
the axle connects the tops of the two "A" frames and passes through the
beam. The axle allows the beam to rotate. To drive the mechanism, a
counterweight is attached to the rear end of the beam, and the sling
which holds the projectile is attached to the front end of the beam.
To prepare a trebuchet to fire, the front end of the beam must be
reeled in low to the ground, raising the counterweight on the back end
high up into the air. When the beam is released, the counterweight
falls, driving the back end of the beam down and the front end up. As
the front end of the beam "see-saws" upwards, the sling attached to the
front end of the beam will release its payload toward its target.
The distance a trebuchet can fire and the maximum weight of its payload
depends on several different factors. These include the length of the
beam, the ratio of the length of the beam on the side with the
counterweight to the length on the other side of the axle, and the
ratio of the mass of the counterweight and the projectile. The longer
the beam, the farther the projectile will go. While there is no
theoretical limit on the length of beam that can be used, it is
effectively limited by the strength of available construction
materials. The ratio of the beam lengths is ideally around 4 or 5:1 and
the counterweight to projectile mass ratio is ideally around 100:1.
Application: The Fire Nation mounts their trebuchets on the decks of their ironclad warships.1
They line them in rows on either side of the deck, placing them on
rotating platforms that allow them to direct their fire without having
to turn the ship. Projectiles consist of smelly, burning balls of pitch
or some other substance. Depending on the ship, some trebuchets are
traditional "A" frame models2, while others that look more
advanced have "Half A" frames. Trebuchets have been used in the show
both for siege and anti-aircraft purposes.3
Nation: Earth (Kyoshi Island)
Description: Called tienshan in Chinese or tessen
in Japanese, the war fan is a metal weapon that usually consists of
between ten and twenty iron spokes bound together at their base by a
pin.1 The spokes are connected along much of their length by
iron plates. To reduce weight, some fans use iron only for the outer
spokes, while using bamboo or other lightweight wood for the inner.
To open the fan, the user slides the outermost spokes in opposite
directions, allowing the spokes to rotate to a certain extent around
the pin at the bottom. The maximum breadth of the fan is determined by
the number of spokes and the widths of the plates connecting them.
Although mostly considered a defensive weapon best used for blocking
maneuvers, the edges of the plates are sharpened to provide some
The fan is effective as a weapon both in its open and closed positions.
When closed, the fan can be used as a fighting baton, a one hand blunt
weapon, to block,2 crush or club an opponent. It can also be
used as a throwing weapon itself in the closed position. When open, the
fan can effectively block both melee and range weapon attacks.3 The sharpened edges can also be used offensively for cutting or slicing moves.
Nation: Fire Nation
One of the most important elements of the Fire Nation arsenal, these
ocean going vessels are iron or steel hulled ships that use steam power
for propulsion. Warships appear in several different sizes,1 but they all share common design characteristics.
The bridge tower is amidships and rises high above the main deck. Two
smokestacks appear just aft of the bridge to ventilate the power plant.
The after deck is dominated by the engine complex and has very little
open space compared to the foredeck. The foredeck comprises half the
length of the ship and is almost featureless when the ship is not in
combat. The hull design is somewhat akin to the Castle Class corvettes
produced by the United Kingdom in World War II.2
Fire Navy ships are heavily armed with either catapults or trebuchets.
When not needed these weapons are stored below the foredeck. During
combat these devices are raised up to the foredeck through concealed
hatchways. They are mounted on rotating platforms that allow the
gunners to direct their fire without having to turn the ship.
The bow of these vessels is hinged near the water line. When opened,
the bowsprit and bow plating above the water line swing downward on the
When unfolded, the bowsprit becomes a bridge for the deployment of
troops. This invention is analogous to the Roman corvus used to
devastating effect in the First Punic War.
The aft end of Fire Navy ships can also open to deploy a small, catamaran type dinghy.4 This small craft is a multi purpose vessel that can be used for reconnaissance, exploration or as a lifeboat.
Application: Fire Nation warships are as versatile as they are powerful. They are useful in many combat situations, including:
Amphibious Assault: The hinged bow facilitates the rapid
disembarkation of troops from inside the ship. The Fire Navy was able
to deploy this variation of the corvus directly into the main wall of the Northern Water Tribe city in "The Siege of the North, Part I."5
Bombardment: The warship's catapults or trebuchets are
its main armaments. These weapons are capable of raining fiery
destruction against other ships, aerial attackers, or shore targets
such as cities or naval bases.
Blockade: A fleet of warships is capable of creating a blockade.6
This tactic is intended to restrict an opponent's access to a certain
area. The objectives of a blockade can vary greatly, but common goals
include choking off an enemy's supplies or preventing allies or
reinforcements from coming to the aid of the those under the blockade.
Nation: Earth (Jun the Bounty Hunter)
Description: A long, flexible weapon made of braided, leather strips. Whips are composed of four parts, a handle, a thong, a fall and a cracker.
Handle: The handle usually consists of a wooden core that is overlaid by a tightly woven, high quality braid of leather.
Thong: The thong is the main body of the whip that
connects the handle to the fall. It is composed of many plaits or
braids of leather and either attaches directly to the handle or via a
Fall: The fall is a single strip of leather that connects the thong to the cracker and is extremely flexible.
Cracker: Also called a "popper," the cracker is the single, very thin piece of string or leather that serves as the end of the whip.
When shaken by the user a shock wave travels from the handle rapidly
towards the cracker at its end. Due to the law of the conservation of
energy, the shock wave accelerates rapidly as the diameter of the whip
diminishes. Used correctly, the shock wave eventually causes the
cracker at the end of the whip to break the sound barrier and produce
the whip's tell-tale sound. When used as a weapon, the cracker is often
removed since the fall communicates more energy (i.e., does more
damage) to the target.
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