Reasons why Iroh isn’t Firelord in Avatar: The Last Airbender, despite Ozai’s age

Why isn’t Iroh the Firelord in “Avatar: The Last Airbender” despite being Ozai’s older brother and originally meant to inherit the title from Azulon?

In the world of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” Iroh is the older brother of Ozai, who is the antagonistic leader of the Fire Nation. The birth order suggests that Iroh should have been the reigning Firelord, but the story reveals that Ozai ended up taking the throne instead. Unlike Iroh, who is a peaceful and wise character, Ozai is driven by a strong desire to conquer the other nations and establish the dominance of the Fire Nation.

Initially introduced as Prince Zuko’s uncle, Iroh appears to be somewhat comical and past his prime. However, further details about his past reveal that he was not only a renowned general but also the original heir to Firelord Azulon’s title. The exact reasons for Iroh’s change in birthright are not explicitly explained in the series, but it is evident that Ozai played a role in manipulating the situation. While there is little information about Iroh and Ozai’s relationship with their father, it is implied that Azulon did not favor Ozai.

In a flashback, Ozai approaches his father, Azulon, and requests to be named the successor instead of Iroh, citing the death of Iroh’s son as a reason why Iroh should be excluded from the line of succession. Azulon is angered by this suggestion and vehemently opposes betraying his firstborn. He initially intends to punish Ozai by ordering him to kill Zuko, but before that can happen, Azulon dies in his sleep, and Ozai seizes the throne.

The flashback is shown from a young Zuko’s perspective, and he does not fully comprehend the events that transpire. According to the Avatar comic “The Search Part Two,” Zuko’s mother, Ursa, takes advantage of the situation to escape the palace and save Zuko’s life by poisoning Azulon. It is then falsely communicated that Azulon’s dying wish was to name Ozai as his successor. Iroh, grieving the loss of his son, is too heartbroken to contest his brother’s ascension, and Ozai becomes the Firelord.

The death of Iroh’s son, Lu Ten, is instrumental in changing Iroh’s character in “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Ozai manipulates this tragedy to convince their father that Iroh is no longer fit to inherit the throne. Iroh, who had been leading a legendary siege of Ba Sing Se at the time, becomes emotionally affected by his son’s death and undergoes a transformation, becoming more compassionate and spiritually attuned. Ozai perceives Iroh’s decision to end the siege as a sign of weakness, but in reality, it allows Iroh to become a father figure to Zuko and sets the stage for Zuko’s eventual redemption and alignment with the Avatar.

By intentionally removing Iroh from the line of succession, Ozai becomes an even more formidable villain. This narrative choice allows Iroh to witness firsthand the destructive nature of Ozai’s ambition and its impact on Zuko and Azula. It proves significant as Zuko’s story unfolds throughout the series, with Iroh serving as a supportive figure who not only experienced a similar betrayal by Ozai but also maintained his kindness despite the ordeal.

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