Fire Nation Origins – What does canon show us?
The misconception that the Fire Nation is mainly based on Japan, and that Fire Nation Japanese elements make up the majority of the Fire Nation culture, has been around for a while. Since I get asked about this topic several times a week, I have decided to make this a feature. Please note that this post is not about what you do in you fanfic or fanart, which is your own choice, but about what we see in the show.
We are going to take a closer look at the Fire Nation’s language, clothing and armor, geography, political system, architecture, food, hairstyles, names, festivals, traditions, weapons and last, but not least, real world parallels.
The landscape of the Fire Nation is composed from elements from several different regions/countries: Iceland, South East Asia, Mesoamerica and Japan.
Ever wondered why the Fire Nation doesn’t look lush and tropical?
That’s because a lot of it is inspired by the landscape of Iceland e.g. Sokka’s waterfall is modeled on the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall in southern Iceland, and the landscape around Hama’s village on the Herðubreið mountain in north-eastern Iceland.
Iceland was also the model for most of the Fire Nation’s volcanic landscape:
BRYAN: … I wanted to go somewhere that would serve as a model for designing the Fire Nation’s volcanic landscape. I ended up fulfilling a lifelong dream and visited Iceland … the landscape was raw, rugged, and violent, with a terrible beauty that perfectly encapsulated what I had in mind for Zuko’s turbulent homeland. I shot thousands of photos and edited them down for the background designers and painters … all these efforts helped us to give the Fire Nation a distinct geological flavor separate from every other locale we had seen in the Avatar world. (Art Book, page 132)
Thailand and South East Asia
There are a few times when the Fire Nation appears tropical. Mainly on Ember Island and the Sun Warriors’ Island.
Ember Island’s landscape and architecture, especially the beach (minus the black sand) is strongly influenced by Thailand.
While for the Sun Warrior’s island we gotta go to South America: Their jungles and mountains are mesoamerican.
The Fire Nation’s geographical shape i.e. long drawn out island chain and the volcanic nature of the islands does remind of Japan’s geographical shape.