Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Creature Feature - Sky Bison

With Avatar: Legend of Korra coming out tomorrow, I figured it was time to write something on that big beloved animal from the first series, Appa the Sky Bison. He never had any lines, rarely fought, and only has one story arch all to his own in the series, but he's a beloved character just as much as anyone else on the show. So let's take a look at Sky Bison.

I know last week I said that you can't judge an entire species on the one character, but Appa in Avatar the Last Airbender was, then, the last of his species. So in order to explore Sky Bison we need to look at Appa. The series liked to create its own special creatures by combining different animals together, hence why we see lemur bats, platypus bears, and badger moles. Sky Bison seem to be a combination of a buffalo, beaver and some sort of insect considering their six legs. Standing at about 12 feet tall and about three times as long and despite not having wings the creatures can fly. Throughout the series, Aang and company use Appa as a ride in their journey around the world, so the creature is half support character and half plot device.

Appa himself is Aang's spirit animal, and his best friend. He was frozen with Aang in the South Pole, and escaped the extinction of his species with the Air Nomads. In the third season Aang reveals that the Air Nomads learned Airbending from the Sky Bison, thus young Airbenders are given Sky Bison pups (Calves? Kittens? Young?) to train. So Appa and Aang knew each other almost their entire lives.
Besides transport, the most significant part Appa played in the show was strangely enough when he wasn't there. During season two, Appa is kidnapped by a tribe of Sandbenders, so for several episodes Aang and the crew have to walk to wherever they go. Aang, a normally level-headed and peaceful person, comes completely unglued when he finds his beloved Sky Bison lost, going straight into Avatar mode and nearly obliterating the kidnappers. Eventually it's revealed that Appa was sold to a circus where he was abused, then bounced around between enemies and general bad people until he ended up with the Kyoshi warriors. Recognizing the Avatar's bison, they clean him up, nurse his physical and emotional wounds, but abandon him when they're attacked by the Fire Nation. Appa is eventually captured by the Di Li, and is freed by Prince Zuko and Iroh to be found by Aang. It's one of the emotional highlights of the series to watch both Aang and Appa's anguish over losing each other and their pure joy to be reunited.

A new species of Sky Bison has been discovered in Legend of Korra, so we conviently have them back in the series. They're not going to be as big as Appa was, but it'll still be nice to see the iconic creature in the show. Overall they're a really cool animal, and it's nice to see something that wasn't blatantly ripped off from The Big Book of Myths. Sky Bison are flying six legged giant cows, what more could you want?


  1. Sky Bison are actually a combination of a Manatee and Bison. I think they just threw six legs in there for the heck of it. :o)

  2. I think I just died a little from geeking out. This post made me so, so, sooooooo happy. The episode where Appa was Sky Bison-napped made me so sad that I literally cried! I cried at a cartoon because I love Appa THAT MUCH! I want one. I want a Sky Bison.
    Naga, Korra's polar bear dog, is cool and all, but Appa's the one for me.

    ...I really need to buy a big huge Appa plushie.