A Timeline to Remember


This may be the first blog I’ve done that doesn’t fit in any way with Boy At The Window. But it at least will show that I still have a lot of kid in me left, and a silly one at that.

I couldn’t resist. After rewatching season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I decided to create a timeline that included all three seasons and all 61 chapters of the animated series. It’s been something I’ve thought about doing off and on since Nickelodeon showed the last half of the last season at the end of July.

Avatar%20Timeline.pdf

Some kids — including some I taught at Princeton this summer — seemed interested in tracking the travels of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and the rest of the gang over a more specific time frame than the one we all can kind of guess at by watching the show. Certainly more than a few adults on the Avatar fan sites have expressed skepticism as to the plausibility of a short timeline for the progress of the series over the past three and a half years. I think that a timeline of less than a year is not only plausible, it was necessary, especially given the stakes for a group of kids charged with saving the world.

If you click on the link above, you can download a book-by-book, chapter-by-chapter timeline for tracing the Last Airbender’s travels and travails over a nine or ten-month period. I made a bunch of assumptions and used a variety of tools to pull this together, to stay in tune with the spirit of the show and with the thinking of its creators. Among other assumptions:

1. I used a Chinese calendar to figure out how to start and end a year, and attempted to reconcile it with the modern Western calendar. This hasn’t been done well across the board by folks far more knowledgeable than me about reconciling a lunisolar calendar with a solar one. But a few things were clear. The seasons start between six and seven weeks earlier on the Chinese calendar, with the solstices and equinoxes smack dab in the middle of each of the seasons.

The result is, Winter (or Lidong) on the Chinese calendar (and in the world of the Avatar) begins around the end of the first week in November, Spring (Lichun) around February 4 or 5, Summer (Lixia) around May 5 or 6, and Fall (Liqiu) August 7 or 8. Given how DiMartino and Konietzko tied the four nations of the Avatar World to the seasons, it stands to reason that Book 1, Chapter 1 begins at the beginning of Winter (I picked November 15 as a consistent marker for each of the shows’ three seasons).

2. It’s clear that the Winter and Summer Solstices are key time markers in the series. On both calenders, the Winter Solstice date is roughly the same (December 22). The Summer Solstice, however, starts on June 5 or 6 and ends around June 22 (the typical date for it on the Western calendar). I tried to reconcile both of these dates in my calculations for the timeline.

3. The Chinese New Year is impossible to match up with the Western calendar. It typically falls between January 21 and February 20. Picking a Chinese New Year date for Book 1 would’ve completely thrown off the rest of the Avatar timeline.

4. Each Chapter of Avatar (with a few multipart show exceptions) has Aang and the gang at a different location for about a two or three-day period. I assumed a day of travel between each chapter, meaning each chapter represents a window into a four or five-day period of the lives of these young heroes.

5. I found some exceptions to what I said in 4. At the beginning of Book 1, Chapter 4 (“The Warriors of Kyoshi”), General Iroh and Prince Zuko look at a map detailing all of the places that Aang, Katara and Sokka have been since their first encounter at the South Pole. I assumed about 10 days between Book 1, Chapter 2 and Book 1, Chapter 3 (“The Southern Air Temple”), and 10 days between that and Chapter 4.

6. There’s about a two to three-week period between the end of each season and the beginning of the next one, between the end of The Siege of the North, Part 2 and Book 2, and The Crossroads of Destiny and Book 3.

7. I added some extra days at the end of Sozin’s Comet for Zuko’s coronation and the final scene in Ba Sing Se, as if it was the beginning of Book 4 – Air or something.

If any of you think I have too much time on my hands, that may well be true. But I’ve been making up timelines in my head for years, ever since I became fascinated with World War II when I was ten years old. Back then, I would figure out ways to help different nations win battles based on moving their forces more quickly to certain spots on the globe.

This one was done for the sheer pleasure of it, to get a sense of how intense the journey of all of the characters of this great story was. Yes, the creators left a lot of holes in the story. The Avatar story, though, is one of loss and love, redemption and restoration, and a lot of laughter at that. If anything, it should give all of you something to bust my chop about for a while. What can I say? I still have a twelve-year-old in me dying to come out and play.

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