How Zaheer Achieved Flight in ‘The Legend of Korra’
The Legend of Korra expanded on the world created in Avatar: The Last Airbender. LOK introduced many new techniques and sub-skills of the four types of bending into the Avatar universe. It saw metalbending become commonplace and introduced new villains with terrifying powers like lavabending and bloodbending without a full moon. Zaheer unlocks one of the most shocking new subsets of bending in the episode “Enter the Void.”
Guru Laghima was the first airbender to achieve flight
Flight is an ancient sub-skill of airbending. According to a Wiki Fandom page, it was discovered by Guru Laghima, an Air Nomad who unlocked the secret to weightlessness four thousand years before the events of The Legend of Korra. After achieving this skill, Guru Laghima spent the final forty years of his life without ever touching the ground.
Guru Laghima and Zaheer are the only known airbenders ever to achieve flight. By the time Zaheer came around, most airbenders, including Tenzin, doubted the story of Guru Laghima. They dismissed the story of Guru Laghima’s achievement as a mere legend and believed flight to be impossible. Yet not long after becoming an airbender, Zaheer was able to unlock this ancient technique.
Zaheer studied the teachings of Guru Laghima
A deeper look at Guru Laghima can provide more clarity on how Zaheer was able to fly in The Legend of Korra. Laghima was a poet and Air Nomad guru whose writings continued to be studied long after his death. He was able to discover the secret to weightlessness by letting go of all earthly attachments.
Although much of the Air Nomad culture was lost during the Hundred Years War, Guru Laghima’s poetry survived and went on to be studied by Zaheer four thousand years later. Although Zaheer only became an airbender after Harmonic Convergence, he admits to Kya that he has “always admired the culture.” It seems that Zaheer studied airbender culture and, in particular, the teachings of Guru Laghima for some time.
Zaheer even goes as far as to center the Red Lotus’ goals around the teachings of Guru Laghima. The Red Lotus is an anarchist group that tries to end the Avatar Cycle and throw the world into chaos in The Legend of Korra. One quote, in particular, became the group’s motto: “New growth cannot first exist without destruction of the old.”
Zaheer admits that he had his doubts about achieving flight. Still, he begins to attempt to unlock the secret as soon as he becomes an airbender. Several times in the series, he repeats another poem by Guru Laghima, “Let go your earthly tether. Enter the void. Empty and become wind.” The repetition of this mantra seems to show Zaheer actively mulling over Laghima’s message and trying to figure out how exactly he can enter the void. However, he is unable to do so until after one specific event – the death of P’li.
P’li’s death in ‘Legend of Korra’ allowed Zaheer to achieve flight
Zaheer’s political mission was important to him. However, it was not enough of an “earthly tether” to prevent him from flying. However, his girlfriend P’li was. In the episode “Enter the Void” Suyin wraps metal around P’li’s head just as she is about to fire a combustion beam. Zaheer witnesses her death. The moment he knows she is gone, he seems aware that he will now be able to fly. Zaheer then steps off of a cliff with Korra.
The tragic thing is that Zaheer could not fly while someone who meant so much to him remained alive. When a distressed Korra screams at Zaheer, believing he killed her father, his response shows how much P’li meant to him. “I understand your grief,” he tells her. “I also lost someone I loved today.”
It seems that P’li was the only thing that really kept him tethered to this earth. After she died, Zaheer became the first airbender to achieve flight in four thousand years.