|“||We are the protectors of the forest! We won't let you burn it down! Wipe them out!||„|
|~ Aye-Aye as a Dark Spirit to a group of Firebenders before ordering his fellows to slaughter them.|
The Dark Spirits are a malevolent sub-group of Spirits and a major antagonistic group in the Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise. Particularly, they serve as the central antagonistic group of Book 2: Spirits in The Legend of Korra.
They are Spirits corrupted from the influence of the chaos entity Vaatu. Even with Vaatu imprisoned within the Tree of Time by Avatar Wan, spirits were still susceptible to turning dark depending on the state of the environments they considered important.
Particularly, the Water Tribes experienced several incidences of dark spirit attacks following the Hundred Year War, due to the destruction of a sacred spiritual forest in the North Pole and progressive spiritual neglect in the South Pole. Dark spirits attack seemingly at random, with many lurking in sacred or secluded areas that have become neglected over time.
The Dark Spirits are Spirits that were originally corrupted by Vaatu ten thousand years ago, who took advantage of certain Spirits anger towards humanity to make corrupting them easier. Despite Vaatu's imprisonment within the Tree of Time by Avatar Wan, spirits were still susceptible to turning dark depending on the state of the environments they considered important. The first known appearance of the Dark Spirits in the world was during Avatar Kuruk's time, all of whom had been allowed in the mortal realm through rifts created by Father Glowworm. The dark spirits were a constant source of strife for Kuruk, and their presence was kept a secret from everyone except Kuruk and his spiritual mentor. Kuruk's defeat of Father Glowworm kept the dark spirits at bay for generations.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
During the Hundred Year War, many spirits turned dark due to the chaotic imbalance in the world. The destruction of the forest near Senlin Village caused a panda spirit named Hei Bai to turn dark. Having protected the forest for thousands of years and unaware that the Fire Nation was responsible for its destruction, Hei Bai terrorized the nearby village as the winter solstice drew near, during which time the separation between the two realms was minimal. As punishment for the forest's destruction, Hei Bai raided the village every night and abducted a single villager during each of his attacks. He eventually reverted to his docile form after Avatar Aang showed him an acorn, proving that, in time, the forest would grow back. Hei Bai remembered Aang's kindness and later helped him get out of the spirit world, though he momentarily became dark again towards another spirit that was rude to his friend.
Smoke and Shadow
Centuries prior to the formation of the Fire Nation, the islands were controlled by cruel and ruthless warlords. One warlord, Toz, abducted all of one village's children. The children were never seen again and their mothers died of grief. Shortly thereafter, the Kemurikage, the dark spirits of the grieving mothers, began to haunt Toz and his men. They drifted into the warlord's encampment in the middle of the night and abducted children, causing Toz's men to abandon him out of fear. The dark spirits continued to haunt other warlords for centuries until the Fire Islands were united by the first Fire Lord. However, the Kemurikage were still feared, and children worried the Kemurikage would return and steal them if they were to misbehave. Shortly after the Hundred Year War, a group of female firebenders led by Azula impersonated the Kemurikage and coerced Ukano into assisting them in overthrowing Fire Lord Zuko. The group abducted Tom-Tom and several other children in the Fire Nation Capital, which attracted the attention of the Fire Lord, who enlisted the help of Avatar Aang given the apparent involvement of dark spirits. However, since the Kemurikage have not set foot in the mortal realm for centuries, Aang realized they were imposters, but was unable to capture them.
The Legend of Korra
Dark Spirits have their largest and most important role in the second season of The Legend of Korra. Twenty years prior to the events of the show, Korra's father, Tonraq, destroyed a sacred forest while in pursuit of raiders. In retaliation for this sacrilege, Dark Spirits attacked the Northern Water Tribe and caused massive devastation before Unalaq was able to calm them with spirit bending. Following this Tonraq was banished from the Northern Water Tribe, allowing Unalaq to become chief. The Dark Spirits returned twenty years later, first attacking Water Tribe fishing ships. Another later attacks the Southern Water Tribe itself on the night of the Glacial Spirits Festival. This Dark Spirit proves to be a formidable opponent for Korra, Tenzin, and Tonraq, until Unalaq is able to calm it using spiritual techniques that turns it back into a peaceful Light Spirit. Following this Korra agrees to join Unalaq so as to learn how to better handle Dark Spirits in the future. Unalaq tells Korra that the first order of business is to unlock a spiritual portal and in so doing bring back the Southern Lights, which would calm the Spirits for a time. After braving a ruined oasis filled with Dark Spirits, Korra succeeded in bringing back the Southern Lights, but Unalaq cautioned that this would not be the last of the Dark Spirits and that there was still work to be done. Indeed, while fleeing from Unalaq's children Eska and Desna, Korra comes under attack from a particularly large Dark Spirit that manages to drag her underwater. This attack resulted in Korra stranded on an island and suffering from amnesia for several days. Korra realizes that Unalaq plans to free Vaatu so he can fuse with the spirit and become a Dark Avatar, as he believes he is the only one qualified enough to lead the world into a new spiritual age of harmony between humans and spirits. However, Unalaq is using Dark Spirits as shock-troopers to prevent Korra from closing the southern spirit portal. Korra is able to enter the spirit world through meditation and attempts to close the southern portal for good. However, Unalaq has entered through the portal first and is holding her friend, Jinora, hostage, with the help of several Dark Spirits. Unalaq threatens to destroy Jinora's spirit with spiritbending, forcing Korra to open the northern portal so he can release Vaatu from his prison. As he no longer needs her, Unalaq attempts to destroy Korra's own soul with spiritbending, however she is rescued by a spirit before this can occur. Unalaq, enraged that Korra has survived and escaped, has the Dark Spirits throw Jinora's spirit into the Fog of Lost Souls in retaliation. Unalaq later uses the Dark Spirits that aided him to end the Water Tribe Civil War. Korra breaks through the southern portal and attempts to stop Unalaq, but she fails and Unalaq fuses with the great spirit of chaos. After Unalaq fuses with Vaatu and Unalaq destroys Raava's spirit, Vaatu takes over Unalaq's body and Korra uses the Tree of Time to create a spiritual projection of herself to battle the now Vaatu-possessed Unalaq for the fate of the world. To prevent this from happening, a swarm of Dark Spirits try to destroy Korra's vulnerable body inside the spirit world, but are kept at bay by Korra's friends. Korra is able to use spiritbending to destroy Unalaq's soul and vanquish Vaatu for another 10,000 years. Korra is also able to regenerate Raava from a small amount of light and fuse with her once again, however, taking Unalaq's teachings to heart, she decides to keep the portals open. With balance restored, all of the Dark Spirits returned to their light selves and the spirits begin mingling with humans openly for the first time in 10,000 years.
Dark Spirits have a small but pivotal role in the comic series The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars. When Korra accidentally created a new spirit portal in the middle of Republic City following her battle with Kuvira, tensions between humans and spirits grew. The conflict became violent when the Triple Threat Triad attacked the area surrounding the portal on Wonyong Keum's orders, who intended to turn it and the Spirit World into an amusement park. The dragon eel spirit had called upon several spirits to help defend the portal, some of which had turned dark with rage. The dragon eel spirit itself turned dark not long after, blinded with rage over the continuous human intervention that threatened the spirits, and launched an attack on Tokuga. Intending to make someone pay, it moved through the Triple Threats' leader, partially deforming him in the process. After its attack, the spirit calmed and assumed his normal demeanor again, as did the other dark spirits. Insane and vengeful, Tokuga then went on to start a violent gang war that served as the central conflict of the story.
- Grey DeLisle, the voice actress of Azula, voiced a Spider Dark Spirit from the episode "Darkness Falls". The spider's voice is the same as Sunekura's, but digitally altered.
- Dark spirits are stated by Unalaq to not be inherently malevolent, but rather chaotic, merely reacting to nature's destruction. This, combined with their supposedly intricate relationship with light spirits, reflects traditional Taoist ideas of yin and yang, that neither darkness nor light have moral attributes, and that evil comes from imbalance. When spirits are angered, Vaatu, the spirit of chaos, takes advantage of this and corrupts them with his essence. This idea of a chaotic reaction to nature's destruction can be observed when Hei Bai turns dark as a direct reaction to the Fire Nation burning down his forest.
- Dark Spirits also appear as a major antagonist in the video game The Legend of Korra.
- The Kemurikage are the only known dark spirits to have been humans prior to transcendence into the Spirit World.