Avatar was shown on e4 a couple of times this week, and though I've already seen the movie, I wanted to watch it again to look deeper into the world. The people, the animals, the society that they are in can be read into with so much detail. I had to make this post. The way they play with death, the constant progress and only the strongest surviving through the trials of tradition set so long ago, unforgiving but not savage—human—an advanced race with so much soul.
This piece is on the 'Mountain Banshees'; Na'vi name: ikran. What is written in here is my interpretation of the relationship between the Na'vi and the Ikran; Enjoy, criticize, and expand (but don't copy without credit, please).
Credit for the movie Avatar goes to the rightful owners, creators and contributors for each respective part for and within the film. I do not claim to be any part of that—this is not lore.
"Avatar Movie" Analalysis — The Na'vi, Pictured: Na'vi, inhabitant of Pandora.
A Na'vi Coming of Age: Trials of Adulthood and Life
Before becoming an adult of the tribe, they must go through challenges that, if they aren't strong, fast, intelligent, brave enough, will kill them.
They're prepared as we are, sheltered by the elders as we are taught up until the age of maturity, and together in a pack (perhaps the entire generation, those reaching that age at the same time) they become adults.
Those who pass choose a partner afterwards—as the strongest of the generation surviving and now, passing on their genes. The woman who took Jake in and raised him to this point listed the potential mates: the most beautiful singer, the best hunter, with Jake choosing her over the rest- choosing her, the feelings he feels for her over the qualities of a woman that the Na'vi might hold in high regards. Perhaps this was a test, a test to see if he feels in this body, to see if he is the Avatar equivalent of being human—being Na'vi. Those who were strong enough choose a partner and mate, at the same time helping solidify the fact that the generations are all of the same age, going through the challenges at the same time for a more structured (and manageable) civilization, with set times or 'seasons' for mating.
The people are faced with jumping from mountains—endless drops, climbing the hanging vines, ascending even higher, finding the nests of the ikran and finally, choosing their flying partner. The mountain banshee is able to connect only to one person in its lifetime; when a connection is made, the challenge, the free-fall back to the bottom begins.
They've spent their entire life climbing this mountain, trained to be ready to reach the top. If they aren't fit enough, they fall to rejoin the soil, their energy going back to the land.
The two connect; they see into each other, understand each other, they see inside the others soul and from the flashbacks seen in the movie, we see their minds combine. Both know if the other is worthy of partnering and vice versa; if the challenge is accepted, that being a fight in the form of flight, the Na'vi has to tame the animal while that animal tries to kill him or her. If the challenge isn't accepted, the animal doesn't fly; connected from the soul, perhaps the person has not chosen to fly, choosing a partner not high enough to need to. It could be that the animal doesn't want to accept the challenge; either as a Banshee with no fight (flight) in it, or as one too strong for the Na'vi trying to partner with it, they plummet and die. If the challenge is accepted, though, it begins.
Na'vi Religion and Philosophy
It's worth noting that the 'fight or flight' in people is related. A metaphor or literal idea of these people possessing the same instinct of people, having them become more human in our eyes; take this however you'd like.
They partner with the world around them—animals, plants, each other, similar to the religious belief (relating to paganism) called Animism. This is a religion/belief that is alive in our society today, going back to a time close to Christianity—with the Na'vi even believing in a kind of god; that being more of a 'karma' or 'energy' belief with the focus mostly on death.
Two topics that should always be avoided are religion and politics, an extra topic that can more often be included is philosophy. It's important to note, though, that the Na'vi share quite a few traits from all three of the above; included in the movie to add more depth to the characters, for a stronger (emotional) reaction from the audience.
I don't want to go into the next point; it's a played out gimmick (not the way he gave depth, not the characters, they're great, it's more of the story) that is basically the only thing that isn't its own history within the film. I'll have to go into it, as it's an important note; but I don't like it.
The humans come from another world to threaten the Na'vi way of life, killing them, taking over—the end of their world. They trust the enemy and they learn to use (evolve) the tools that threaten the world from working with what scares them, using what powers it brings. Playing with fire, they are almost wiped out until Jake, the outsider (because underdogs, because people being able to change and all other cliches possible) tames Toruk.
This goes on to the standard 'judgement day; fight demon to control and own your world and to do whats right'—also because there needs to be a moment in the movie where all hope is lost until they play the wildcard.)
The more important factor here is the connection Jake already has with his ikran—they've bound by the soul and that animal can no longer be with anyone else, it has connected with the avatar. The animal is basically one half of his soul; the flying, soaring part that had to be strong enough to be challenged but weak enough for the rider to tame.
To save the world that he feels like he belongs to only from what he has done: the passings, the challenges, the bonding with the animals, he must leave the very animal that helped him do that and even have it help him do so. He basically sold his soul for an upgrade to save said world for the approval of the people so that they would like him enough to listen to his voice.
Is the bind even real? Would it be binding with the human that is using the avatar's body, or the avatar—would it be false, empty when compared to the other bindings? We don't know, as we follow the only human of this world, going through the story in this body as he does the same, and so we don't know either- as we are not Na'vi, and as the Avatar's Mountain Banshee can only bind with one, not knowing anything else.
Na'vi Life: Connections and Synergy
The connection the two feel (Between a Na'vi and a Mountain Banshee) has given us so much information, but has left more than an equal amount to the imagination- an amount of information that could only be covered by being a member of the tribe, feeling those feelings; imagine, for example, going through this challenge and if successful, flying for the first time, being an adult for the first time.
One piece of information left out is the life-span of the ikran compared with the span of a Na'vi life. I'd like to think that the ikran live a shorter life of the Na'vi people and go through to the next point.
If a rider is talented enough to live longer than their ikran, they would have to choose another. Though this point isn't the most likely to be true, it's still an interesting way to see this bond, the more likely being covered afterwards. The more matured person, the stronger, better, would now have to choose another who is worthy or a fight—perhaps even stronger than the person, now that they've grown. With each successful challenge completed, the person becomes more prestigious; a stronger mount each time, but nobody has ever become strong enough to reach the orange ikran that all else avoid.
A more likely, but less exciting approach would be the two aging together, the white lines (similar to war-paint) seen on the older ikran's (and so, the older members of the tribe) face. Almost as the human equivalent of wrinkles, the Na'vi unable to have these because of their better, stronger skin which is said to be as strong as metal.
It would be interesting to see the animals growing, too—foreshadowing early on in the film (while Jake is still growing into his Avatar body), going deeper than the adult animals. As well as Jake killing an adult Pandora version of the deer, performing a ritual so that it has a safe passing and (probably) eating said animal, there could be hints, a storyline of the Mountain Banshees growing alongside him in the background, through (cave) paintings and so on.
Summary: Closing Statements/Thoughts
Though there is much more we could look into, there would have to be entire history books of this world, of their life before we would truly understand them.
Things we saw in the short movie gave to us so much, and members of the community/fandom have continued to find and develop each piece that interested the sub-communities (and tribes) within. There probably has been a great deal of history written elsewhere, along with the community that expanded on the language they speak; it's an amazing film, even for those who don't like to watch movies at all—even the animals were given such a personality, such a way of life that even they can be given a great deal of attention.
I would love to do so. I won't, but I would love to do so. With virtual reality around the corner, perhaps the extra dimension will be given, the fourth wall traded for it, and we will be put into these worlds to explore with no writing needed.
Thanks for reading.