Appa first met Aang at the Eastern Air Temple while still a young calf. Young airbenders, usually six years old, were allowed to meet their future companions, who would bond with them for life. Not much was explained about the exact nature of the relationship between the Air Nomads and their flying bison, but it appeared that the herd's motherwillingly directed her calves to meet the young monks.
Aang came forward and offered an apple to Appa, and almost immediately afterward, the two became best friends and were together for most of their lives up until Aang's death.
Just before the Air Nomad Genocide, Aang heard that the monks were going to separate him from Monk Gyatso, and he subsequently decided to run away, using Appa as his mode of departure. Appa did not know where he was going, only that he was leaving the air temples. Aang flew Appa over the ocean, at which point they were caught in a vicious storm which pushed the two underwater by stirring up the wind and the waves, and Aang lost consciousness. Faced with a life-or-death situation, the young Avatar entered the Avatar State and froze himself and Appa in an iceberg, where Appa was stuck in hibernation along with Aang for one hundred years until they were discovered by Katara and Sokka. After this, Appa became the group's main form of transportation in their quest to help Aang master all four elements.
Appa became lost for a short while when the group was traveling through theEarth Kingdom, having been kidnapped by a group of sandbenders in the middle of the vast Si Wong Desert, while Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Momo were trapped in an underground Spirit library. It was later revealed that he was eventually sold to beetle-headed merchants, who in turn sold him to a Fire Nation circus where a sadistic trainer attempted to make him part of the show. Encouraged by asympathetic boy, Appa later escaped and hurried back to the Si Wong Desert where he last saw Aang. Understanding that his friends were not there anymore, he journeyed throughout the Earth Kingdom until he encountered the Kyoshi Warriors, who healed his various wounds, physical as well as emotional, that he had sustained on his travels. They wanted to escort him back to Aang, but they were soon thwarted in their attempt whenAzula and her allies attacked. Appa was forced to flee, ushered away by Suki while the warriors tried to delay the three Fire Nation girls. On his journey he encountered Guru Pathik at the Eastern Air Temple, where the Guru was able to tell Appa of Aang's location by reading his energy. Consequently, Appa flew to Ba Sing Se, where he was captured by Long Feng.
Appa was kept in a secret location under Lake Laogai until his rescue at the hands of Zuko, who was initially planning on utilizing him to capture the Avatar, but after a talk with his Uncle Iroh, he decided to do the right thing and set the bison free. Appa found the group cornered by Long Feng and the Dai Li and was instrumental in their defeat, biting Long Feng on the leg when confronted by him. Once safe, Aang welcomed Appa in a tearful display of affection.
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