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Tulkun are a large, intelligent marine species native to the oceans of Pandora.


Tulkun are highly intelligent creatures with their own unique philosophy. Ian Garvin mentions they are likely smarter than humans, as well as being more "spiritual" and "emotional". However, this intelligence can only be expressed in its own unique way, similar to whales.[2] This intelligence has allowed the tulkun to form a culture among themselves, including the establishment of the Tulkun Way, an ancient pacifist doctrine stemming from their early history that forbids all forms of killing.

Tulkun are slightly transcendent,[3] being sentient and highly cultured, with their own rich family histories, mathematics, poetry, and sophisticated music.[4][5] They have their own language, individual names and can communicate with the Na'vi. While the latter use sign language to interact with the mammals, the tulkun use vocal sounds and eye contact. They are very close to all of marine reef clans;[5] for instance, the Metkayina clan see them as siblings.[6] Each Metkayina member engages a lifelong bond with a tulkun early in their life, whom they call their spirit brother/sister. They celebrate each others' families, the birth of a new child and mourn the loss of a family member. Tulkun can access memories stored within Eywa and are able to share their experiences with the Na'vi.[4]

Adult tulkun are observed to have tattoos on their snouts and bellies similar in style to that of the reef clans.


Tulkun and child

Shape of the tulkun's irises

The tulkun is presumably the largest fauna on Pandora, being up to 300 feet (91.4 meters) long when fully grown, 3x bigger than even the largest Blue Whale. They also inhabit near-shore waters despite their size and can breach out of the water. They have dark grey/blue skin with areas of white coloration on their underbellies and colorful, stripe-like markings across their body. Characteristic of other Pandoran life forms, tulkun have four eyes, two on each side of the head, that are orange in color, and the shapes of irises are different between larger and smaller eyes; the irises on smaller eyes resemble that of Terran goats. They have six flippers, although the last two have merged to become part of its tail, similar to Terran seals. They have six blowholes on their backs and highly durable armor plating across their body.[5]

Payakan spins

Payakan showing his speed to Lo'ak

They can also reach fast speeds at 25mph, which is around the speed of the fastest human athletes. Their lifespans are long but can vary greatly from 150 to 250 years. They are also sexually dimorphic with the males typically being 8-10 meters larger and having bigger, more colorful crests than the females.[1]

Tulkun's neural queue

A tulkun's queue located inside its mouth

To protect their young, the tulkun have a single queue inside of their mouths. They have two sensory organs protruding from the bottom of their snouts. The most striking part of the tulkun are its pair of echolocation organs that appear as large, brightly colored head crests that protrude from the front of its snout.


A vial of amrita

Tulkun produce a special substance from a gland in their brains dubbed "amrita" that completely stops the aging process of humans, which turned them into prime targets for whaling operations within the Resources Development Administration. According to Mick Scoresby, a vial (around 1 liter) of amrita would sell for $80 million.


The tulkun breed on average once every 2-3 years. The gestation period in females lasts around 18 months and only one calf is born at a time. Tulkun babies remain close to their mothers for the first few years of their lives, which is an important time in social development. They have a higher proportion of body fat compared to adults. In the first years of life they are especially susceptible to attacks by predators, which is why they hide in their mothers' mouths when they feel threatened. The young acquire greater independence after a few years, although they reach full adulthood only after about 10 years. Young tulkun are very lively and love to play, and by the age of a few months they are as agile and fast as the adults.[7]

Every year, on a particular day, the tulkun and their young gather near the village of Awa’atlu, in the Cove of the Ancestors. Here, all the young tulkun born in the last year are taken to the Spirit Tree to connect with Eywa for the first time. This calf communion is also attended by the pod's spiritial brothers and sisters of the Metkayina clan, who also bring their newborn children to connect them to the Pandoran Neural Network. This ritual is sacred to both species and is an important part of their shared culture.[7]


Early History[]

In the time of the First Songs, tulkun were aggressive, violent, vindictive, and highly territorial. They often killed each other, but at some point they discovered that this attitude led to further escalation of aggression and over time, they developed a strong pacifism and a sense of morality that forbade them from killing other living creatures. From then on, any tulkun who commits such an act, regardless of the circumstances, becomes an outcast among their own kind.

Tulkun Hunting[]

As of 2170, tulkun are being hunted and killed by the Resources Development Administration's Cetacean Operations to extract the Amrita in their brains. This was ordered and authorized by Frances Ardmore who contracted Scoresby.[8] Tulkun hunting begins with a Seawasp following a pod of tulkun to tag one as a target. The target chosen is usually a tulkun mother with a calf as she will not leave the calf, who swims slower. The Seawasp shoots a tracking beacon into the armor of the tulkun before regrouping with the Cet-Ops fleet.

Ro'a dies

Ro'a killed by the RDA.

The hunting process begins with the S-76 SeaDragon mothership deploying its fleet of boats and submersibles that give chase to the tulkun pod. Picador boats shoot depth charges to force the pod to surface and then herd away the pod from the target using sonic cannons. Next, Mako Submersibles shoot floater harpoons at the target's fins, further slowing it to near-total immobilization. Finally, the gunman on the Matador boat shoots an explosive-tipped harpoon into the underbelly of the tulkun, which explodes from within and kills the target.

To extract amrita from the tulkun, the carcass is collected by Crab Suits and returned to the mothership. The extraction team enters the mouth via an extending platform. Amrita extraction is straightforward with most processes done with automated computers and machines. The team locates the gland where amrita is present and a drill pierces the tulkun's skull to gain access. A syringe is inserted into the opening and the amrita is drawn through it into a large vial. The rest of the tulkun is discarded; the floater bags are cut and removed so that the carcass sinks to the ocean bed, wherein it is less likely to anger the Na'vi if discovered.

Known Individuals[]

Tulkun Gender Status Title Portrait
Payakan Male Alive Spirit brother of Lo'ak
Payakan with Lo'ak
Ro'a Female Deceased Spirit sister of Ronal
Roa's son Male Deceased Roa's calf
Roa's calf
Tsireya's spirit sister Female Alive Spirit sister of Tsireya
Tsireya's spirit sister
Payakan's mother Female Deceased Unknown
Payakan's Mother
Rotxo's spirit brother Unknown Alive Spirit bother of Rotxo
Children with a tulkun


  • Tulkun are largely similar to Terran whales, which have gone extinct due to human activity.[1]
    • They resemble and occupy a similar ecological niche to whales on Earth, being large filter feeders.
    • The hunting of Tulkun for amrita is similar to the hunting of sperm whales for oil.
  • The Māori people, the inspiration source of the Metkayina clan, have traditionally regarded whales as important figures such as being incarnations of Tangaroa (the water god), Taniwha (mystical beings), and as tribal guardians. Additionally, there are a number of whale-related legends, including the famous Whale Rider.
  • As shown through Payakan’s vision, tulkun can see color, although it is slightly yellowed. This shows that unlike whales and dolphins, tulkun are not colorblind.


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