For those of us lucky enough to have watched it air live, the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender holds a special place in our hearts. It’s not just the nostalgia, either; besides having aged quite well compared to other animation series of its time, it’s also a show fit for everyone; children and adults alike. While it remains PG-13 in its aesthetic and style, the show (and later its successor, The Legend of Korra) deals with some pretty mature themes throughout its run.
The world of A:TLA and TLOK is also intricate and vast; full of little details most of us didn’t notice at first, but there are plenty of dedicated fans who did. Many of those fans went ahead and formulated their best theories on the unexplained phenomenon in the shows, further adding to the richness of the world, much like every other fictional universe around.
Unlike the other popular fictional universes, though, it has been quite some time since the first episode of A:TLA aired – close to thirteen years. Not only are fans still pretty interested in all things related to Avatar even after all these years, they’re still able to dig up plausible theories and speculation none of us thought of before, much to our surprise.
Here are the 20 Crazy Fan Theories From The Avatar Universe (That Make Too Much Sense).
20 Hundred Years’ War is based on WW2
The show opens with the backdrop of a long war, also know in the canon as the Hundred Years’ War. Started by the Fire Nation, from whatever we know of the war, it had been brutal, and nearly everyone in the world was involved it. There was also the wiping out of an entire people – the airbenders, and the Fire Nation was clearly shown to be more technologically advanced than the other nations. Does this sound a bit familiar?
According to one theory, it’s because the Hundred Years’ War was modeled after WW2, and the Fire Nation refers to Germany; a relatively small-but-militaristic nation that wanted to subjugate all other nations by expansion and conquest. We also see quite a bit of propaganda taught in Fire Nation schools in the third season of the show, quite like the propaganda used on citizens in Nazi Germany.
19 Spirits can alter animals
Animals in the Avatar universe are a bit of an anomaly. Throughout the run of the two series, we see various types of hybrid animals from Earth, like badger moles, buffalo deer, cat owls and cow hippos. Then, there are the animals that aren't like anything in real world, like sky bisons and the giant crawlers. We’d brush them off as creative liberty for a fictional world, but it seems odd that regular, real world animals exist in this universe, too. So what happened to all of the original real animals?
There are many theories floating around, though the most convincing one is that the spirits were somehow involved in the mixing and matching of animals. We have seen Aye Aye, the part-human part-lemur spirit, in the second season of TLOK, so it’s not a stretch to assume that spirits have the power to alter the animals.
18 Sokka and Toph got together
One of the best part of the A:TLA series was how relationships between characters were handled. Compared to other shows, they were in the backdrop, allowing fans to speculate about which characters eventually got together. One of the most obvious ones was Toph and Sokka. While we see Toph expressing interest in Sokka many times in the show, we never see Sokka reciprocating to it, as he was with Suki.
According to one theory Toph and Sokka got together at some point between the two shows. It’s plausible because we don’t hear anyone mentioning Suki in The Legend of Korra, which may mean that she didn’t last long after A:TLA. We also know that both of Toph’s eventual daughters are from different fathers and she never divulged who they were (or at least not to us), so it may be possible that one of them was Sokka. We hope not, though, as that would make Tenzin and Lin cousins.
17 Iroh’s connection to the spirit world
Iroh has managed to surprise the viewers many times throughout the two series. Originally appearing as Zuko’s partner and uncle in the hunt for Avatar Aang, we see Iroh grow into a wise character with a tumultuous past.
We know that he was once a feared Fire Nation commander and lost his son, though the most interesting part of his arc was his connection with the spirit world. We can see him being able to spot Aang’s spirit on Roku’s dragon along with Roku, though he shouldn’t be able to, as only the Avatars or, well, the spirits can contact the spirit world. We also see him in the spirit world in TLOK, though it’s never explained how he got there. It’s speculated that at some point after his son’s passing, he went on a personal, meditative journey that brought him closer to the spirit world, and his connection to it was at par with those of the Avatars.
16 Amon is similar to Stalin
A:TLA and TLOK never shied away from including adult themes into the shows, especially politics. Many of the episodes refer to various political events and groups around the world in history, although in a more subtle manner that you’d expect, as it’s still supposed to be a kid’s show.
One of the historical parallels that sounds too plausible to not be true is Amon’s similarities with Joseph Stalin; the controversial U.S.S.R. leader. It’s not too out of the way to equate Equalists with the Bolsheviks in the revolution that happened in Russia. Joseph Stalin’s fall to grace was also similar to Stalin’s, who, despite claiming to be a people’s leader, was found to have been living a life of opulence; quite like Amon’s ability to bend being discovered by the Equalists at the end of season 1, TLOK.
15 The Water nation is based on India
Of all the nations shown in the series, the one that stands out is the Water Nation. While it’s generally agreed that the Avatar world is based on the Far East/Oriental side of Asia, the Water Nation doesn’t at all. It doesn’t quite align with the art style or attire of any other nations, has a tighter bond between families, and can defend itself quite well when attacked but generally likes to be left alone.
Some theorists say that it’s because the Water Nation is actually referring to India. They also have a close connection with the spirits, and are quite conservative in nature too, as seen by Pakku’s reluctance to teach Katar because she was a girl.
14 Amon learned from Ty Lee
Remember Ty Lee? The chi-blocking acrobat who had the ability to take away other people’s bending, and was so good at it that even Katara was afraid of her. We don’t quite see anyone in A:TLA possessing abilities like hers, so it’s safe to say that her technique was self-perfected.
One theory suggests that Amon, the chi-blocking bloodbender in TLOK, aka Noatak, could only have got so good at chi-blocking if he learned from Ty Lee herself, as we know that he disappeared for a long time. While the other Equalists are good at it, too, there’s no evidence that they knew how to do it before Amon. The theory suggests that Amon actually uses blood-bending and chi-blocking that he picked up from Ty Lee together to take away bending. It can’t be energy-bending as he’s not an Avatar, so this makes sense to us.
13 The live-action movie was an adaptation of Aang's story from the Ember Islands Players
Even though most Avatar fans would refuse to even acknowledge that a certain live-action adaptation of A:TLA by M. Night Shyamalan exists, it sadly still does. Aside from being a bad adaptation of the show, it was riddled with inconsistencies, especially glaring ones like outright mispronunciation of names.
According to some, though, all of that was totally intentional, as in reality the live-action adaptation was not actually an adaptation of the show, but of the adaptation of Aang’s story done by the Ember Islands Players in the season-three episode of the same name. We remember the play to be hilariously bad, with many of the details outright inaccurate or unrealistically exaggerated. It makes sense, and slightly redeems the movie in a way.
12 It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world
We have seen many similarities to the real world in the entirety of the two series, including the type of animals found in both. The architecture, fighting styles, build of people, and many other things in the shows are also exactly like Earth. Though we clearly have no benders or hybrid animals here, so maybe it’s just a fictional world taken from ours.
What if it’s not another world, though, and the Avatar universe is just a future version of our own world, a long time after everything was destroyed by some kind of an apocalyptic event in the real timeline that eliminated all traces of life before it? Maybe even a nuclear kind, as that would explain the animals and newfound bending powers.
11 Hama wasn’t the first bloodbender
One of the darkest episodes of both the series, "The Puppetmaster" introduces a new ability called blood-bending. Much like metal-bending and lava-bending, it was a new mutation off one of the base bending forms (water in this case), developed for the first time by an especially gifted bender in times of stress – Hama, though we see much more of it in TLOK.
Was Hama the first one to develop it, though? Many people would think yes, but if you rewatch Aang and Yakone’s fight in TLOK, Aang was perfectly able to counter bloodbending in Avatar state. We think of the Avatar state to be a charge of all the superpowers, but it’s actually all of the knowledge of previous Avatars. Without a previous Avatar having been familiar with bloodbending and countering to it, Aang couldn’t have possibly known how to do it, proving that at some point in the past, bloodbending was common enough for the Avatar to have learned defences against it.
10 Joo Dees Drowned In The Lake
In the second season based in Earth kingdom, we’re introduced to the Dai Li; a small police force that actually ran the city of Ba Sing Se under the rule of an indifferent king. While that’s also possibly a reference to the real police force in the Ming dynasty in China, our focus is on the Joo Dees; the brainwashed host to Team Avatar they trained in an underground facility under Lake Laogai.
What happened to all the Joo Dees we see underground, when the lake was overrun with water in the season finale, has always been a point of speculation among fans. For one, we know that there were a bunch of them, ready to replace the current Joo Dee in case she makes a mistake. It’s never actually shown in the show, but the Dai Li likely let the Joo Dees drown with the lake before they covered up the whole facility, as it was done pretty fast and they wouldn’t have time to make alternative arrangements.
9 Appa is still alive
The Avatar’s connection with their pet – or animal guide – is a special one. Of all the Avatars we’ve seen who’ve had one around, like Roku and Korra, we know that the creatures follow them wherever they go, and are always there to help them in times of need. They follow them in the spirit world, too, as seen with Roku and his dragon.
That’s not true for Aang and Appa, though, since in all of Aang’s appearances in TLOK, we never see a glimpse of Appa being around. While Appa may just have not needed to be there in those appearances, there’s also the fact that during Aang’s time, we don’t know of any other sky bisons from all the air temples Aang visited, who likely all went exitinct with the war on the air nation. We do see sky bisons in TLOK, though, suggesting that Appa may have just been up to some interesting things.
8 The Avatar world is Asia
We know the map of the Avatar world quite well from the shows, and despite the attempts of various superfans to draw any similarities with Earth, we’ve never found indication that it’s based on our world. However, what if it wasn’t based off the whole Earth, but just a part of it?
Plenty of fans have made the connections of the Avatar world with Asia just before the Industrial era, which makes much sense. For one, it’s no secret that Avatar’s whole art style was inspired by Asia. As for similarities to Asia, the Fire Nation aligns with Japan, as a lot of Fire Nation names are similar in origin. Fire is also predominantly a theme in mythology, suggesting that the parallels may just be intended. Earth nation could be seen as China; a nation with a vast territory ruled by kings that didn’t care much, much like the Earth king.
7 White Lotus society may be a reference to real-life societies
If you remember the four-episode finale of the A:TLA series, you’d remember White Lotus’s contribution to Team Avatar’s eventual victory. A shadowy organization comprising some of the best veteran warriors in the world acting along side the Avatar in bringing peace back to the world, there’s a lot we would like to know about it that we don’t. What we can tell, however, is that the White Lotus is definitely based on real societies in our history.
The White Lotus can refer to a bunch of groups throughout history, most prominent ones of them being the White Lotus (a progressive as well as religious group going as far back as the thirteenth century China), White Rose (a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany), or the Freemasons. While we can’t put a precise finger on which one of them the White Lotus group refers to exactly, it may just be a bit of all of them.
6 The story takes place on a smaller planet
The complete geography of the Avatar universe has never been revealed, though from the storylines and maps we see in the show and rest of the canon, we have a pretty fair idea about which country lies where, and that it’s way smaller than the real world. Avatar and friends are able to take long journeys across the world in a matter of a few days, which begs the question: is this whole thing even happening on Earth?
Some theories say the reason the world of Avatar is so small compared to Earth is because it takes place on a different smaller planet. This is why everyone speaks the same language, and bending arts like air-bending and Earth-bending are just arts based on the different gravity. While we don’t yet know if it’s true, the theory certainly provides a good explanation for why the Avatar world is like it is.
5 The airbenders aren't extinct
The history of airbenders is rich in detail as well as tragic, as they were wiped out by the Fire Nation in the beginning of the war. Everything we know about the Air Nation comes from Aang, flashbacks, or references to their culture. Though when we see Aang for the first time, it’s implied that he’s the only one left.
Some fans speculate that the air-benders weren’t all gone, however, as we only see definitive proof of one battle in one air temple -the Southern Air Temple. An attack on the Northern Air Temple is also implied, though we don’t see any proof that the Fire Nation made it there before the Mechanist occupied it with his people. The Western air temple, in comparison, is practically undamaged when Aang arrives there, suggesting that the Fire Nation didn’t attack all the air temples. The theory also makes sense because air nomads were not settled people like other nations, so there’s a good chance some of them remained alive and in hiding.
4 Combustion-bending is a reference to the Hindu God Shiva
One of the best parts of the various bending arts in the Avatar universe was how so many people could come up with their own forms of it. Metal-bending, lava-bending, and blood-bending were all variations on other bending forms, but probably the most powerful one of them was combustion-bending. A type of fire-bending, a combustion-bender is able to channel their fire in explosive bursts of explosions from a sort of a third eye on their forehead. Only two benders have been shown to posses the ability, making it difficult to counter.
One theory suggests that the third eye is actually a reference to Lord Shiva in the Hindu mythology. Shiva had a bad habit of occasionally opening his third eye and showering destruction down on people from time to time, much like Combustion Man and Pi'Li - the two combustion-benders we see in the show.
3 Katara was set to be the Avatar
Aang’s life had been quite difficult in more ways than one. After having escaped a complete wipe-out of his people, he preserved himself in ice for about a hundred years before he was found by Katara and Sokka. Then, he was tasked with bringing peace to the world while still a child. How did circumstances go so wrong for him?
One theory says that it’s because Aang was never supposed to be the Avatar in the show’s timeline. His preservation delayed his demise, and it was actually Katara who was set to be the new Avatar, as Aang should have been long gone by then. Why Katara and not anyone else? According to the Avatar cycle, an air-bending Avatar is always followed by a water-bending one, and Katara seems to have been the most gifted water-bender around. If it’s true, that would mean Korra would have never been the Avatar if Aang hadn’t messed up the whole thing.
2 The Avatar world is the Pokémon world in the future
Overlaps between various pop culture universes are some of our favorite types of fan theories, though good ones are hard to come by because of how implausible most of them are. This one, though, may make some sense if you consider some things.
According to the theory, the Avatar universe is the Pokémon universe, only in the distant future. We know that in the Avatar world, the animals – like sea turtles, badger moles, sky bisons, etc. - were the original benders that taught people bending. Pokémon has animals that could control the base forms of elements, too, with various variations. There are many godly and ghostly Pokémon, too, which perfectly aligns with the various powerful spirits we see in the show.
1 Zaheer is Aang’s son
The events between the two shows have always been a mystery, especially the ones related to Aang. We know that he fathered three children with Katara, Bumi, Tenzin, and Kya, and had troubled relationships with Bumi and Kya.
One theory says that Aang actually had four children, the fourth one being Zaheer. Many factors indicate to this possibility, like the fact that Zaheer was well-versed in Air nation literature, something he could only have had access to if he was around an air-bender; Aang being the only one. He also learned to fly within months of getting his air-bending, something even Aang couldn’t do. The theory says that Aang and Zaheer were close at some point, but something happened that made Aang take away Zaheer’s air-bending. This is why Zaheer and Tenzin’s battle took up so much airtime, as it wasn’t just the two best airbenders in the world fighting, but brothers. It also explains Zaheer's hatred towards the Avatars.
Are there any other theories about the Avatar universe that actually make sense? Let us know in the comments!