Headscratchers: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Four Nations
The Air Nomads are one of the four nations, but as the name implies they're nomads yet they have four huge temples filled with monks who raise the young, practice air bending, meditate and do other other religious things which must eat up a lot of time. Where do they get food (if we're going by Aang a lot of them are vegetarians), clothes (which are produced after their fashions), materials for the gliders, scrolls, and all the other things we've seen them have. Can you be nomads and still get from the land enough for you to survive plus support the temples and maybe trade for things...might point being, where do those monks get all those wonderful toys?
I assume they use the wool of the sky bison to make their clothes. Lots of giant furry animals who shed a LOT? Couldn't be a better friendly natural resource to build a textile industry on.
Aang mentioned that he traveled a lot in his youth (enough to have friends in both the Earth and Fire nations). I'm guessing they rotate their duties, some farm, some make clothes, some raise children, and some go out to travel.
Also, it is never really stated that "nomads" is more than just a name. Perhaps they used to be nomadic but have settled down into temple life. Or perhaps the air bison herders are the "nomads" but their support network remains stationary.
I simply assumed that they are nomads who have a set of permanent settlements, and they are constantly on the move between them. Many real-life nomadic peoples had cities for the sake of trading; they just didn't live in them the whole year. This is conjecture, but I think that the Air Nomads travel between the four Air Temples, staying a couple of months in each before moving to another. Children and old monks are the exception; the latter stay put to educate the former until they are old enough to Airbend reliably and join the bulk of the nomadic population. This would also explain why we never see Air Nomads who are neither children nor monks in Aang's flashbacks.
In Lo K we see Tenzin's Air Temple Island has numerous non-benders in Air Nomad clothing. Presumably there were air-nomad civillians and what have you who did the grunt work.
Those are the Air Acolytes, a group of people that want to learn and preserve the culture of the Airbenders. They aren't actually air-nomads nor are they descendants. It's been stated that every air nomad was a bender due to their high level of spirituality.
How did the Southern water tribe dye their clothes blue? No doubt they were made from otter-seal skin which is shown to be brown. And the South Pole is not exactly a plant-friendly environment...I'll just assume the Northern Water Tribe trades with the Earth Kingdom, but the Southern Tribe is shown to be tiny and isolated. On another note, I have never heard international trade being mentioned on Avatar except once, and that was a lie.
Well, with all the weird wildlife in the ATLA world, maybe there's some kind of animal at the poles that makes ink. I don't know if real ink-making animals make really dark blue ink or black ink, but this is ATLA, so it's possible.
A Sealsquid or Whalerus would be a likely candidate for either blue dye or natural blue leather.
Squid in Real Life make really dark ink. Maybe their [Insert Animal]-Squids just have really dark blue/purple ink that the Water Tribes just dilute to make different shades. Makes as much sense as, say, a Giant eyeless Mole thing that literally sees through smell.
The Gaang meets an Earth Kingdom merchant who recognizes and readily accepts their Water Tribe currency, so clearly there is international trade.
Tyrian purple dye used to be harvested from mollusks, so there is real-world precedent for strange, seemingly unnatural colors coming from sea life.
Why does the fire Nation keep waterbending prisoners? They go to ridiculous lengths to keep them from waterbending and even then they run the risk of using other bodily fluids to escape. Why don't they just kill them?
As an addendum to the above, why do they keep Earthbender prisoners either? They don't do anything with them and it's inconsistent with previous behavior. They sure didn't take any airbender prisoner.
Um, hostages. And maybe the Firebenders have a problem with killing defenseless prisoners, not all firebenders are soulless monsters, and maybe they think the other benders can be reintegrated in their society after the take over the world.
Also, the earthbenders in "Imprisoned" were being used as forced labor for building ships for the Fire Nation.
This troper finds it much more likely that they just can't show people being killed on a children's show. Given the rhetoric of most of the Firebenders and their efforts to stop the Avatar from being reincarnated in a more realistic show they would have been killed.
But they showed monk Gyatso's skeleton. Someone who we saw alive was brutally murdered by fire, and we saw his dead skeleton!
Most likely because it's a show aimed at kids, so showing the Fire Nation periodically stopping by the Southern Water Tribe to slaughter all their Water-Benders would be a serious No for the network. I agree that it's unrealistic that they'd go to the trouble of keeping them prisoners for the rest of their lives, particularly when it would accomplish the same effect by simply killing them. That said, it did make for a rather disturbing episode, in a good way.
The fire nation propaganda claimed they were educating the world. I can imagine capturing enemies and spending large amounts of money and manpower on prisons shows your people that you are more 'civilized' than your enemy (especially if you tell your people the enemy does kill prisoners)
Also, it's possible that some of the captured benders are willing to work for the Fire Nation as healers or builders or such in exchange for release from prison. Such services would be extremely useful to the Fire Nation (might help explain how it has such a strong economy despite the war.)
The Fire Nation apparently doesn't believe in the death penalty or execution. They'll let traitors live, after all, so apparently for some reason they don't believe in executing prisoners of war. Ozai even says to Zuko in "Day of Black Sun" that the he believes in banishing or imprisoning traitors rather than killing them, and his choice to kill Zuko at that moment was a rarity. If the Fire Nation is unwilling to execute traitors, then it stands to say they'd be unwilling to execute prisoners of war.
What you guys are forgetting is that the only reason all of the Airbenders were killed was because they wanted to avoid any problems with the Avatar. There's no way a Waterbender or Earthbender could be the Avatar, so there's no need for such brutality.
If anything the reason they keep them alive is because they could be the Avatar. They have already killed what they believe to be all the airbenders. This means that the next place the Avatar would reincarnate would be the waterbenders. Thus every waterbender they keep alive in prison is potentially the Avatar.
That doesn't really make sense either. The way the Avatar cycle has been shown to work is thus; old Avatar dies, new Avatar is instantly re-incarnated in some random baby. The earth and waterbending POWs aren't babies. Maybe it's because of some sort of cultural tradition or what-not, or maybe they don't execute them because they're POWs, like some of the more, eh, forgiving nations in Real Life. Or maybe they wanted to interrogate them for information, the same way POWs of, say, the Korean War were interrogated.
Except that it's been DECADES since they "killed" the Avatar when the captures start. Which would mean that the potential Avatar would be... an adult.
It should also be noted that when the Airbenders were killed, there was a different Fire Lord in charge at the time. We know Ozai prefers banishment and imprisonment to using the death penalty. However, who's to say that the Fire Lords before him felt the same way? They could have possibly been fine with killing other benders off instead of imprisoning them. Ozai wasn't, so the soldiers had to keep Earth benders and Water benders as prisoners while under his rule.
The Fire Nation has always been big on "honor" and whatnot with agni kai duels and such so perhaps they find it dishonorable to kill helpless prisoners when it can be avoided.
I'd second the honor premise. Killing someone who surrenders would probably be considered dishonorable. The Air Nomads were likely wiped out because they were protective of the child avatar and would not surrender.
Why does the Fire Nation ship at the South Pole have boobie traps? Did they just think "Oh, the Avatar might end up here one day and one of our ships might be close enough to see the trap if it sets off, so we'll just add those in!"
To catch enemy spies who tried to sneak on the ship. The avatar just happens to be one of those enemies. The flare was to alert other ships in the battalion that one ship has been compromised.
I think you mean ships in the area. It didn't look like any ships were assigned to be there and stay there, so there wouldn't be any units there. Also, the correct term is squadron, not battalion, which is a term used exclusively for land-based units. Though you might see Task Force or Task Group when refering to modern navies, older naval organization put ships into squadrons.
The ship may have gotten in the ice. At which point, they booby-trapped it so that no one could use it, and any attempts to do so would set off a signal for any Fire Nation ships in the area.
The audience actually saw the instance when the ship got stuck in the ice. It was in one of Hama's storytelling-flashbacks. We never saw any soldiers abandoning it, though admittedly we also didn't see any skeletons when Katara and Aang were exploring, which suggests it was abandoned at some point. Quite possibly they did booby-trap it then.
To add on to this, they may have wanted to prevent non-Fire Nation folks from sneaking on and obtain incriminating documents, weapons, or steal armor so they can disguise themselves as Fire Nation soldiers and infiltrate their army.
The number of nations. There are stated to be 4 nations, yet we have seen two earth kings rule at the same time (the earth king in ba sing sei, and Bumi in Omashu). There are also two fire nations, one as the main enemies of the show, and the sunwarriors. The water tribe has been shown to not only have the distinction between northern and southern water tribe (which were probably united before the war, so you can chalk that up to general disbalance), but there was also the Foggy Swamp Tribe. That brings me to a total of 7 nations even before the war, which seems to kind of interfere with the whole 'four balanced nations, four balanced elements'.
The United States of America is stated to be one country, yet we have fifty governors ruling at the same time (Bloomberg in New York, Schwarzennegger in California, etc.). Just because there are several rulers doesn't mean that there are several countries. The Earth Kingdom is actually a confederacy of City-states that fall under the rule of Ba Sing Se and call themselves one nation. As to the others, it's an ethnic thing. The terminology used in the show is pretty mixed up. The "Nation" actually refers to Ethnicity in this case. The Water Tribesmen are all tan-to-dark-skinned with blue eyes, and so call themselves one Nation because of this. Same thing with the Fire Nation, who are mostly light-skinned (The darkest being Combustion Man, and even he was lighter than Katara), and have gold or red eyes. The Sun Warriors just fall under the banner of Fire Nation. The Air Nomads are the odd ones out, being a Religious Nation of some sort.
The USA still has a single head of state with a unique title, namely the president. The Earth kingdom has either two heads of state, or the head of state sharing a title.
That doesn't detract from my point at all. Their respective territories are called "cities", so the title is just that- a Title. Also note that Kuei is called the "Earth King" while Bumi is the "King of Omashu." Meanwhile, when the Fire Nation took over Omashu, Mai's father was appointed "Governor" because he's still a vassal (or whatever) of the Fire Lord.
It's entirely possible that by the time the series is set the cities have largely grown independent of Ba Sing Se and just keep the name 'Earth Kingdom' because of tradition. Considering that the leaders of Ba Sing Se seem content to remain behind a giant wall and wait for Fire Nation attacks it's hard to see how they would be able to keep the loyalty of Omashu.
It's not too much of a stretch to assume that, in this alternative universe full of so much of its own culture, that the notion and title of a "king" is a more general way of referring to someone governing any area.
Maybe there were two nations per element, only that the Fire Nation wiped out the second Air nation in addition to the Air Nomads because they were trying to prevent the Avatar from showing up.
Perhaps the female Air Nomad temples could be considered a separate nation from the male Air Nomad temples?
Kuei can easily be seen as the King of Kings. The Earth kingdom expands but leaves the cities to their own devices. King Bumi is king of Omashu but ultimately answers to Kuei.
It is probably like Celtic/Early Medieval Ireland. There where five Kings but each owed (a very limited) loyalty to the High King who ruled the whole nation. In that case the Kings where very autonomous and had a lot of freedom but where ultimately vassals of the High King. Boomie is A King, but The Earth King is THE Earth King.
In ancient times and even in the Middle Ages, the common setup among nations was one sovereign nation—we'll use Greece as an example—with various city-states within. In ancient Greece, most city-states had a certain degree of autonomy, depending on the era. They considered themselves distinctively Greek (for the most part), but different cities and areas were decidedly self-governed. Even though Greece was considered one nation, it had multiple kings, governors, lords, etc. Even when Greece came under the control of conquerors and emperors, the city-states were allowed to maintain some autonomy. The Earth Kingdom probably works in a very similar manner, with Omashu being a self-governing city-state largely independent of the influence of Ba Sing Se—itself a city-state. Thus King Bumi is still very much a king, and whether or not he is as powerful as Kuei (or Long Feng, if you prefer) or if he is a lesser monarch is up for debate.
First of all, this isn't ASOIAF or whatnot. It was intended as a kid's show, so I don't think the creators thought too much about this issue (if glaring). The Earth Kingdom is similar to the Holy Roman Empire of Germany. It's a collection of autonomous states that just so happen to 'serve' under the Emperor (Earth King). It's a Kingdom only in name. It seems from the Wiki that the idea of Four Nations was very new (only c.500 years old).
"It was intended as a kid's show, so I don't think the creators thought too much about this issue" ... Did you not watch the show? The creators clearly paid a lot of attention to exactly this sort of thing.
Cite, instead of making low blows, this isn't a forum where you can expect frequent updates so please make a full rounded rebuttal. For that matter, I don't know if you watched the same show I watched, for what I watched most certainly not a documentary of Earth Kingdom political structure. They gave us a typical barebone fantasy geopolitical system, and that was it in the show. (Granted, I do not listen to the creator commentaries, if that's what your going at)
There isn't much to cite—the whole show shows such attention to detail on every other subject that "this is a kid's show, they just didn't care" simply is not an available explanation. It's not a "documentary," no, but it's very clear that the worldbuilding was extensive and well-researched.
Where do baby air nomads come from? You have the temples separated by gender, and if these are like temples in most traditions, the nuns and monks are celibate. Do they go around abducting children? Occasionally meet for wild sex parties? What?! Where do the baby Air Nomads come from?! -sob-
I saw mentioned on another page that only young and elder air nomads stay at the temples and the rest travel between them. It's quite possible that air nomad romances happened on these travels.
It's also possible that only the benders become nuns/monks and live in the temples. Katara's living proof that a bender can be born of two non-bender parents. So perhaps the non-bending population of the Air Nomads sent their bending-capable children to the temples to be raised by the monks/nuns. Sort of like Jedi- they're celibate, and get little Jedi from the general population of the galaxy.
Word of God is that there aren't any non-bending Air Nomads.
Correct. There were no non-bending Air people, they were all airbenders and monks. And although they didn't raise their children in nuclear family structures, they're not celibate.
Yes, all Air Nomads are benders. But that does not mean that they do not pool from villages around the air temples to get new nomads. Maybe that is why they are nomads. They travel from temple to temple gathering new benders from vollages along the way.
So, if most of the Air Nomads are, well nomadic, then how was the Fire Nation able to kill ALL of them in a single series of attacks? Was every single Air Nomad AT HOME at the time? Did nobody run away (remember, they're the only one's that could FLY)? Even the women, in charge of the children just sat around to get slaughtered. Yet, despite being scattered around the entire planet, only a SINGLE airbender survives. Heck, the same thing happens in DBZ with the Saiyans. Maybe it should be a trope (Nomadic Race Dies To Single Attack).
I really don't think that all the airbenders died on the day of Sozin's Comet. I just assume that anyone who wasn't at the temples on the day of the comet went there eventually, at which point there was a group of firebenders stationed there to mop them up.
The nation was stated as highly spiritual. It probably isn't too much of a stretch that there is a spirit associated with the comet and the airbenders all gathered in the temples in recognition to this spirit.
The way I see it, the airbenders aren't all dead, the survivors simply integrated into either the Fire or Earth Nations. The Guru Pathik? An Air Nomad in all but name. He may have only been a "Spiritual Brother" to the airbenders since he cannot bend. Ty Lee? An incredibly spiritual person who looks much more like an Air Nomad than a Fire Nation girl (her hair and eye color is a match to the Air Nomads). At the very least she is be of mixed heritage. The Air Nomads as a society are gone, but a few individuals sill remain.
I, too, always thought Ty Lee must be connected to the Air Nomads. Her eyes are even shaped similarly to Aang's. I also saw a fic once (the title escapes me) where Aang figured out that Ty Lee was an airbender—how else could she do the sort of acrobatics she does?
It is called "Behind Grey Eyes" and can be found here
The name 'Nomad' doesn't seem to actually mean much considering the fact that these people were living in four large temples. As for integration...nothing in canon to suggest that and it would be incredibly strange for the Fire Nation to take in the people they were trying to annihilate.
You seem to be forgetting, for example, how Aang, at 12, seems to know a lot about the different customs and attractions of his world, and has friends in all three of the other nations. You know, like someone would if they did a lot of traveling.
As for the integration, I doubt any surviving Air Nomads said they were Air Nomads. If you've just barely escaped an attempt at genocide, you wouldn't tell anyone who you really were, now would you?
A comic in The Lost Adventures says that Fire Nation soldiers took relics from the temples and plant them in towns in such a way as to give the impression to airbenders that another refugee airbender was hiding nearby. When they arrived at the supposed Air Nomad hiding spot though they would by ambushed by Fire Nation soldiers and killed.
Seeing as no airbenders showed up to the Avatar during the duration of the show, I think we can safely say they have either been completely assimilated (with no Airbending inheritance and no knowledge of their lineage) or completely wiped out.It's been suggested before that the Airbenders Genocide was not only participated by the Fire Nation but also by the Earth Kingdoms and the Water Tribes. Think about it: It's very likely that a Airbender could just hole up in the major EK cities like Omashu and Ba Sing Se, where the Fire Nation never reached. The only way for the Airbenders to have been so assimilated or exterminated is if they found no refuge in the Earth Kingdoms or the Water Tribes.
Assuming the monks/nuns aren't celibate, wouldn't gender separated air temples encourage homosexuality?
Word of God is that Air Monks/Nuns don't [need to] take celibacy vows. Beyond that, in the Western Air Temple flashbacks, there's only a few guys that are Young adults or Middle-aged. Everyone else is either early childhood to Adolescent, or Old/Ancient. They wouldn't be so concerned about romance. Also, Aang was at the Eastern Air Temple when he met Appa. The monks/nuns visit each other from time to time, and may or may not have been having a wild sex party while the kids were off frolicking with their new bison.
The Southern Water Tribe is crushingly poor. They have almost nothing beyond the tools, weapons and clothes needed to survive in their very hostile environment. The Northern Tribe is wealthier, but they still don't really seem to have all that much, not counting their city, which was clearly created by waterbending. And Foggy Swamp? Gah! They're even poorer than the Southern Water Tribe! So, why are the three Water Tribes so poor when they live in what should, by rights, be immensely resource-rich areas for people who can reach those resources? The Northern Water Tribe has access to extremely fertile fisheries, the Foggy Swamp ought to be thick with source plants for medicines and other pharmaceuticals, and that's just off the top of my head. Granted, the Southern Tribe is probably so poor owing to no longer having waterbenders, but that doesn't explain the other two.
Don't forget the involvement of the Fire Nation. The Southern Water Tribe was largely depleted from repeated Fire Nation attacks, and the Northern Water Tribe has been attacked repeatedly, specifying that they have withstood the Fire Nation for nearly a century (and despite that, looks pretty well off). The Foggy Swamp Tribe looks to be very small, so they likely don't have the manpower to fully exploit it, and their culture seems pretty laid back anyways.
All three tribes are fairly insular and isolated. The Southern Tribes seem to be pretty far away from other civilizations to the point where they likely don't regularly trade with outsiders, and they also seem fairly scattered and disorganized. The Northern Tribe seems like it does engage in more regular trade. The Foggy Swamp seems extremely insular and likely doesn't engage in regular trade at all because they simply prefer to stay out of contact with everyone else. And don't forget that all of the above is after engaging in a century of constant war with Fire Nation raiders.
You could say the same for their real world counter part the Native American. They thrived in a bountiful land, but relative to the rest of the world are living in worse conditions and were crushingly poor. Realistically there are many reasons why they aren't profiting from they're land in that way. Such as isolation, slower technological advancement, and perhaps even not grasping and/or rejecting the concept of using the land for profit. They may have simply decided that they like where they were and felt their quality of life was satisfactory. But that's just realistically.
People from different nations have different eye colors (Gray, green, amber, blue). So how are people of one nationality able to pass themselves as another (like the Gaang throughout the third season, or Zuko and Iroh in Ba Sing Se, or Hama)?
Presumably the eye thing isn't universal. There's probably been just enough interbreeding between the nations that there's at least some plausibility that different eye color variants can be found in a given nation.
Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph told people they were from the Fire Nation colonies. As for Iroh and Zuko, there were lots of refugees because of the war, so even if people could tell that Zuko and Iroh were from the Fire Nation, they were probably assumed to be political refugees. And Hama certainly falls under Rule of Scary.
Hama's eyes are grey, not blue like typical Water Tribe inhabitants. There seem to be grey-eyed people in all of the four nations — Aang, Ty Lee, Hama, and Toph (though hers are more grey-green), so it wouldn't be suspicious.
Toph's "gray" eyes always looked more like cataracts to this troper, since you can see the green underneath them. Either way, though, the Gaang were passing themselves off as "from the Earth Nation colonies," and since Toph is, well, actually from the Earth Kingdom, she could do this the most convincingly, "proper" eye color or not.
Also, remember Roku's wife? She had pretty gray eyes, not amber. There must be occasional exceptions to this eye-color thing. Or, maybe the colors mentioned above are just the most common color of that nation, not the only color. Mixed ancestry, like a Fire Nation ancestor in a mostly Earth Kingdom family is also a factor. There is always the chance that one child can have amber eyes so long as the Fire Nation gene remains.
On the topic of eye color, how is it that, in a nation consistently surrounded by the world's worst snow glare, the dominant brown eye trait managed to get bred out of the Water Tribe completely, leaving only the extremely vulnerable blue eye trait? Following that, how is it every Water Tribe person over the age of 40 isn't blind or very near to it? Pakku is close to 80 and seems to have perfect vision.
I always assumed this was Artistic License - Biology for the sake of Elemental Eye Colors. While Arctic people in real life have brown eyes, no Water people in Avatar have them. All of them have blue eyes because Water Is Blue rather than scientific reasons, I guess. Likewise, the Earth kingdom is populated by East Asians with bright green eyes (not as egregious but still unusual), and the Fire nation people have yellow eyes. I don't know anyone with yellow eyes...
Does no one in the Fire Nation know what their prince looks like? Even when Zuko is in his ninja mode, his scar isn't covered.
Remember that the Lieutenant of their ship didn't even know how Zuko got the scar in "The Storm." This shows that the general populace probably didn't know the faces of most of the royalty. So Zuko and Azula are probably only really recognized by a handful of people, mostly the elite of the Fire Nation, so they could go around the general populace unnoticed.
The "most important teenagers" in the Fire Nation (who were blissfully unaware that they were, at that moment, speaking to the actual most important teenagers in the Fire Nation, of course) evidently didn't know what Zuko looks like—and Chan's dad is an admiral! Which brings up another strange point: Azula had two best friends with, ostensibly, fathers in high positions—why didn't Zuko?
The "most important teenagers" probably just didn't give a crap about the Fire Nation royalty; they seemed the type to be more interested in having a good time. Also, as to Zuko and friends, I always assumed he just...never got out much. More of an introvert. He never seemed to be able to communicate well with people he didn't know already. Well, without yelling a lot. Or sounding melo-dramatic.
That makes sense. The only time we see ordinary citizens refer to Zuko's scar is in "The Ember Island Players," and that only came from people who did extensive research about the people involved in Aang's journey—and they still got the scar on the wrong side!
Not to mention, in a nation with a large population of living flamethrowers with short fuses, burn scars might be more common than you'd think.
In the flashback during The Southern Raiders, Yon Rha tells Kya that his source claims there is one waterbender left in the Southern Tribe. Now, the tribe has already shrunk in population thanks to previous raids and is hardly in the most accessible of places. Anyone knowing there's a waterbender left had to have either seen Katara or heard about her. So, in this small, isolated village with only a young novice waterbender to attract a raid, who was Yon Rha's source?
Outsider traders, or even prisoners taken in the Fire Nation's raids. There are probably also other tribes scattered around the South Pole as well. Any of them could have let that fact slip.
*face-palm* Of course. Silly question. That's what you get for speculating at 1 am and deciding to make an entry. Raids are less likely if it'd been years since the last one (Katara was only eight?), but the chance of traders and other villages selling her and Hakoda's village out is a no-brainer.
I always imagined that a previously-captured waterbender was the "source", and was tortured or something into saying.
Not only eye-color, but also hair-color seems rather limited in the ATLA world. Bumi is shown to be ginger in a flashback, but apart from that, there isn't much representation of fair- or ginger-haired people.
....and? Humans in the setting are genetically predisposed to dark hair. I fail to see an issue with this.
Exactly, what's this person's point? Caucasian people don't exist in the Avatar world.
I think this person means, why does Bumi have a different hair color than the entire rest of his country? Yeah, red hair especially is uncommon, but it's still a little jarring that he's the only non-dark-haired person we see. If "Caucasians" don't exist in Avatar-verse, where did Bumi even get his hair from?
Red hair in non-Europeans is rare but caused by a different gene. Suki has auburn hair, so Bumi isn't alone, but it is shown much less than it probably should. What's most perplexing about hair/eye color to me is that the polar Water Tribes have dark skin (the darkest we see) but the Foggy Swamp Tribe has European color and appearance, unlike our world where dark skin is favored in the tropics and fair skin near the poles. The darkest people also have the only blue eyes, which is very uncommon in reality. Clearly, the Avatar-verse has different rules for genetics.
The tropics/poles thing isn't true to begin with; nearly all indigenous circumpolar peoples are dark-skinned.
When the Gaang gets to Ba Sing Sei and are taken on the tour of the city, they notice that the rings are divided by class. Aang comments that this is why he never liked to travel there before, because it's so different from the way the monks taught him to live. But...didn't the monks separate everyone by gender? How is that different? And if it is different, why did Aang think his way was better?
That's separating people by gender—not separating them by social class or economic level, and the Air Nomads didn't have barriers to prevent other members of their own nation from shifting location. Besides that, it's been pointed out many times higher up on this page that the only people you ever see at the Air Temples are young children and Old Masters. Presumably they weren't separated for life, unlike the people in Ba Sing Se. Everyone in the Air Nomads was probably in the same income bracket in the first place, and they probably all stayed there, as the point seemed to be to detach themselves from worldly possessions. They would never have discriminated against or segregated people on the basis of how much gold they have or had. It's only temporary, and (apparently) related to training and religion rather than controlling other people. While they may not seem different at the surface, the two concepts are really very different.
As for why Aang considered ‘his way’ to be better, he probably thought that because... well, I hesitate to say that it is, as that's largely a matter of opinion and will probably vary depending on your personal and political beliefs in reality. Segregation because of social class is not generally considered a nice thing, in the twenty-first century or, evidently, in Air Nomad culture. By separating people based on how much money they make and essentially hiding the lower classes from the nobility (as ultimately shown with Earth King Kuei, who has literally no idea what’s going on in the world beyond the walls of his palace), the upper classes are essentially ignoring an important issue and by extension making it worse by not allowing room for the peons on the Lower Ring to move up in society. Aang is the Avatar—he pretty much exists to combat unfair treatment and stagnant cultures like the one in Ba Sing Se.
Iroh and Zuko were able to move up in society, though. When the higher-ups tasted Iroh's tea they offered him his own tea shop and an apartment in the upper ring. That's how it works in the real world, too; a lot of nice positions are largely based on meeting the right people. One could assume that if everyone else worked just as hard in their profession they would be able to move up, so your point about the upper class people keeping the poor people sequestered away falls kind of flat.
A person could work hard all their life and never get anywhere, particularly in Ba Sing Se where the "right people" have little reason to drop by your part of town (or vice versa) and thus deem your remarkable talent worthy of throwing money at you. Iroh's route wouldn't work for everyone - it seems unlikely to happen to, say, a cabbage merchant.
The name Toph doesn't seem to fit with any of the cultures in the series. The "ph" blend is derived from the Greek letter "phi," but we don't see any culture based off a Greek or Western culture, with the possible exception of the Foggy Swamp.
Not sure about the name itself but, assuming you're refering to how 'Toph' is spelled, spelling has absolutely nothing to do with the name's source. We're using a latin alphabet. The characters in the show aren't. They use Chinese and possibly Japanese caligraphy. That's what Toph would use for her name. A translation Latin characters could just as easily render her name "Tof".
According to Wikipedia, on her passport, her name is written as 北方拓芙 (běi fāng tuò fú).
The tradition of not teaching women waterbending in the Northern Water Tribe makes no sense. Who was the first Waterbender? The moon. What gender is the moon spirit? Female. Seems like they just came up with the idea so that they could have an excuse for Katara to act all high and mighty...
It's not that they don't teach women waterbending. It's that they don't teach women combat waterbending. What dod you think the healers Katara was sent to work with used, happy thoughts? Also, until Yue does her sacrifice, the moon spirit is a fish, not a humanoid female.
How did the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom manage to fight each other for a hundred years? You would think attrition would wear them down to the point that one or the other has to give up. After all, men who are off fighting a war aren't home begetting children, and the mass casualties deplete a large number of men. You'd think they'd have trouble fielding an army, even an army of conscripts, after forty or fifty years. Yet not only are they still fighting, but the Fire Nation can still afford to sacrifice its troops cavalierly.
My personal theory on this was that the Fire Nation was severely overpopulated at the start of the war, so they could absorb fairly nasty casualties with minimal impact on their economy. This would also give another reason why Sozin started the colonies: He needed more land to feed and house all his people.
Also, I don't think the Fire Nation was fighting the entire Earth Kingdom at any given time. Probably Sozin invaded the Southern Kingdoms first, and during the opening years of the war Omashu, Ba Sing Se, and the other northern kingdoms were barely involved.
Europe had something called "The Hundred Years War". Perhaps the avatar war wasn't one of constant battle, it was one where there were surges and temporary respites. We just so happened to see the show in one of the surge eras.
Hell, Europe had two Hundred Years War, both fought between the same kingdoms (England and France). So it's not at all impossible for both to still be at it after 100 years and it's even possible that 50 years or so after the end they go back to war for a long time.
In the episode where Katara and Toph were locked in a wooden cage, why were they locked in a wooden cage? This takes place in the Fire Nation where the likely prisoners would be Fire Nation citizens. I know it's likely most fire benders were out fighting the war but it still seems stupid to build a cage out of wood when you know there are people in your country who can produce fire at will. The only thing I can think of is that Combustion Man organized the whole thing somehow or the Fire Nation isn't as rich as it seems and they can't actually afford the metal to build a proper cell.
Yes, Combustion Man arranging it (probably after seeing and recognizing the face of 'The Runaway' on the wanted poster) is the implication here.
Maybe it was just built out of wood because they couldn't get any metal to built the bars from. They probably used all of it to build that Ozai statue outside.
Okay, so how are Avatars from the Earth Kingdom found. The Earth Kingdom is a HUGE nation. It's the biggest of them all and according to Word of God it has the biggest population. When the Avatar is reincarnated into the EK he/she must be very difficult to find! They can't use the Air Nomad method because it would be very unrealistic to bring every Earthbender baby to pick from 1,000 toys and the Order of the White Lotus cannot just go searching every single nook and cranny of the EK to investigate every single claim they hear. That would take forever.