Avatar: Why All Air Nomads Can Bend

Bending is one of the most exciting parts of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but not everybody in the world gets to wield the magical martial arts. Nonbenders make up a majority of the population of the Avatar world, and for as much as the series focuses on the greatest Benders in the world, it's actually a rare ability. That is part of what makes the Air Nomads so incredibly weird.

Unlike the other nations, the Air Nomads were entirely made up of Benders born with an innate affinity for their native element. Airbenders are only rare following the destruction of the nation at the start of the Hundred Year War, though their numbers were eventually revitalized by the Harmonic Convergence. But what is it that made Air Nomads so different that they had no Nonbenders among them?

RELATED: Avatar: How Aang Got the Avatar State Back and Mastered It

The fact that most people in Avatar are born as Nonbenders was rarely brought up in the original series, but it's easy to figure out even from the start. Katara's status as the Southern Water Tribe's only Waterbender could have been chalked up to the Fire Nation specifically hunting their Benders down, but as the Gaang ventures to the Earth Kingdom, they quickly come across villages bursting with Nonbenders. They don't meet a single Bender on Kyoshi Island, Haru's status as an Earthbender is treated as special when they discover him, and even in areas like Ba Sing Se, protected from the Fire Nation, the majority of people are Nonbenders.

The Legend of Korra outright confirms that Nonbenders make up the majority of the world, with it becoming a point of tension for the all-Bender council that initially rules over Republic City. And yet anytime the Air Nomads are seen in flashbacks, every one of them is a Bender, but no one ever outright brings this up. It's relegated to trivia from outside the show, but the explanation is actually quite simple. The entirety of the Air Nomad population are born as Benders because of their deep spirituality.

RELATED: Avatar: Between Combustion Man and June, Who Was The Last Airbender's Best Bounty Hunter?

More than any other nation, the Air Nomads maintain a deep spiritual connection with nature that disciplines their lives. They are sex-segregated between temples, have a strict vegetarian diet, bond with an animal companion at an early age, and undergo regular ritual meditation. Even in the time of the first Avatar, the original Airbenders are seen living idyllic lifestyles where tattoos along their chi lines mark them as early as infancy, so it's clear these traditions run deep in the Airbenders' culture.

Such spirituality is important, as the Harmonic Convergence restored the Airbender population and proved how the Spirit World is a wellspring for the spiritual energy that allows Benders to command the elements. This begs the question as to whether Nonbenders can become Benders through deep meditation and spirituality, but there seems to be a definitive conclusion with one character: Zaheer. Despite being deeply spiritual and involved in Airbender philosophy throughout his life, it took Harmonic Convergence for Zaheer to become a true Airbender. And yet when he did, all of that practice and preparation allowed him to wield the ability more ably than any others who gained their powers alongside him.

RELATED: Avatar: Does Aang Ever Kill Anyone in the Series?

Spirituality, chi and bending are all clearly connected in Avatar. Chi-blocking locks off the ability to bend, and part of the Avatar's power comes from the rich resource of energy that Raava provides them while in the Avatar State. Airbenders, being so attuned to all of these systems, had such a deep connection that every new birth came with a new Airbender. But will that continue?

That is perhaps the most interesting question of all as Avatar forges on into the future. The new generation of Airbenders made it a plot point that there were aspects of their previous lives they were not willing to part with, and the tradition of the Air Nomads, had to grow and change like never before in order to survive at all. That could very well sever the deep spirituality which allowed their Bender population to boom. Their numbers may be on the rebound, but the new Airbenders may need to rediscover their spirituality and age-old traditions if they hope to bounce back to their full numbers anytime soon.

KEEP READING: Avatar: 5 Skills the Next Avatar Could Learn to Become The Most Powerful Bender in History

5 Anime & Manga Couples That Honestly Shouldn't Be Together
Related Topics
About The Author
Brenton Stewart (1028 Articles Published)

Brenton somehow earned a college degree in the middle of a multi-decade pop culture binge he continues to this day. His interests range across philosophy, literature, and the arts to comics, cartoons, television, and Dungeons & Dragons. Follow him on Twitter @BrentonStewart6 or reach out by e-mail at [email protected] if you have nice things to say!

More From Brenton Stewart

You May Like Also

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Avatar: How Aang Got the Avatar State Back and Mastered It
  • rarely brought up in the original series
  • relegated to trivia from outside the show
  • Avatar: Between Combustion Man and June, Who Was The Last Airbender's Best Bounty Hunter?
  • practice and preparation allowed him to wield the ability more ably
  • Avatar: Does Aang Ever Kill Anyone in the Series?
  • Avatar: 5 Skills the Next Avatar Could Learn to Become The Most Powerful Bender in History
  • This Shocking Pokémon Black & White Theory Explains So Much About N
  • avatar the last airbender
  • This Chilling Avatar Theory Explains Why Korra Has a Firebender Personality
  • Pokémon Theory: Ash's Pikachu Is the Result of a Time-Travel Paradox
  • From Sailor Moon to Lucky Star: The Iconic Anime School Uniform, Explained
  • Princess Ai: Courtney Love's Foray Into Manga
  • Boruto Masters His Most Powerful Tool - But the Cost Is Dire
  • So I'm a Spider, So What? and Bunny Girl Senpai Audiobooks Announced
  • DC's Robins #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Star Wars Life Day #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Hawkeye: Kate Bishop #1 Comic Review
  • DC's Superman Son of Kal-El #5 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Hulk #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Darkhold: The Wasp #1 Comic Review
  • Super Dragon Ball Heroes' Wildest Villain Form Is Stronger Than Any in DBS
  • One Piece: Has Zoro Met His Match in an Aerial Duel Against King?
  • Which of Ash's Pokémon League Losses Was the Worst?
  • A Creepy Last Airbender Theory May Explain Ozai & Azula's Volatile Behavior
  • My Hero Academia: Deku's Zodiac Sign - and How It Defines the Hero
  • Dragon Ball Z: Who Was Really Stronger in the Gotenks vs. Super Buu Fight?
  • The Best Underrated Josei Anime From the 2010s
  • The Legend of Korra: Kya Is Not One of the Best Waterbenders - and That's OK
  • Avatar's Kyoshi Novels Introduce One of the Series' Most Tragic Characters
  • Anime That Would Make Great Live-Action Adaptations
  • Dragon Ball Super: The Heeters Steal Volume 17's Cover
  • New Isekai Anime Land of Leadale Drops New Trailer, Premiere Date
  • Watch full movie for free, click here daily update 👉 https://justwatch.cc