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The Toph Detail They Never Explore In The Legend Of Korra

As the sequel to the much-beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender, it's only natural that expectations for The Legend of Korra were high from the get-go. Would the show be as good as, or better than, the original? How would the world fans came to know and love change given the amount of time between the shows (around 70 years)? Most importantly, what sort of new role would Korra play as the Avatar, compared to her previous incarnation, Aang?

Of course, Avatar fans also wanted the inside scoop on what happens to Team Avatar, Uncle Iroh, and the cabbage merchant. The Avatar characters that do appear (sorry, Suki) never have as much screen time or play roles as important as Korra's cast, but whether or not they're done justice has long been a subject of debate. Katara's handling in particular has come under fire. Toph's part in Korra, meanwhile, is one of the more complex original Team Avatar roles. She appears in multiple flashbacks chronicling her in several different stages in life, has children and grandchildren who all have parts to play in the story, and implements some no-nonsense training for Korra herself. 

There's one detail about Toph, however, that Korra doesn't end up exploring, a missed opportunity that could've been more than just a simple gag.

Toph the statuebender

In the season 3 Avatar episode "Sokka's Master," a meteor crashes to the surface, and it's up to Team Avatar (minus Sokka, who can't help because he's not a bender) to put out the resulting fire before a nearby town is endangered. As they celebrate their success the next day over lunch, wearing Fire Nation clothes to blend into their surroundings, Aang remarks how none of the townsfolk knew how close of a call it was. Toph replies: "Yeah, the worst thing about being in disguise is that we don't get the hero worship anymore. I miss the love."

Toph is no stranger to sarcasm, but the way she makes the comment sounds fairly genuine. After escaping her sheltered home life and developing her earthbending well beyond its limits, it's no wonder that she'd take pride in her newfound self and abilities. She does, after all, refer to herself as "the greatest earthbender in the world" (and rightfully so, since it's the same scene in which she single-handedly invents metalbending).That pride and sense of hero worship carries over to the Avatar comics, even to the most mundane of tasks. In Imbalance, Aang suggests that Team Avatar clean up a beach littered with metal leavings. They do, but Toph tackles the job in the most Toph way imaginable: metalbending the scraps into statues of herself. A lot of statues. 

Now, whether considering her actions seriously, or writing them off as another funny Toph moment, the question is: Where are all these statues, in Korra?

How The Legend of Korra could've used Toph's statues

There are some statues of Toph in the world of Korra, but not ones she constructed of her own accord. Rather, they're statues erected in her honor. Focusing on Toph's self-built statues, or the reasons they're not around anymore, might've proved an interesting aside, especially in the context of season 4.

Unlike Aang, Korra's headstrong attitude is directly tied to her pride as the latest incarnation of the Avatar. That attitude is consistently questioned throughout the show, but season 3's big bad, Zaheer, really puts Korra to the test. Their final battle leaves her mentally scarred and physically disabled. Thus, much of season 4 involves her reconnecting with her identity as the Avatar. That's where Toph's statues (or lack thereof) might have come in nicely. Korra and Toph discussing hero worship and bending pride, in the context of the statues, makes a lot of sense given where both women are in their lives. Korra is a young woman confused about her place as the Avatar, doubly so because of the critical opinions both the public and the government hold about her. What does being a "hero" mean for someone like that? Toph is the opposite: a woman in her twilight years, who lived a life teaching the Avatar, inventing a new bending style from the ground up, and forming a policing group in the largest city in the world. The public and the government alike look back on her prime favorably. 

Whether or not Toph would be privy to such a discussion in the first place, Korra does just fine on her own, eventually. One thing's for certain, though: Even in old age, Toph is still the greatest earthbender in the world, and no Avatar can change that.