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What You Never Noticed About Toph And Swamps In Avatar: The Last Airbender And The Legend Of Korra

The creators of both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra spare no expense in weaving a vast, intricate narrative tapestry. The fantastical world that connects both stories transcends the stories themselves, making every character and moment feel not only that much more alive, but ripe for analysis. All these little details can deepen fans' appreciation even further upon rewatching, and many may be things that went unnoticed the first time around.

One such detail has to do with Toph (voiced by Michaela Jill Murphy in Avatar and Philece Sampler in Korra), one of the few characters to play a prominent role in both shows. In Avatar, she's Aang's (voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen) friend and earthbending teacher; in Korra, her role is a bit harder to pin down, but she's essentially a mentor to the titular Avatar. Despite the over 70-year gap between the shows, Toph's as plucky and no-nonsense in Korra as she was as a young girl in Avatar.

So, what's the hidden detail about Toph? It has not to do with something the earthbender does or says, but the way in which — as Redditor Reidabook18 points out — both Aang and Korra (voiced by Janet Varney) meet her.

The swamp, the earthbender, and the Avatar

The first time viewers see Toph in Avatar, it's not actually Toph. In season 2 episode "The Swamp," Team Avatar is stranded and separated in the Foggy Swamp, which turns out to be more than your average collection of vines and marshes. It gives everyone visions: Katara (voiced by Mae Whitman) sees her mother, Sokka (voiced by Jack DeSena) sees Yue, and Aang sees an unknown girl accompanied by a flying boar. That girl, as revealed a mere two episodes later, is Toph.

King Bumi (André Sogliuzzo) teaches Aang the value of waiting and listening, and when the latter watches Toph fight for the first time, he not only recognizes her from the swamp vision, but notices that she waits and listens. This is because she's blind, and uses the vibrations she feels through earthbending to "see" the world around her. So, thanks to the swamp and some patience of Aang's own, he and Toph are finally united.

Unlike Aang, who grows up only learning airbending and must seek his other elemental teachers, Korra is raised with tutelage in all the elements. Viewers never meet her earthbending teacher as they do Aang's, only getting to know her airbending teacher Tenzin (voiced by J. K. Simmons). She knows of Toph from legends and stories, but never has any particular reason to seek out the aging earthbender at first. Times change, though; as Korra says to Toph, "A spirit led me here and told me I was supposed to find someone. Is that you?" It undoubtedly is.

Their meeting takes place in (you guessed it!) the Foggy Swamp. Toph has settled down in the marshy environs, relishing her alone time. Her acclimation to solitude causes her to initially ignore Korra's pleas for help, but the Avatar is in a dark place in her life, and Toph is a good person deep down. Eventually, the two train and talk together for days on end. Once again, the swamp brings the Avatar and this mighty earthbender together.

It's no coincidence that it happens twice. The swamp is a deeply spiritual location in the world ofAvatar and Korra, the banyan-grove tree at its center a source of life and energy. Some, like the swampbenders, would protect it; others, like Kuvira (voiced by Zelda Williams), would harvest its power. Toph, however, has as intimate a bond with the earth as the tree does. That she appears there in Avatar and resides there in Korra is indicative of her own spiritual ties with the Avatar and the world at large. Both are a part of who she is, and was always destined to be.