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What Happened To Zuko's Mom In The Last Airbender Finally Explained

There are many reasons why "Avatar: The Last Airbender" has stood the test of time. First premiering in 2005, the Nickelodeon show introduces the world to Aang (voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen), Katara (Mae Whitman), and Sokka (Jack DeSena) in the fantastical world of element bending. But that is not its only claim to fame. More than anything, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is remembered for telling one of the greatest redemption stories of all time. Prince Zuko (Dante Basco) is initially introduced as the villain, doing anything he can to capture the Avatar for the Fire Nation. But his motivations are revealed to be complex, with Zuko aiming to restore his honor and gain respect in his father's eyes. 

One of the main reasons that Zuko is able to be manipulated by Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill) is the absence of his mother. At a young age, Zuko connects with his mother Ursa (Jen Cohn), who teaches him to be kind. But before the events of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," Ursa disappears without a word. Zuko is told that Ursa abandoned her family, and at the end of the series, Zuko demands answers from his father. In the continuation of the series in the graphic novel "Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search," Zuko goes on a journey to find his mother and find out why she never came back for him, and fans are able to finally get some answers about Ursa.

Zuko teams up with an unlikely ally

Though "Avatar: The Last Airbender" ended in 2008, the beloved characters and stories continued in a series of graphic novels. Penned by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Studio Gurihiru, "Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search" actively addresses the question of what happened to Zuko's mother. For those concerned about maintaining the integrity of the original series, you shouldn't be. Both creators of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, are heavily involved with the creation of these stories (via SyFy Wire).

In "The Search," as discussed on the official "Avatar: The Last Airbender" YouTube channel, Zuko is haunted about the whereabouts of his mother. The only person he can turn to is someone who wants to find Ursa just as badly: his sister Azula (voiced by Grey DeLisle in the TV series). Imprisoned after the confrontation in the series finale, Zuko discovers that Azula has information about where to find their mother. Though unhinged, Azula is his best chance at finding the truth. The royal siblings and rest of Team Avatar (although sadly, sans Toph) go on a mission to find answers.

Ursa left to protect Zuko

The last Zuko remembers of his mother is her departure. She is the only person that loved him unconditionally, and because of her absence, Zuko is subjected to endless torment by his father, Fire Lord Ozai. But Ursa's actions are not thoughtless. The only reason she leaves is to save Zuko's life.

At the time of her departure, Ozai is making a play for the throne, though that right should belong to his older brother Iroh. Fire Lord Azulon finds Ozai's desire for the throne treasonous. As penance, Ozai is instructed to feel the loss of his firstborn as Iroh has. Ursa forbids this and makes a bargain with Ozai — she'll help orchestrate Azulon's death to make it look natural so Ozai can assume the mantle of fire lord. In exchange, Zuko will not be killed. Ozai agrees to this, but only on one condition: Ursa will be banished and never able to see her son again. 

Ursa says goodbye to Zuko, telling him everything she does is to protect him. But unfortunately, circumstances depicted in "The Search" ensure that Ursa is not able to find Zuko after her banishment.

The creators state that amnesia had to be involved

Ursa's intentions are to protect Zuko. But one big question within the story is why she never comes back. "Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search" omnibus graphic novel contains bonus content and annotations from DiMartino and Konietzko that go into greater detail about the story (via The Chicago Tribune). 

In one particular passage, DiMartino speaks to their logic surrounding Ursa's disappearance. "Although Bryan and I had never pinned down the exact details surrounding Ursa's whereabouts, I had always thought that amnesia would play a role in some way," stated DiMartino on page 203 of the omnibus. "I knew there had to be something big keeping Ursa from contacting Zuko all these years."

Zuko and Azula go to their mother's former home of Hira'a, only to find that out that a magical sort of amnesia is exactly what happens. After her banishment, Ursa reconnects with her old flame Iken, who has changed his identity with the help of The Mother of Faces. Ursa thinks that she can do this as well, so that then she may be able to sneak back into the Fire Nation undetected to make sure her children are okay. 

But when she meets the Mother of Faces, she quickly realizes that she can never go back, as along with her new physical identity, her memories are altered so that she forgets her life as a princess of the Fire Nation.

Zuko reunites with Ursa and can finally have a relationship with her

Thankfully, Zuko eventually realizes who Ursa's new identity is. In fact, he meets her early on in Hira'a as someone else. Team Avatar returns to the home of Noren and Noriko, a loving family who they meets on their travels, and Zuko realizes that Noriko is Ursa. But Zuko believes strongly that his mother is better off with no memories of her life in the Fire Nation, as she has a good life in her village. Despite that, Ursa elects to remember her children, taking the good with the bad. 

Ursa feels guilt for erasing her memories of her family and wants to move forward in her relationship with them. She is proud of Zuko, who has grown into a good leader. Though the future and Ursa's place in Zuko's life is uncertain, the final words the two exchange are ones of love. Their relationship is mended, and Ursa tells Zuko her entire story. He is able to take a step closer to healing his emotional wounds now that he finally knows that his mother only did what she thought was best.