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Koh, The Swamp and Aang/Toph... connection?
by oscura y segura (eido)
at November 20th, 2006 (01:58 pm)

Before you proceed any further into this piece of craziness, I'd suggest you go back and check out iyuna_sama's earlier post/theory (and comments, thereof) which discusses a possible connection between Koh, the Avatar's past love and Toph.

In response to iyuna_sama's thoughts, I had replied with my own crazy theory (this is my further attempt to convey my thoughts on potential for canon Aang/Toph in a somewhat coherent manner) about Aang's trip to the Spirit World in "Siege of the North" in comparison to Aang's experiences in "The Swamp".

In "Siege of the North", Aang travels to the Spirit World, looking for help/guidance from the Spirits in attempt to save the North Pole and stop Zhao's Fire Nation fleet.

Interesting that, as opposed to his previous trips to the Spirit World (in "The Spirit World", "Avatar Roku" and later on in "Avatar State"), this world looks like a swamp. It's the only time the Spirit World has looked this way.

While in the Spirit World, Roku tells him to find a dangerous, ancient spirit named Koh, the Face-Stealer. A being who would know the mortal forms of Tui and La. He eventually finds Koh under what looks like a giant dead tree.

A monstrous creature seemingly half giant centipede (a Japanese symbol for evil and the world of the dead) and half schizophrenic Noh performer. Switching from face to face (or mask to mask).

Aang and friends are pulled down into a swamp by (an as yet to be properly explained) tornado in "The Swamp", Aang met Hue. A man who had found enlightenment in the swamp under a giant banyan or Bodhi tree (which seemed a none-too-subtle symbol of life, or a tree of life. Everything is connected. Gautama Buddha also found enlightenment by meditating under a Bodhi tree. Not unlike Hue). However, when Aang first meets Hue, he's in the disguise of this horrible swamp monster...

Interesting to note that - not unlike the face-stealing Koh - the swamp monster looks as if it's wearing a Noh-like mask. Allbeit a bit more rustic.

Back to iyuna_sama's original speculation, Koh showed Aang the apparent face of a woman he had loved, 800 or 900 years previously.

In "The Swamp", Aang sees a vision of his future Earthbending teacher, Toph.

Hue later gives his explanation regarding the visions Sokka, Katara and Aang experience...

In the swamp we see visions of people we’ve lost, people we loved… folks we think are gone. But the swamp tells us they’re not. We’re still connected to’em. Time is an illusion and so is death.
Sokka saw a vision of Yue. Katara saw a vision of her mother. Both people they loved, both are dead. However, Aang's vision is apparently unique in that he didn't know the person he'd had a vision of. Aang goes on to speculate that it's someone he has yet to meet. "Time is an illusion" and the Avatar is less bound by the same constraints of time that mortals like Sokka and Katara are.... but was his vision so different that it had nothing to do with the other elements of Hue's explanation outside of "time"? Factoring the writers love of mirrors, parallels and intricate, subtle clues? It's hard for me to imagine that Aang's vision - especially in that he's the Avatar - would be so solely bound to only one element of Hue's explanation, but actually be the total embodiment of it. The Avatar in himself proves "Time is an illusion". S/he is not only bound to the present, but significantly to the past and future as well. Proved in Koh and in "The Swamp"/Hue.

Although, as Koh would not only remind us of the Avatar's tie to the past, but a very specific connection of it....

Koh (in the swamp-like Spirit World) showed Aang a face of someone he'd loved and lost in the distant past.

In "The Swamp" Aang sees a vision of someone in the future he has yet to meet.

Past and Future. Yin and Yang. Life and Death. All connected (as "The Swamp" would tell us). Connected by what? According to "The Swamp" (and no matter how cheesy this might sound) it would seem, love. "In the swamp we see visions of people we’ve lost, people we loved." The Avatar loved and lost a woman eight or nine centuries earlier, yet it wasn't that woman's face Aang saw in "The Swamp"... it was Toph. Whether literally or figuratively, are these swamps telling Aang that Toph (who he first saw in the living swamp) is the current representation of that lost love from 800 or 900 centuries previous (who he saw in the dead swamp)? The swamp, where Hue found enlightenment, be a link or a weak point between the living and spirit worlds? Could it have been the spirit world reaching out to the current Avatar via this elusive, powerful tornado, forcing him into the swamp and where he saw the vision of this girl who would be his future Earthbending teacher (and also possibly someone destined to be much more)? Incidentally, this girl - as an Earthbender - representing the Yin to Aang's airbender Yang.

Could the combination of "Siege of the North" and "The Swamp" be telling us all along who Aang isn't only intended to love, but also ultimately lose? Is Toph destined to die, as it would seem, not unlike the Avatar's love of eight or nine centuries ago?

Considering the writers love of parallels. One could even wonder if there is a potential parallel being built right now. Toph has been kidnapped by Master Yu and Xin Fu. Will Toph be kidnapped again in the series finale... by Koh (who did say s/he would see the Avatar again. If that wasn't foreboding, I don't know what is), just as he stole away the face of the Avatar's love?

All caps courtesy of Avatar Spirit.


The following portion was brought to my attention via lunauc on the Distant Horizon message board. With his permission, I'm re-posting it as an addition to the above specs.
In both episodes, before Aang goes to the trees, he has a chase scene. When I made this realization, I was prompted to examine this theory. In the Swamp, Aang chases Toph's image. She's laughing and playful, and the swamp is green and alive. In the Siege of the North, Aang is prompted to follow a glowing orb.

<< http://youtube.com/watch?v=wJVtLdTfzWM >>

The Orb is mostly white, though fringed in a greenish gray hue, very similar to Toph's coloration in the Swamp vision, or more curiously the color of her eyes. In both scenes the phantom he follows gets away, and chronologically they both fit in before Aang goes to the tree. But what grabs my attention most about it, is that there seems to be almost no reason for the orb scene. On an apparent whim, Aang is told to follow the orb and he does so, but never catches it. As soon as he sees Roku's reflection in the water he lets it go.

Symbollically, Orbs represent spirits or ghosts. One would figure the spirit world would be full of them. However, Aang only encounters the one, as if it saught him out. Here's where the theory begins to get curiuos. Since the only dead person mentioned in the episode is the lost love Koh mentions to Aang at the tree, it is possible that the spirit orb is meant to represent this lost love. If that is true, then equilaterally for Hue at the tree in the Swamp to speak of lost loved ones and Aang to have encountered Toph's image in the swamp would be relating her to the lost love of the Avatar.


The Momo Connection: It was a theory I had a long while back, revolving around the fact that ever since Toph join the group, whenever Momo is not seen with Aang, he's usually hanging around Toph. Thus the lemur becomes a subtle silent connection between the two. But after watching the Siege of the North again, to investigate my orb theory, it occurs to me that the one who told Aang to follow the orb was a white furred primate spirit, sitting in a ruined little shrine atop a mound. Aang met the white furred lemur in the ruins of the air temple, which rests atop a mountain. Coincidence?

Most likely...

However, the ape spirit also bears a resemblance to Guru Pathikk, the one who told Aang to 'let go' of Katara.