During the course of Avatar: The Last Airbender, we received very limited information when it came to certain aspects of Air Nomad culture. It’s safe to assume that the fan-base has had to connect the dots to some degree, sometimes based entirely off one line of dialogue. One of the first instances, which probably made the biggest impression, was when Zuko retrieves Aang’s staff as a prize for his father:

“I suppose you wouldn’t know of fathers, being raised by monks.”tanparentsarticle

Now, this is where it gets tricky – was Zuko addressing Aang as the Avatar or simply as an Air Nomad?

The creators did confirm that Aang wasn’t raised by his birth parents in a fan interview, stating he was too young to remember them. It was also mentioned that Aang ‘doesn’t know anything about them’, and that he was ‘sort of shipped off’ when he was very young.

According to The Lost Scrolls, Aang was taken away from his parents after he successfully picked out the Avatar relics (toys which had belonged to previous Air Nomad Avatar) and was identified as the Avatar. The book also states that monks were the ones responsible for training the new avatar each time the cycle returned to air. It does not, however, specify anything about regular Air Nomads.

The Air Nomads themselves were heavily influenced by Tibetan, Buddhist cultures and Hinduism. While we are given no canon indication that marriage or having families was forbidden, we do know that the temples were separated by gender. With all the little nomads running around in flashbacks, we can safely assume there were no mandated vows of chastity.

As fans, we’re not too sure what exactly happened with the babies born in this culture. In the The Lost Scrolls, it’s stated that Air Nomads not linked to a temple roamed the world individually or in groups; so perhaps young couples abandoned their monastic lifestyle to have and raise children of their own. Other pregnant couples who wished to remain in temple servitude may have given their children to communal caretakers directly after childbirth.

What we know for certain is that Air Nomad children were all naturally benders and as a result began training at an early age. Like all children, though, they needed time to develop their cognitive and physical skills before being able to handle separation from a parent or guardian, let alone formal education. Given this fact, it’s very likely that some nuns actually kept their children, at least during early childhood, before sending them to a nursery or spiritual mentor.

This is the route we chose to take with Tashi’s mother, Ponya, who raised her son at the Eastern Temple until the age of five years old. By this time, he was more than ready to take on formal education – both physically and mentally. As any loving parent would, Ponya played a key role in choosing the guardian who would teach and help raise her son during his training, as well as the temple he would be sent to. We figure there may have been a certain stigma attached to keeping a child as long as she did, since many other nuns might have considered Ponya putting physical and earthly attachments above her spirituality.

For children who grew up in a similar fashion to Tashi, visitation was allowed during special events, namely the Solstices and Yangchen’s Festival.

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