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What determines a bender's element?

Aang and Katara had 3 children some airbenders, some waterbender and some not, so is there a pattern that can be used to predict the child's bending element? Do we have any other cases of different benders having children?

marked as duplicate by user56 Apr 18 '12 at 22:02

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Mako and Bolin are orphans found on the street by Toza, their 'manager'. As such there is no indication of what bending abilities their parents possessed, but as one brother is a fire-bender and the other is an earth-bender we can presume that their parents are one of each as well.

There are no other cases I know of with a relatives who are not of the same bending type.

  • We do know of another case, but the show's never addressed it as being relevant to the 'present' day in the show: the first benders. They learned to bend from various animals, and their parents weren't benders. Why modern people can't do the same hasn't been shown that I know of. – user1027 Apr 18 '12 at 21:38
  • That's...different. IIRC the forms are from the animals, but bending originated as energy bending.... – AncientSwordRage Apr 18 '12 at 21:40
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The power to bend the five elements (air, earth, fire, water, and energy) is linked specifically to the nations (and people) of the Avatar World by an as yet unknown mechanism. With the exception of the Air Nomads, mixing of bending types does not necessarily ensure what bending abilities will manifest, or whether ANY bending ability will be inherited at all. Nor is it clear how the power moves between family members. Even twins of parents from two different lands can possess different bending abilities.

Since there are variant powers such as metal-bending (a variant of earth-bending, or explosion bending (variant of fire-bending), this might also denote why there is such a study of lineage among the people of their world, to attempt to predict what bending abilities and strengths might manifest in a family line.

From the Avatar Wikia article on Bending Arts:

Though each nation is affiliated to a specific bending art, not all from any nation, with the exception of the Air Nomads, are born with the ability to bend. It is unclear how the ability to bend is distributed amongst the population or how closely it is linked to heredity; even among identical twins it is possible for one to be a bender and the other not. In the case of mixed marriages, the children may be benders of either element if they are benders at all; for example, firebender Mako and earthbender Bolin are brothers with parents from the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom.

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