If Aang was an airbender and Katara was a waterbender, then how come Bumi has no bending elements at all? I mean you would think that Bumi would have some kind of element, seeing that Aang was the avatar! When Pema and Tenzin had children they all took after their father taking in his airbending. And Kya (Katara's daughter) has waterbending in her genes. I really don't get it.

  • 5
    Horrible, rotten, bad luck. He shouldn't look for a career in gambling Aug 13, 2012 at 18:57
  • Haha true! So true.
    – Danielle
    Aug 13, 2012 at 19:16
  • Awesome question
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 13, 2012 at 20:02
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    Some genes can jump over a generation or two, I think. I believe that either Katara's parents were non-benders, so maybe they're responsible here.
    – Saturn
    Oct 8, 2013 at 3:20
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    There's at least one example of identical twins where one is a bender and the other isn't (The Fortuneteller episode from ATLA). So there is precedent.
    – evilsoup
    Oct 8, 2013 at 9:07

5 Answers 5


There is no rhyme or reason as to how the genes for bending are passed along. In the example of a water bender and an air bender, the possibility still exists that:

  • You could be a water bender like your mother,
  • You could be an air bender like your father (most likely due to the spiritual attainment of air benders),
  • You could have no bending capability at all like your uncle (Sokka),
  • In the case of air-benders, they always tend to breed true due to a spiritual attainment. Air-benders tend to beget new air-benders. However, this does not mean they could also have children who did not have the power to bend at all.
  • Since the power does not move in a standard genetic process, there is no way to be 100% sure how anyone's children's bending capacities might no matter who their parents were.
  • There's no way to know for sure, but Edna Mode often guesses right.
    – b_jonas
    Oct 8, 2013 at 13:20
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    I agree that it is not clear how exactly heritage affects the ability to bend. For example, in "The Fortuneteller" we see twins where one can bend and the other can't.
    – numaroth
    Jun 12, 2014 at 4:22
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    That said, I think saying there is no rhyme or reason is a bit of an exaggeration. It's pretty clear that in order to have the possibility of bending an element one of your ancestors, possibly limited to just your parents, must have come from that elements race. The ancestor being a bender themself is irrelevant, but you wouldn't find a waterbender being born into a purely firebender family.
    – numaroth
    Jun 12, 2014 at 4:23
  • It makes no sense for bending to be genetic. What would that mean for the Avatar? That their four grandparents each were benders of a specific element? But then what about the Avatar's parents, did they bend two elements? (this is impossible according to the premise, as the Avatar is the only one who can bend more than one element) The fact that Avatars get "selected" somewhat solidifies the idea that bending ability is given rather than genetically acquired. Genetic predisposition is plausible, but not genetic acquistion.
    – Flater
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:21
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    @Flater: The Avatar is a poor counter-example to bending being passed on through genetics. This is reflected in the fact that the Avatar is actually a human that's bonded with the spirit Raava, who is the actual vessel for the Avatar to have access to the 4 elements, access to his/her past lives, access to the spirit world, etc, etc. The Avatar is a clear exception compared to other benders.
    – Ellesedil
    Sep 28, 2017 at 23:54

It turns out that

He actually can airbend Click here


I'm not really sure how genes work in the world of avatar, but remember Sokka and Hakoda and Kya were non benders.

Also the new Legend of Korra Book 3 trailer appears to show Bumi airbending! So, hopefully an explanation to your question in book 3.

  • This is an answer in that it points out that new information indicates that Bumi may become a bender. That seems to me like an acceptable response to 'why aren't they a bender'.
    – user1027
    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:56

If you think about it, it makes sense. Katara was the only one in her family that was a waterbender if I recall correctly, meaning that it was a recessive gene in Katara's case. If that's the case, then Bumi ended up inheriting nonbender genes from both Aang and Katara.

It wasn't until after harmonic gate opening up that Aang's air bending genes ended up being dominant, causing Bumi to become an air vender later on as the story went on.

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    – Politank-Z
    Sep 17, 2017 at 23:25

Well bending isn't 100% genetics, but it does pass through family lines, Katara was a waterbender while her mom and dad weren't, someone in her family was though I'm sure. Well all born air nomad was a bender. But since katara had non benders there was at least a 90 percent chance of a bender for a child.

  • Haha so true. Sooka wasn't a bender either. Poor ponytail guy. May 20, 2016 at 23:23

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