I think Bumi’s life story is maybe one of the saddest ones in the fandom, which is a little shocking because Bumi is a comic-relief character. Bumi doesn’t feel sorry for himself or wallow in remorse. He is full of spunk and personality.
But take a minute and think about his backstory.
Aang was the last airbender in the world during his time.
Aang and Katara had three children.
Bumi was their first child.
Bumi was a nonbender.
Can you imagine the pressure that Aang was under to produce an airbender? And the disappointment/desperation he must have felt when his firstborn could not bend at all?
And the pressure that Bumi must have felt, not being able to bend, when Aang’s children were the only hope of bringing airbenders back? And then when Kya and Tenzin came along, the jealousy he must have felt growing up with two siblings that could bend.
Because Bumi and Kya weren’t airbenders, they were often not even recognized by the public.
But by his own right, Bumi was really successful, and I think part of that is that he was determined to impress Aang as best as he could, despite not being able to bend. He became a commander of the United Forces and was highly respected by others.
In Book Two, despite others constantly not believing him or trying to silence his ideas, we see him play a major role in rescuing the group during the Siege of the South Pole.
And then everything, everything changes when he suddenly gets the ability to airbend after Harmonic Convergence.
Second, he gets time to bond with Tenzin.
And third, he develops a deep connection with the spirits–something that Tenzin was never able to accomplish.
Bumi finally gets the chance to enter into the culture that he never felt a part of before. After 60+ years of being overlooked, he finally gets airbending. And he is good at it. But despite all that, despite it sounding like a happy ending, the fact is that Aang never got to see it.
In fact, Aang never got to see any of the new air nation–he died before any of his grandchildren were born and before new airbenders received their bending after Harmonic Convergence. When he died, Tenzin was the only other airbender in the world.
Which is why it’s such a big deal to Tenzin when they find out their are other airbenders.
The new air nation was Aang’s dream–one that he never actually got to see happen. And I keep thinking about how Bumi must have felt like a disappointment all his life, only to discover airbending after Aang’s death. What would Aang say to him now–I’m sorry that I ignored you because you couldn’t airbend like Tenzin?
I wonder how their relationship would have been different if Aang had known about Bumi’s ability. Would Bumi have kept his wacky personality, or would he have grown up to be more serious, like Tenzin? Would he have been the airbending authority, rather than Tenzin? Would he have never joined the United Forces?
I’m not sure, but I have too many feels right now, so I’m going to have to stop. Let me know what you guys think–Should Aang have been a better dad to Bumi? Was he simply under too much pressure to preserve his culture? What do you think Aang would say to Bumi if he could see him now?