‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’: It is I, the Melon Lord! – Toph Beifong Breakdown
Get over your conflicted feelings and check out this guide to the most iconic earthbender in the Four Nations, Toph Beifong.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are packed with iconic characters. From unstable princesses who can channel lighting with their fingertips to giant warriors who shoot explosions from their foreheads, there’s no shortage of powerful characters. However, few come close to the cultural powerhouse that is Toph Beifong. She’s been known by many names over her lifetime: Chief Beifong, the Blind Bandit, Melon Lord. Whatever you call her, there’s no denying she’s made an indelible mark on the Avatar universe.
Toph Beifong’s Early Life
Born to the wealthy Beifong family, Toph was blind from birth and overly coddled for it. Her parents, unsure of how to protect their child, locked her away in their estate, forbidding her from interacting with the outside world. While this was done as an act of love, the restrictive nature of her parents’ protection left Toph feeling stifled.
At age five, Toph ran away from home, desperate to experience something on her own. Unfortunately, her lack of sight proved too much for her, and she ended up deep in the burrow of a clan of badgermoles. However, instead of attacking the young girl, the creatures took an interest in her, sensing a kindred spirit with their own blindness. Badgermoles were the first animals to develop earthbending, and modern earthbenders emulated their techniques. Toph, however, was able to learn from them directly and developed a style of earthbending based on seismic sense. By detecting subtle vibrations in the earth, she was able to bend it to her will more easily.
Wanting to offer their daughter some enrichment, the Beifongs hired a local earthbending teacher to show Toph basic earthbending. Toph had to keep her extraordinary skill a secret, not wanting to explain her gift to her parents. Instead, she played the fragile girl during the day, and at night, she participated in underground earthbending tournaments as the Blind Bandit.
Visions in the Swamp and the Blind Sifu
We are first introduced to Toph before we officially meet her in the episode “The Swamp”. The Gaang find themselves in a swamp strongly connected to the Spirit World. They have to confront some of their greatest fears (and a tribe of Swampbenders). Aang sees a vision of a flying boar and a giggling young girl, but he’s unsure what the vision could mean. The swamp is meant to show people from the past, but Aang has never met the girl in his life.
When the group returns to the city of Omashu and attempts to liberate it from Fire Nation control, King Bumi tells Aang to seek out an earthbending teacher who “waits and listens before striking.” Later, when the Gaang attends an earthbending tournament, they see Toph fighting without her eyes. Aang is able to defeat her by using Airbending to stay off the ground, earning him the moniker “Twinkle Toes” from Toph.
Initially, Toph is uninterested in joining Aang or teaching him earthbending. Her family is equally reticent, citing that Toph is a weak blind girl that knows nothing about bending. However, when Xin Fu, the leader of the fighting ring, kidnaps Aang and Toph, she displays extraordinary power and skill. Still, her family is unwilling to part with her, so she runs away again to join Team Avatar and teach Aang earthbending.
Toph Beifong is the Greatest Earthbender in the World
Believing she had been abducted, the Beifongs hire Xin Fu and Master Yu, Toph’s former teacher, to hunt her down and bring her back. They successfully track her down and lock her in an iron cage, preventing her from bending her way out. However, by practicing the techniques she learned from the badgermoles, she is able to hone in on the traces of earth remaining in the metal. In doing so, she invents metalbending, a style believed impossible until that point.
She was sometimes a bit cavalier with her powers, as she was still a 12-year-old and had all the pent-up mischief of a sheltered child. However, her unique skills and extraordinary strength made her an integral part of the team. She was even able to divert an airship, preventing much of the Fire Nation’s army from making it to the Earth Kingdom.
In the years that followed, Toph remained a close companion of Aang and the rest of Team Avatar. When Republic City was formed, she took over as its police chief and founded a school for metalbending. However, when her youngest daughter became a criminal and disgraced her good name, she vanished.
Toph Beifong, the Grumpy Old Woman in the Swamp
Toph’s eldest daughter, Lin, took over for her as head of the Republic City Police. Here, she came into contact with an upstart young girl from the Water Tribe, the Avatar Korra. Though Korra was headstrong and stubborn like her mother had been, Lin and Korra eventually formed a strong bond. After the Equalists took Lin’s bending away, she was the first to have it restored by Korra’s spiritbending.
Toph, however, was still nowhere to be seen. When the Red Lotus poisoned Korra with mercury, she began to have terrible visions. Seeking solace, she hid herself away in the slums of the Earth Kingdom. She was later guided to the same swamp where Aang had received his visions. There, she met the elderly Toph, who had grown even more cantankerous in her self-imposed exile. After some convincing, she helped Korra confront her inner demons and helped her bend the remnants of mercury out of her body.
A Family Reunited
Toph’s return also began the slow healing of her children, Lin and Suyin. Suyin, it seemed, was having everything handed to her while Lin was following the rules and being punished for it. Though the rift remained for much of the show, Toph’s return allowed Lin to release all her pent-up frustration and eventually mend her relationship with Suyin.
Though Lin’s father is known (a man named Kanto), Suyin’s father remains a mystery. However, her darker complexion suggests her father was from the Water tribe, and plenty of fans believe it could be… Sokka!
Do you have a favorite Toph quote or moment? What kind of bending would you like to have? Do you think you’d be able to master metalbending? Let us know in the comments!