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Looking into the Tunnels

August 2007

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anomilygrace in metabender

While we're waiting (impatiently) for the third season...

So I've been thinking about waterbenders a lot recently.  For no particular reason, of course.

And a question has risen to mind that I can't quite push into an explanation that makes sense to me. 

At the beginning of the series, the Southern Water Tribe is almost completely decimated from the war.  They literally only have women and children left at the South Pole and their last warriors (all twenty five of them from the numbers in the S2 finale?) have been sent to help the Earth King.  Their last possible line of defence has been sent to fight more away from the homeland.
 
The Northern Water Tribe, on the other hand, is sitting pretty behind their walls and canals with a huge number of benders and warriors.  Their chief is there, his warleaders are there, their whole civilisation seems to be running almost as normal.
 
So why doesn't the Northern Water Tribe help in the war?  I can see why they might not be able to send help down South with the Fire Navy roaming the seas.  (Though apparently Katara and Sokka's Gran Gran was able to make it safely to the South at some point during the war)  But why hasn't a fleet been sent to fight the Fire Nation with the Earth King?  Or has it and they just have that big a population?
 
I think it can be drawn from canon that the Southern Water Tribe used to look more like the Northern city.  Perhaps not ever as hierarachal, but definitely more than just a few igloos and a retaining wall.
 
And this all leaves me wondering why the Fire Nation's wrath was drawn down on the South Pole so much.  Are they just better fighters?  Did they step out more strongly just after Sozin's comet?
 
And why the heck aren't the Northern Tribes contributing to the war effort!

Comments

From the map of the nations provided in the series it appears that The Fire nation islands arelocated strategically closer to the North pole than the south. Perhaps the reason why the north pole isn't sending warriors out is because they are constantly under seige by the fire nation. Or perhaps the creators didn't bother to think out that part of the plot.
Hmm, maybe? Though given the Fire Nation's tenacity, I'd expect a nation under siege to look more like, well, more like the Earth Kingdom. Instead it looks like the fleet was only sent because of the tracking of the Avatar and Zhao's influence.

I generally give DiMartino and Konietzko credit for having reasons behind what they do in the show just from the surprisingly high level of continuity and thought that's gone into world-building so far.

Perhaps the Fire Nation's strategy was first to wipe out the South Pole and Air Temples then they turned to Earth Kingdom - where they obviously got a bit bogged down, counting on the Northern Tribes to stay isolated without a direct attack.
Yes that is a good theory. Also the reason that the nortern Water tribe isn't sending out any troops is because, like their element, they are malleable and adept to change so they merely continued life without being directly disturbed by the war? It's just a theory but the different nations ways of life and military strategys seem to be directly related to their bending styles. Such as firebending revolves around crushing your opponent before they are able to make a move the first attack in the war was a genocidal assault on the Air nomads.
I like that very much. That's an excellent point.

It still bugs me that they'd allow their sister tribe to be all but slaughtered, but the idea that it's the element that dictates their response - like it is the element that dictates the movement/martial arts style in bending - does make a lot of sense.

Though it still raises the question of why the Fire Nation attacked the Southern Water Tribes so soon after assaulting the Air Temples. As you said, the Northern Tribes look to be closer. Perhaps the Southern Tribes seemed to pose more of a threat to Sozin.
Maybe the reason the Fire Nation attacked the Southern Water Tribe more was because they fought back. I think both places where much bigger and had more cities originally, but at some point the Nothern tribe decided not to involve themselves in the war anymore, and since the Fire Nation army was probably tied up with the Earth Kingdom they were fine with that. The Southern tribe probably kept fighting, and got their collective asses kicked, hence their poor state now.