For years, the Fire Nation terrorized the residents of the Southern Water Tribe in Avatar: The Last Airbender, rounding up their waterbenders and imprisoning them. Then, something changed and the Fire Nation became even more ruthless, killing anyone they suspected might be a waterbender.
In Season 3, we learn that Katara and Sokka’s mother was a victim of such brutality. Now, a new theory may reveal exactly why the Fire Nation changed its rules regarding waterbenders.
For some background, Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 3 introduces Hama, the last remaining southern waterbender besides Katara. Hama was a young waterbender when the Fire Nation raided the Southern Water Tribe and arrested her. She spent many years in prison, unable to use her abilities.
Hama relayed her story to Katara, Avatar Aang, and the rest of the crew. However, it’s later revealed that Hama was only able to escape prison because she learned the ways of bloodbending, manipulating the blood in Fire Nation guards’ blood to control them. A previous theory suggested that the Fire Nation consistently returned to the Southern Water Tribe because they were under the impression that the next Avatar would be a waterbender.
Based on this harrowing detail, Reddit user JohnZ117 theorizes that the Fire Nation changed its policy towards waterbenders because of Hama. After discovering that her capture only led her to acquire an even more dangerous skill, it’s possible the Fire Nation didn’t want to take any more chances. Instead, they just started killing anyone who they thought might be a waterbender. Perhaps that’s why the Fire Nation opted to kill Katara’s mother, who lied and said she was a waterbender to protect her daughter.
The Fire Nation was rather ruthless, and it would come as no surprise if they just started offing waterbenders out of fear that they’d become even more powerful like Hama. Katara learned firsthand how dangerous bloodbending could be. With enough power, she could make anyone do anything she wanted. The idea of being a puppet master scared her, though Katara eventually learned how to bloodbend to stop Hama from kidnapping Fire Nation citizens.
The Inverse Analysis — What this theory ultimately highlights is that the Fire Nation would do anything to maintain their power and control over the other three nations. The Fire Nation couldn’t have a loose cannon running around killing their own, right? It’s possible they decided to nip the problem in the bud and kill all remaining waterbenders just to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
What’s more, there’s no way the Fire Nation wanted the information of Hama’s escape to leak. How would that make them look? It’s possible it would have started a rebellion much earlier, even without the Avatar.
Hama spent the rest of her life in hiding from the Fire Nation — though she lived right under their noses — and exacted her revenge in the only way she knew how: by bloodbending Avatar: The Last Airbender never confirms whether the Fire Nation's policy change was attributed to Hama, but it’s easy to read between the lines and explain one of the show's saddest mysteries.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is currently streaming on Netflix.