Avatar: The Last Airbender is a franchise which has attracted both children and adults alike. It showcases a high magic system in an Eastern fantasy setting, involving many mystical secrets. This has lead to many dynamic characters with equally positive and negative things happening to them.
Toph Beifong, the blind 12-year-old girl who is known as the greatest earthbender around is one of those characters. She is introduced in season 2 of The Last Airbender, but becomes one of the most beloved characters of the franchise (even making appearances in The Legend of Korra and the plethora of comics which exist in the Avatar universe).
Although Toph is a sarcastic, prideful jokester, she has a tendency to be at the brunt of many jokes made at her character, and has consistently had her disability used against her. The Avatar franchise explores both ableism, among other things, which results in strange behavior towards our favorite, earth/metalbending gal.
Through this list we’ll explore what it was like to be Toph at the strangest of times. And although we hope it won't be too bad (or come to rhetorical blows), we can’t help but try to delve deeper into the thoughts of Toph herself. The list establishes something that most may have never thought about. You’ll be the lucky duck that sees the strangest things that ever happened to Toph.
25 Little Quips, Big Impact
Team Avatar is many things. Friendly to others can be one of those things. But the second you become a part of their team, you better watch your back! For a team dedicated bringing peace to the world and defeating ultimate evil, they seem to treat each other with disgruntled dislike.
Katara also criticized her for not liking libraries, as if their best friend, whom they travel with a ton, would somehow find sight-orientated things appealing. Way to look out for your friend’s interests, Katara! But the worst things only start here; wait until you see how her non-friends treat her. At the very least, Toph seems to have a bit of a laugh at her own expense sometimes, too.
24 Just Trying To Help A Potential Friend
Zuko tried to tell the Aang that he wanted the Avatar to be trained in firebending by him. Granted, Zuko had tried to capture and end Aang many times, but he came unarmed and without guards. When they chased him off, he decided to sleep alone that night. Toph, believing that she could comfort him and allow him time to integrate into the group, approached him during the night. In response, Zuko burnt her feet.
She saw the world and bended through her feet.
Yet, here was her only ally blinding her yet again to the world around her. She had to scramble back to Team Avatar completely cut off from the world, hoping that she would be able to bend again. She was really just trying to be nice.
23 Have Abilities, Should Use Them
However, she never would have gotten her feet burnt in the first place if Team Avatar had simply believed her. Through her seismic foot sensors, she could tell if people were lying or not. Time and time again they used her abilities to decipher the truth from people. And now, they were casting them aside to fit their own narrative.
Team Avatar wanted to hate Zuko more than believing Toph.
This distrust lead into the burning that Toph endured through Zuko’s hands. None of this would have happened if they believed Toph from the get go. Never did they get in trouble because of Toph. But the Toph we came to know and love (and sympathize with) might not have been the Toph we know today if it hadn’t been for one person.
22 A Completely Different Person
The Toph we know today was actually set on being an opposing foil to Sokka. Sokka’s geeky, funny, light-hearted banter seeped in emotions would be countered by Toph’s jock, popular, serious prototype. But this Toph wouldn’t be a small, 12-year-old blind girl. This Toph was a boy!
Tall for his age and muscular, the original Toph was actually shown in the beginning title sequences at one point. However, the head writer, Aaron Ehasz, insisted that Toph should instead be a female and turn into the lovely Toph we know today. One of the producers of The Last Airbender, Bryan Konietzko, hated the idea, but eventually warmed up to it, becoming one of Toph’s biggest fans. However awesome they thought she was though, Team Avatar didn’t get any better in how they treated her.
21 Catch This!
The Avatar Team’s relentless teasing of Toph is never-ending. Although most of it can be forgiven (you know, since they’re all technically fighters), some of it is pointless stuff aimed at our tough gal. At one point, Toph asks for her bending champion belt back (the one she rightfully earned at an earthbending competition), and Sokka throws it at her head, knowing she can’t see nor sense the belt mid-air.
Her own belt slams her head, which can't be a very plesant thing.
By The Legend of Korra, one wonders if this stuff had any permanent damage. Combined with the attack on her feet by Zuko, and Team Avatar’s verbal tirades, one wonders how she survived so long without crushing them in response.
20 The Upper Class
We all know Toph as the rough and tough girl who rejects formality and royalty. As we’ll see later, she hates the cushy life. However, it is surprising to hear that the word “Toph” (or “toff”) in British society is a mean word for an upper-class person. England has a long history of working class politics. Because of this, disparaging remarks towards the upper class can be considered especially hurtful.
Toph hates being viewed as someone who needs special care, as her royal parents did. She might hate being called the term, but might actually use it herself in reference to that society. Luckily, no one would be able to call her such, because at the end of her life we see her living in the roots of a tree. Very much not toff.
Tough talk can be used in fights and such to disparage an opponent. But a 12-year-old girl? In one of her matches against an earthbender known as The Boulder, Toph is told that her opponent is conflicted about whether to go against her or not. When Toph confirms that she wants to fight him, he states that he is no longer conflicted.
Also, when Xin Fu, the Earth Bend Rumble promoter, and Master Yu, the profiteering, Gaoling (Toph’s home town) earthbender capture Toph in exchange for her family’s bounty (*sigh* more on that later). They consistently taunt her by saying she can’t bend metal, she’s strayed too far from home, and that she’s a “loud-mouthed little brat”. Ironically, it’s these words that eventually give her the motivation to metalbend in the first place.
18 The Leading Ladies
There are multiple instances of friendly banter and discussions between Katara and Toph. But not all were that good. When Aang needed to learn earthbending from Toph, Katara offered some advice: do it the same way Katara taught Aang waterbending. This doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, it was probably in said in good faith. However, if you’re good at something, you usually don’t want your talent to be explained to you in a different way by someone else.
Toph knew that waterbending and earthbending were different, and thus taught Aang differently. Katara believed she wasn’t doing it correctly in the process, further making her feel like an outsider. This wouldn’t help Toph’s situation, considering how much she was an outsider of society already.
17 Connecting To People
All throughout the series, people consistently pointed out her blindness to her, or utterly forgot about it. It was never a calm acceptance. When people forgot, she had to point it out. When people joked about it, she had to rise above it and overcome them. It fueled some of her greatest achievements. But it also hurt her ability to form relationships. She had negative relationships with most people who surrounded her. It took a long time for Aang and Katara to warm up to her, and Sokka as well. Even her own children weren’t friendly with her.
In the end, she lived in a tree, alone. No animals to keep her comforted, and no friends to see her. And those who knew where she was didn’t want to meet with her. One wonders if her sight had something to do with it.
16 A Slight Annoyance
Team Korra were usually a bit more respectful of their surroundings. They were a lot older than Team Avatar and grew up in a world that wasn’t in war and strife. This reflected with most people in the series. Even the themes were above the normal cut, delving deeper into morality and liberty, and the duality of nature.
Bolin was quite the exception.
Viewed as comedic relief of the show, and slightly more childish in prospects, he was definitely not self-aware. Upon seeing Toph Beifong for the first time, he squealed quite loudly at someone so famous. This is after Korra annoyed her for a few days, and having to reflex her bending skills that she hadn’t used in a long, long time. She was probably a tad tired when she heard the YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! that Bolin had yelled.
15 Let Down By The Students
After the events of The Last Airbender, Toph Beifong eventually went on to start the first metalbending school. This new type of bending would eventually become well-known and a staple of earthbending everywhere, especially Zaofu (the city made by metalbenders). But before any of this could become widely available, it had to be learned.
Toph’s metalbending academy was the first attempt at teaching metalbending.
However, most of her students were not successful. Ho Tun, The Dark One, and Penga all took awhile to discover their ability to metalbend. It resulted in them trying to run away from the school while Toph was on an Avatar adventure. Luckily, they got better soon after, but for quite the time they were not up to snuff with what she expected of metalbending students.
14 Scamming The Scammer
From day one, Katara and Toph were at each other’s throats. Toph, our firecracker of a gal, had done most of her own work herself. She usually carried her own, even going as far as to make her own shelter with her earthbending skills. I mean, if you have the ability to do so, why not? Katara didn’t like that, though.
Another time they were at each other’s throats was when Katara started treating Toph like a child. She was always motherly towards Toph, and Toph hated it. When Toph caught a con artist trying to pull a scam on a fun side game, Toph used her earthbending to sense the cheater. Katara became angry at Toph for cheating the con artist (although I think we can all agree that he got what he deserved, scamming all those fire nation citizens).
13 Looking In All The Wrong Places
When envisioning the original Toph character, she was meant to be a foil to Sokka; serious, deep, a jock, and muscular. However, we eventually got the Toph we have today (in my opinion, a vast improvement). This changed the way the writers viewed the relationship between Toph and Sokka. They were slated to be a... thing... at some point in the future. Sokka befriended her, and stood up for her on multiple occasions. It eventually turned into something small, where they both recognized a greater interest in one another.
Suki changed that.
Suki was a Kyoshi Warrior whom eventually became Sokka’s girlfriend. They shared kisses in front of Toph which made Toph jealous. Our earthbending girl would eventually come to tolerate the relationship, although the burn of it being over before ever being started might not ever have healed.
12 A Part Of The System
Toph was from the town of Gaoling, where her family coddled her to pieces. Because she was born blind, they believed her to be unable to ever take care of herself. Her existence became something to hide so that it could never be used against them and their wealth. Talk about being selfish!
Their actions led to Toph hating home life entirely.
They also expected her to act like royalty, not misbehaving or being a brat. She was a noble and to the few people who knew she existed she was supposed to act like it! Luckily, she had enough time to dwell on ways to prevent herself from becoming a part of the system. She found out she could bend and see with her shoes off, starting her down a path of consistent rebellion.
11 The Runaway
As mentioned, Toph lived a sheltered early life. At first she put up and kept quiet about her rebellious attitude, simply going with what her parents wanted her to do. But this wouldn’t last. She eventually ran away from her parents and hid in a cave of badgermoles. Badgermoles were considered the first animals to use earthbending in official form.
By hanging with the badgermoles, Toph learned how to improve her earthbending.
The badgermoles were blind, thus allowing Toph to connect with them on a different level. They gave her the ability to sense with her feet through seismic activity as well. The second time she ran away was when she came into contact with Team Avatar. This adventure lasted an entire life time, and formed the basis for much of her known history in the universe.
10 An Unwarranted Capture
Upon attempting to covertly pretend to be royalty to get an audience with the Earth King, Toph and Katara made it inside. Sokka and Aang were servers at the party. The disguises of the girls were working. They had successfully fooled Long Feng, master of the Dai Li agents, into getting them into the party.
Aang’s arrowhead was recognized by Long Feng.
This put them all in jeopardy. Although they were ultimately safe in the end, their plan to talk to the Earth King immediately was foiled by Aang’s inability to gain a proper disguise. When all your people are gone, and the only person left of your people is yourself, the Avatar, why wouldn’t you hide that in a disguise?! Toph’s successes became failures because of other people.
9 A Unique Issue
Throughout the entire Avatar series, we meet a lot of people. Most of them don’t have disabilities. In fact, by and large, the world of Avatar lacks much of that diversity that we do in our society. This makes for a lonesome world. Toph was one of three disabled people in the world of Avatar. The other being a mechanic’s son who was paralyzed, Teo, and Ming-Hua, the waterbender with no arms.
These people used bending or bending-like abilities as an extension of their disability.
Teo wasn’t a bender, but he could fly on a gliding contraption. He used his mechanic skills with his father to overcome his inability to walk. Ming-Hua used water tendrils as arms, bending them to act as arms and weapons. Toph used earthbending to sense see. Their disabilities were not what defined them, and they were able to move beyond them.
8 A Jail She Can't Bend Out Of
When Master Yu and Xin Fu captured Toph, they thought they were going to make bank! The Beifongs were a wealthy family that wanted their cherished daughter back away from what they thought was a horrible and evil outside world. Upon her capture, she was placed in a metal jail cell. Obviously, if it was made of rock, then she would have gotten out.
But she had a trick up her sleeve.
She eventually was able to learn to metalbend to get out of the cell itself. Using her newfound abilities, she overcame Master Yu and Xin Fu, trapping them inside their own metal cell. They would not be able to bend out of it because metalbending was not widespread at the time.
7 ..And Again
It seems as though the fire nation learned that you probably shouldn’t place benders in jail cells made of anything they could possibly bend. Water and ice cells could not have waterbenders, cells near fire and volcanoes should not have firebenders, and earthbenders should not be near earth and metal. When Katara and Toph were captured in the fire nation, they were placed inside a wooden cell with no water or earth near it.
This posed a problem for both of the larger-than-life benders.
Toph, trapped in this situation, eventually came to confront and sympathize with Katara’s actions and motherly love towards her. On the flip side, we would eventually see this tactic used with Zaheer and his criminal friends in The Legend of Korra and the attempted revival of the Red Lotus.
6 Can't Move
As Chief of Police for Republic City, Toph utilized an elite fighting force of metalbenders to capture criminals and defend the city from those who would seek to harm the citizens. One such criminal was Yakone. Yakone was the top crime lord of Republic City. He was responsible for the most craziness and corruption the city had ever seen.
Yakone could also bend without a full moon.
Usually, bloodbenders needed a full moon in order to control people through their actions. Bloodbenders would literally bend the blood within someone’s veins, controlling them like a puppet. Yakone could do it on his own. Toph was one of his victims, and she ultimately failed to stop him. Luckily, Avatar Aang took his bending abilities away from him.
5 Toph And Baby
Kanto. No, not the pokemon region; the first husband of Toph. Not much is known about him. What is known is that they had a child together, Lin. However, he soon left afterwards, leaving Lin to always wonder who her father was and never getting a real answer.
Toph described her first love in a nice way; high praise considering her sarcastic attitude.
Toph just doesn’t have luck with lovers! First Sokka, now this. Eventually she would have another child, Suyin, with another man. But he would soon leave as well. There are hundreds of theories as to who the man was; Sokka, Aang, or even other mysterious one off characters. But it’s never been revealed. Or the writers simply didn’t think parentage was relevant to the story.
4 What Became Of Her Daughter
Toph had two daughters; Lin and Suyin Beifong. Both had fathers that they didn’t know, so Toph had to raise both alone. Lin eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming the Chief of Police for Republic City. Suyin became the leader of Zaofu (metalbender city). But Suyin holds a past not so noteworthy of a powerful leader of the safest city in the four kingdoms.
Suyin was once a criminal involved in a strong gang in Republic City!
Suyin got involved with the Terra Triad. During a robbery, she was caught by her half-sister, Lin, who tried to rope her with a metal cable. Suyin broke the cable and it struck Lin in the face, scarring her for life. Toph decided to cover it up to save face for Republic City Police. She soon retired and reconciled with her daughter, but for a time, she was a fair disappointment.
3 Fighting Against Friends
Korra had a metallic poison inside of her that she didn’t know about. She was hallucinating, seeing double, fighting spiritual versions of herself, and could not enter the Avatar state. When she was eventually lead in a daze to Toph Beifong, Toph said that some of the poisonous metal was still inside of Korra.
So like two firecracking females would usually do; they fought it out.
Korra sent earth, fire, water, and air towards the now old, but still blind, Toph Beifong. Although Korra had increased her levels of power and will to higher points throughout the fight, Toph simply flung her around with some pillars of mud. Through this struggle, Korra would eventually bend the metal poison out, but she had to be roughed up by Toph to get to it.
2 Wait, She's Blind?
Through the entire list, Toph is consistently showed to be a victim of a world in which blindness affects almost no one at all. Sight is taken for granted by everyone. The blind have no language, unless they can sense through earthbending. The rarity of an earthbender combined with the rarity of someone being blind (so far one in a couple dozen million) means that Toph is someone that will never be fully understood by anyone.
People not understanding her leads to her retreat into the wilds. And although she goes through transformations as a person, some others refuse to change. From Sokka asking her how his drawings look to a theater reenactment of The Last Airbender claiming she could see through sonic waves, the world of Avatar treats her quite negatively and forgets rare details about her.
1 Indirectly Creating The Autocratic Earth Empire
Toph discovered metalbending. She was the first person to utilize it and she eventually taught many other people how to metalbend. This is considered one of the greatest aspects of The Legend of Korra adventures. However, if Toph had never created metalbending, then Kuvira would never be able to learn it and create an Empire based around her ability to metalbend, creating tanks, buildings, and even weapons of mass destruction.
Is a dictatorship worth the ability to bend metal with your mind?
Was the destruction of homes and villages, as well as the passing of hundreds if not thousands of people worth it to generate this skill into thousands of benders? Metalbending also contributed to the poisoning of the Avatar. If metalbending hadn’t been discovered, the Avatar would have been able to be defeated by the Red Lotus.