Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing. Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. This week: Tokka!
Who Are Tokka?
Tokka is the ship name for Toph Beifong and Sokka from the world’s best TV show, Avatar: the Last Airbender.
Sokka is one of the primary characters of AtLA. The show takes place in a world where “benders” can control various elements. Sokka is from the Southern Water Tribe. Though his sister Katara is a waterbender, he is not. The two of them jumpstart the events of the show when they discover a boy trapped in an iceberg. The boy, Aang, the long-lost avatar, who can control all the elements rather than just one. Together with Aang, Sokka and Katara set out to restore balance to the world after a century of war and defeat the brutish Fire Nation.
At sixteen years old, Sokka was the only “man” left in his village, and responsible for keeping his people safe. So he is at first suspicious of Aang, especially when the Fire Nation tracks him down and attacks the village. But soon, as the three of them go on adventure after adventure, Sokka lightens up. As the oldest of the trio, he is often the voice of reason. He always fiercely defends his sister and Aang against any attackers, though, despite not being a bender. This can lead to some wacky situations, like when he is called out for sexism by the all-female Kyoshi Warriors.
Over the course of the show, Sokka develops from an untrained boy to a real warrior. He has a mechanical mind and works with other inventors to create machines that help defeat the Fire Nation. He also trains under a great swordmaster, proving that he doesn’t need bending to be a great warrior. In the end, Sokka is a big part in defeating the Fire Nation’s final evil plan. Together with his sister, Aang, and the friends they picked up along the way, he’s ready to move forward into a better world.
One of those friends they picked up along the way was Toph Beifong. When Aang needs an earthbending teacher, the three of them find themselves in a prosperous Earth Kingdom city. They attend a WrestleMania style earthbending tournament, where Aang noticed one of the fighters, a young blind girl, is someone he had a vision about. They track her down as the daughter of the richest family in the region, whose parents have no idea that she is a master earthbender. Instead, they see her as a helpless, blind little girl.
After some convincing (and a foiled kidnapping attempt), they convince Toph to join them on their quest and teach Aang. Away from the stifling control of her parents, Toph is able to break free and be truly herself, which is about as far as possible from her delicate rich girl past. She is loud and obnoxious, often pushing Aang (and Sokka and Katara too, to be fair) outside of his comfort zone. She does manage, however, to break Aang’s mental block and teach him how to earthbend. Toph is also a great help when they find themselves in the Earth Kingdom capital, Ba Sing Se, and need to blend in.
Despite – or rather, because of – her blindness, Toph is an earthbender of unprecedented skill. Her unique bending style makes her one of the most powerful benders on the show. When she is kidnapped, Toph invents metalbending, by isolating the bits of earth in the metal. Her expertise is vital in stopping the Fire Nation. As they attempt to destroy the Earth Kingdom in a scorched-earth maneuver, Toph joins Sokka in defeating an entire fleet of airships and saving her homeland. Their victory is essential to stopping the Fire Nation’s century-long war and restoring balance to the world.
Why is Tokka OTP?
For a kid’s show, the world of AtLA is rife with ships. There is, of course, the age-old debate over Kataang versus Zutara, though the fandom never got too intense about ship wars (probably because the show teaches us to be better people). But aside from those two, there are still plenty of other ships to enjoy/debate over.
Sokka is quite the ladies’ man and gets paired up with multiple excellent women in the show. The show definitely seems to indicate that he ends up with Kyoshi Warrior captain Suki, with the two of them together as the show ends. But there are hints, throughout, that maybe there could be something more with Toph. Only hints, since Toph is all of twelve in the show, and things never get creepy. But Tokka is an interesting prospect that definitely deserves more attention.
Two Of A Kind
The “Gaang” – as Sokka brilliantly dubbed the group of characters who travel with and support Aang – is an interesting mix of personalities, even more so as new characters join up. You have Aang himself, of course, the carefree, cheerful young man with a core of steel and morality, who is destined to save the world. There’s Katara, the mom friend, who champions doing the right thing and taking down the patriarchy. Later we get Suki, who is sweet, if somewhat underdeveloped, and Zuko, whose story deserves an entire article all to itself.
And then there’s Sokka and Toph. The two are very alike and tend to latch onto each other in the group. Both are sarcastic, boisterous, and a little obnoxious. They like to have a laugh and sometimes will pull pranks on others. Both are the very bane of Katara’s existence, and she is most likely to lose her temper every time they do something stupid. Because of their similarities, Sokka and Toph become fast friends.
Sokka and Toph both also have a core of deep insecurity. Sokka struggles with a lot of things. He is a nonbender, which makes him insecure as he is traveling with a master waterbender, master earthbender, and the most powerful bender in the world. He also struggles to find his place as the “idea guy” and live up to his father’s legacy. For her part, Toph struggles with having never had any friends. The only good part of her life before meeting Aang and co. was earthbending. She is happy to have broken free of her parents’ control and explore the world, but she also struggles with missing her family. This mutual insecurity lets Sokka and Toph be honest with each other and help each other grow.
What makes Tokka so fascinating for me is its potential. In the show, we see a few canonical relationships. Sokka is clearly romantically linked with Yue, the princess of the Northern Water Tribe, though it ends tragically. Later, he formed a relationship with Suki. The show doesn’t shy away from romance, despite its main cast being young teenagers. So, on the one hand, the lack of Tokka content would seem to put a damper on things. On the other hand, it’s great that the show doesn’t force a relationship between a sixteen-year-old and a twelve-year-old.
Which is not to say there is nothing in the show. Toph very clearly has a crush on Sokka. It causes some embarrassing moments. In particular, there’s a moment when Toph, blind and unable to swim, falls into turbulent water and starts to sink. She is quickly rescued and lavishes attention on her hero, Sokka. Except… it isn’t Sokka who saved her, but rather Suki. Embarrassed at having displayed her crush, to his girlfriend no less, Toph says to just let her drown, which is honestly a whole mood. Events show that Toph has feelings, though they’re not returned.
But there is a clear bond between Sokka and Toph. They understand each other as no one else can. And at the end of things, they have one of the most touching moments in the show. In the finale, while battling the Fire Nation airships, Sokka and Toph are separated from Suki. They find themselves in dire straits, with Sokka desperately holding on to a dangling Toph. They both know it’s the end, but they hold onto each other all the same. In the end of things, at least they are together. It’s moments like this that show the importance of their relationship.
What’s Next For Tokka?
Full disclosure: I have not read all the Avatar: the Last Airbender comics. Although I read the first few that came out, I have not been able to keep track of and catch up with all that have come out in the past few years. So there’s a chance I missed something, though I somehow doubt it. As it stands, we don’t quite know what’s next for Tokka. The show ends with the Gaang having saved the world. They enjoy a bit of peace after years of fighting and living in fear. Finally, they are able to be kids. Not heroes, or warriors, just kids.
Then, after a huge gap of time, we skip ahead to Legend of Korra, the follow-up show to AtLA. We meet the new avatar, Korra, who has to live up to Aang’s legacy after his death. We also meet and find out more about our old familiar friends. Aang is, sadly, dead, as is Sokka. We know all about Aang’s life, as the show prominently features his children with Katara. Toph is a bit of a mystery figure. Her daughter is a major player from the get-go, and we meet another daughter later. It’s not until the final season that we meet Toph again, as a cranky old hermit living in a swamp.
What happened in the meantime? The mystery of Lin Beifong’s father was a lingering one for fans from the start. People were curious to know who Toph had a kid with, only for the reveal to eventually be some throwaway, a one-night stand, essentially. So we still don’t know much about Toph’s life in the meantime, and almost nothing about Sokka’s. Hopefully, the comics fill in the blanks (and hopefully I can read them at some point and find out).
Is Tokka Canon?
Tokka is arguably canon, in the BROTP sense of the word. Sokka and Toph are clearly great friends. They’re definitely bros, and while their friendship is not as definitive for the show as several other relationship dynamics, it’s a clear part of things. But in terms of romance, there’s definitely nothing in the show to indicate that a relationship is formed. Toph has a crush, sure, but things never go farther than that. Things go in the opposite direction, with Sokka in a clearly romantic relationship with someone else. So no, Tokka is not canon.
But there’s still that nebulous seventy or so years we don’t know about. We know that Lin Beifong is the result of Toph’s fling with some nobody, but a popular fan theory asserts that Toph’s other daughter, Suyin, may be Sokka’s daughter. The fact that we see almost nothing of Sokka in Legend of Korra leaves fans guessing about what happened. We know that Katara and Aang married and had three kids, even if Aang is dead by the time the show starts. We also meet both Zuko and Toph in the show, as well as their kids (even if the parentage here is unclear). But no Sokka – to fans’ great consternation.
That gap leaves fans plenty of room to speculate. Although Tokka is not canon in the show, there’s no reason it couldn’t become canon later on in the world of Avatar. We may never find out for sure. As more comics come out, we learn more about this mystical world, but we may never know what happened to Sokka (though I sincerely hope otherwise). But then again, the absence of a clear answer gives fans more freedom. Fan creators have certainly not given up on Tokka, and neither will I.