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An Analysis of Ozai and Ursa's Relationship - Avatar: The Last Airbender Meta
The who, the what, the how, and the why not?

~*Katie*~ posting in Avatar: The Last Airbender Meta
User: avatar_meta (posted by kyatto)
Date: 2009-09-29 03:23
Subject: An Analysis of Ozai and Ursa's Relationship
Security: Public
[Purpose of This Anaylis:] To form a believable speculation about the dynamics of Ozai and Ursa as a couple, and the many possibilities and mysteries that surround them.
[Characters Involved:] Ozai, Ursa, Azulon (and Illah), Iroh, Zuko, and Azula.
[Seasons:] All three (an an idea about beyond that)
[Warning:] This is about them as a couple, so yes, it is thought of from a "shipper" perspective. However, I believe that after all the show goes through to through morals and speeches about hope and love at us, they wouldn't put two characters together for no reason other than to procreate (lol).

The Elements of Red and Blue: The Union of Ozai and Ursa
A Speculative Analysis of their relationship by Kyatto


In Childhood:

In the show during “The Headband” we see that children in the Fire Nation attend school, much like they do in our world. Boys and girls even attend classes together, showing in the Fire Nation men and women are treated equally. It was also clarified in “The Avatar and the Fire Lord” that in their childhoods, Zuko and Azula attended school as well. (Though it was brought up in previous episodes that Azula attended “The Royal Fire Nation Academy For Girls”.)

How does this relate to Ozai and Ursa? Well, even as a child, Ozai was a prince. While Azulon might have still been a prince when Iroh was born, he was definitely Fire Lord when Ozai was growing up. Thus making him the highest level of nobility. Ursa was also part of a noble family. Tia Min was obviously a noblewoman when she got with Roku, and even if he wasn’t the Avatar, Roku also appeared to be of a noble family. Him being the Avatar only upped his status more so at the time. So Ursa was definitely part of an influential family and had opportunities to be close to Ozai.

My first theory is that they knew each other in childhood, much like Zuko had known Mai and Ty Lee. The academy Azula went to may or may not have existed when Ursa was young. Or perhaps there was another institution her parents chose to send her to. There is a possibility she and Ozai were classmates. I would like to think that it went beyond that – that they were friends.

Ozai is a lot like Zuko. However, he embodies all of Zuko’s negative traits and chooses to let those define him. He believes Zuko’s positive traits, namely those influenced by Iroh are useless and weak. In the beginning of the series, Zuko was incredibly fierce and domineering, determined to do whatever it took to get what he wanted. He was almost willing to risk his crew for it, but it was what I would assume to be Iroh’s influence that told him it was a bad idea. Iroh retired during Zuko’s childhood so we can only assume he was around a good chunk of the time before Zuko’s banishment. Ozai, being Fire Lord, didn’t have time to be a daddy to Zuko so he probably assumed Iroh would keep him out of trouble. (And this could be why he sent Iroh with Zuko, both knowing Zuko needed adult supervision and felt betrayed when Zuko spoke against the general with what we can believe was “Iroh influenced nonsense”. Best to get both traitors and cowards out of the way, right?) But Zuko is neither here nor there. This is before Zuko’s time. While Zuko expresses feeling inferior and showing determination to succeed, we can assume Ozai was like this in youth as well. Like father like son.

We see very little of Ursa, but I have a feeling she had traits of both Mai and Katara in her childhood. Mai’s upbringing being nobility what with knowing class and how to properly behave. There’s the likelihood she also had Katara’s traits where she is protective and almost motherly. She could have been a Firebender. For the sake of this Meta, I will side with that argument. We had never seen her do it, but she also showed no signs of having any other skills ever. Even Mai and Ty Lee, non-benders of nobility, learned other skills. I will also go with the common argument that her fire was blue, like her daughter’s. However, unlike Azula, she didn’t let her power define her. Which also made her a good opposite to Ozai.

So we had two children growing up the noble lifestyle. They probably went to school together, or even knew each other because of their families. There is a stark age difference between Iroh and Ozai, so I highly doubt Iroh was around much when Ozai was growing up. Being practically an only child, Ozai would need someone to talk to, someone to fall back on. Who, back then, would be a better candidate than Ursa?


An Arranged Marriage:

It’s been established by staff outside of the show’s text itself that Ozai and Ursa had an arranged marriage. I think it’s likely this was because they already knew each other. Azulon does not seem like a doting daddy type, especially to someone he probably saw as inferior. To avoid difficulty he probably talked to Ursa’s parents and arranged them to be married. They already knew each other, right? Why not!

I’d imagine their reaction, given that they would have been teenagers at the time, would have been “Wait, what?”. On one hand, they already knew each other and got on well so the marriage definitely would not have been a disaster. But on the other, dang it, they’re friends!

But wait…they’re teenagers. I’m certain at that point, Ozai saw her less like a sister and more like…something else. Same for her. For you see, Ozai is far from ugly. He is a very handsome man. You can assume he was a handsome teenager as well. And Ursa? Well, Azula doesn’t get her beauty from nowhere! And before Ozai’s megalomania, I’m sure his personality had something worth attraction to as well.

And being as established as they were, the announcement of their marriage would be like that of Robert and Kristen or even Brad and Angelina in our world. They were two of the most important teenagers in the Fire Nation. And they were betrothed. The possibilities for what they were capable of were endless! And they knew this, too.

And Mike and Bryan did say they think that with their marriage, it was “pretty good” at first. I think while they were childless, that was when their marriage was best. Ozai is like his children in that he enjoys all spotlight on him (Azula), and everything going his way (Zuko and Azula). So having his amazing best friend and wife all to himself, day after day? He felt on top of the world, relationship-wise. There were still a few things missing from making it perfect, but it most certainly wasn’t bad.


A Study Of Ursa:

We know little about Ursa. However, a few very important traits were given away. She’s both protective, and devoted.

Everyone knows how protective she is. She stopped at nothing to keep harm from coming to her son, Zuko. It’s to be assumed she even killed Azulon for it, before Ozai was forced to kill him. She even declares herself in her own way how protective she is of her offspring. But you know what? She’s pretty protective of her husband, too. She did one crucial thing to tell us this, which was revealed in “Day of Black Sun”.

This showed both her protective nature and her devotion. She killed Azulon, and we can assume based on Ozai’s words that she forged a will so that Ozai would become Fire Lord. She didn’t have to do this. She could’ve just killed Azulon and left it at that. Let Iroh take the throne, send the interrogation committee to Ozai, and all sorts of other things. But she cared so much about her husband, his needs, and his desires, that she did that for him. She was his Lady Macbeth. Not only did it ensure her children a better life, but a better life for her husband as well. It did everything he wanted. Shunned Iroh to a point where he soon became a joke. Gave him the power and attention he felt he so rightly deserved. And of course, with their father being Fire Lord, Zuko and Azula had better access to a happier life with little standing in their way.

Ursa is neither a demon nor a saint. She just had a heart full of love, and love made her take drastic measures. Her love for Zuko made her kill a man, and her love for Ozai made her write up a will to make sure he got what he wanted. She was sharp-minded, like her daughter. Her loyalty was to her family as a whole, not just her children.


A Study of Ozai:

Ozai is just as tragic as his offspring. He too got screwed over by his parents. Hence his determination to become all-powerful. He felt he was better than Iroh. He felt he deserved the glory and attention. He worked hard and stopped at nothing to achieve his goals. Ignoring the fact he was on the evil side, isn’t such determination an admirable trait? His skill at bending was just as good as Iroh’s. If they had been the one fighting Iroh definitely would have faced a challenge. Aang, the Avatar almost lost if the Avatar State hadn’t kicked in. His power is not to be questioned and he worked his royal butt off to obtain it.

Call it sympathy for the devil, but even in the show itself it stated no one is born bad. Aang himself said that Ozai is human too. A human capable of doing things both good and bad, making mistakes, and having emotions. One of them, of course, is love. Love is a very common theme for the show itself, so why not use it for Ozai? We see that there wasn’t much love in his heart for his kids, but what of his wife? I will get to that further down just how much of it there was in his heart.

He got addicted to power, and his obsession led him to megalomania. Azula’s youth and inexperience made her fall apart from it and made her weaker. It made Ozai stronger. His obsession drove him insane. You cannot argue a crazy person. He felt his way was the only way and the best way. Why? Because his way was going to get him what he wanted. More power.

And to think! All this could have been prevented if he had a hug once in a while or didn’t have an inferiority complex next to Iroh when he was a kid. Ozai showed us what Zuko could have become if not for Iroh’s influence. If Iroh had not been there during Zuko’s banishment, there’s a likely chance that when Zuko sided with Azula he would have stayed there happily. And he would have been at Ozai’s right hand burning the place to the ground. There’s a lot of Ozai in Zuko, more than people like to think to admit. Their similarities do not end with appearance. If left up to Ursa’s influence alone, Zuko still would have turned out messed up, and perhaps even worse. All credit to Zuko’s transformation, Zuko opening his eyes, Zuko losing his ferocity, goes to Iroh. Ozai could have been capable of this! He could have been the first “good” Fire Lord in a hundred years! But no one showed him the light at an impressionable age. He was doomed from the start.


The Son and Daughter:

It was the birth of Zuko and Azula that doomed their relationship. Ozai is greedy for attention. Having children took Ursa’s attention away from him. He had to occupy himself with other things, such as thinking of ways to become Fire Lord. At that point his kids were good for only one thing: trophies. “Hey Mom and Dad! I have two kids!”. And this helped his case more so when Lu Ten died. Iroh was already older, and he was still young and had two heirs. It was like finding a goldmine!

For Ursa, though, that’s when she lost it. Azula was a natural prodigy and a fast learner. She picked up on things quickly and excelled at them. Zuko was more of a problem. He didn’t learn as fast and had issues with things, and because his sister was so good, he was developing an inferiority complex. Ursa, knowing what those feelings are like probably by observing Ozai, did all she could to nurture and encourage him. However, what was good for Zuko did damage to Azula. As any parent could tell you, playing favorites is hardly ever a good idea.

I could see where Azula would be frustrating for Ursa. We all know the girl’s personality, we even saw what she was like as a young child. Imagine being her mother? She caused mountains of frustration for Ursa. It’s no surprise that most likely more than once, she snapped and called Azula a monster. In a flashback we even saw her watch Azula go by and think aloud “What is wrong with that child?”. That is not the best way for a mother to revere their daughter. No matter what their disposition is like. However, she was so focused on nurturing Zuko and making sure he didn’t get messed up (like his father) that she didn’t have the time to think about properly correcting her daughter before it got too late. In a way, she doomed both her children.

Ozai, meanwhile, had other things on his plate. He had to impress his father, and show that he was more worthy than Iroh. He wanted to show how perfect his was, and how flawed his brother was. Azula pleased him because of her perfection. She was the very definition of a trophy child. Zuko, however, gave him endless frustration. Not only because he was not nearly as good as Azula, but because of the strong possibility that he reminded Ozai of himself and his childhood. No doubt that when Azulon saw Zuko’s failure he thought “Like father, like son.” And Zuko being the first born and therefore most important in Ozai’s lineage? Did not look good for Ozai’s success. And the fact Ursa coddled Zuko constantly despite his failures, probably did not sit well with Ozai either. For he was most certainly not coddled and encouraged for being imperfect. Why on earth was Zuko being rewarded for it?

Since he became aware Azula wasn’t enough to impress Azulon, there’s the chance Ozai felt lost. Ursa would rather spend time consoling Zuko and occasionally scolding Azula. Their children became her priority. What about him? What about his needs? Where was his “I’m sorry, honey, you’ll do better next time”? We can assume that his presentation to Azulon occurred more than once, before Lu Ten’s death. Ozai shows he is just a genuinely determined individual and would have stopped at nothing to get what he wanted. And judging by Azulon’s reaction to the last “demonstration” and bargaining attempt to getting the throne, it was the last straw. “Learn some humility! Kill your son!”



Ozai had nothing at that point. His wife was lost to their children. Azula did not succeed in wowing his father. He still didn’t have the throne. Iroh was a failure and he still had everything. Zuko was still a failure too. What was left to do? Of course he had to kill Zuko! If he didn’t, his father would only think him weaker.

But who should come to his aid for the first time in several years? His beloved wife, Ursa. The one who always had his back, was always his leg to stand on. She had a plan that she was willing to carry out because not only would it save Zuko, but him as well. Zuko would be safe, and he would become Fire Lord.

She was going to kill Azulon to save Zuko’s life. And then, she would forge a will so Ozai would take the throne. She would do it in such a way to make it look like suicide. With Iroh already in a state of grief, the people would look to Ozai to lead them, with little to no questioning about how his rise to power came to be. This was what he wanted most. His place in the sun, the spotlight on him, his fame, his glory, everything. She agreed to hand him the world on a blood-covered platter. But he was willing to take it.

She murdered Azulon. The will has been written. She just committed a crime (perhaps two!). Murder, we can only assume, would be punishable by death. However, Ozai loves her. She gave him what he wanted, and even protected both their children. He was not going to let her die. Now being the new Fire Lord as it was documented, he now had the power to get her to safety. He let her say goodbye to their children and leave. For all we know, he made her escorts swear never to tell a soul where she went. And both he and Ursa probably agreed never to tell Zuko and Azula, out of fear they would run off and look for her. Better to assume she had died. For all we know, a lie was cooked up to tell them that because Zuko is valuable as his child, Azulon agreed that Ursa could die in his place. And then Azulon mysteriously died himself (old age? Illness? Suicide? I’m sure there was an excuse). All that to keep them from questioning. And such a lie would have gone well with “Everything I have ever done, I did to protect you.” (Or however the quote goes – Meta-er does not have the episode at hand).

Now here is the big question: How do we know, based on canon evidence that Ozai loved Ursa? The animation answers it for us.

Ozai gazing either at the fountain or into the distance.

”Where is she?”

Ozai’s silence tells us everything. He doesn’t know what to say, how to word it. His silence also told Zuko exactly what he wanted him to believe. The silence spoke of grief. As planned, Zuko mistook the grief for grief over death. However, Ozai is grieving. His wife is gone, hidden somewhere safe, somewhere where she is free where no one can touch her. He will be left wondering for the rest of his life whatever truly became of his wife. Because once she left she was gone, as nothing in the show itself showed us he kept tabs on her whereabouts. (Or maybe he did? But that’s a whole ‘nother theory!)

She gave him the world then. She became his everything. In return he made sure she kept her life and gave her freedom. Perhaps in hope one day they would be reunited?

*Note: I do have this theory that part of the reason that Ozai was so determined to win the war and conquer the Earth in full was so that he could have Ursa back and no one would be brave enough to question it. Again, an almost completely unrelated theory.


After the War:

Ozai is in prison. Zuko asked where Ursa went. The answer wasn’t given to us, but it exists. She is alive somewhere, out there.

The once powerful Fire Lord Ozai is nothing now. He can’t bend, his honor and dignity stripped from him by the son he often found weak. He was left with nothing but a cell to rot in. Even his insane daughter got better treatment to some extent.

However, Zuko did say he wanted Ozai to “see the light” (so to speak) to, and perhaps he also meant he wanted Ozai to heal, like he did. However, Zuko had guidance in the healing process. Ozai was left with nothing. The only thing I could see, that would help Ozai, would be to be reunited with Ursa. Who (as it is the theme of the entire analysis) was his crutch for most of his life. With her guidance and understanding, he would be able to heal, and perhaps, perhaps become a civil member of society.

An ideal situation would be for Ursa to play devil’s advocate once more. Become the Lady Macbeth again, and free Ozai from prison (bonus points if she displayed Firebending). Together they run off and build a new life. Where they can both adjust to the post-war life and she can help him heal. Help him understand his son and what the Avatar was after. And perhaps, after many years, Ozai, Ursa, Zuko, and Azula could become a decent family. Time is said to heal many wounds, perhaps it would heal this one as well.


In Conclusion:

Along with other elements of the show, I believe Ozai and Ursa are also prime examples of the power love has and that no one is born bad, and everyone deserves a second chance and can change. Despite his awful behavior after Ursa’s departure, Zuko still believes Ozai is capable of becoming a good man. It may be a small belief, but it is there. Ozai and Ursa influenced each other as much as they influenced their children. It saddens me that this, along with the many stories of Iroh, could not be embellished upon in the show’s text itself. That even after three seasons, it is still all left completely up to speculation.

The bright side? While many people no longer like the idea of it, we have three films coming up. These films are said to deviate from the series in certain aspects, both written and visual. We already know based on casting and interviews, that Ozai becomes a more prominent character. Maybe we can hope that M.Night will delve upon information about him (and Ursa) that Mike and Bryan were forced to leave out? (And if this Meta proves right you can expect many self-awarded backpats!)



Bonus: Wouldn’t Aishwarya Rai be an amazing Ursa? :D

Agree? Disagree? Got some theories of your own? I'm all ears!
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Omoni: Zuko
User: yukinoomoni
Date: 2009-09-29 16:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Awesome meta. Totally reeled me in. I love this crazy messed up family.

Some of my own points:

I always thought that one of the key elements of Ozai's hatred for Zuko was that, in a way, Ursa loved Zuko more than she loved Ozai. And, in a way, her killing Azulon to spare Zuko's life tainted Zuko himself in Ozai's eyes. I think, with the Agni Kai, Ozai was just looking for an excuse to punish the son that not only took his wife's attention, but actually, indirectly, took his wife away as well.

I think the forging of the will was so that Ozai could get what he wanted without using Zuko's death to do it. Ursa loved her children, even Azula, although she was deeply disturbed by Azula's already socipathic behaviour.

I think the arranged marriage also had a deep vendetta as well: bonding the two lines of Fire Lord and Avatar so as not to show any inclination of the dark history the two lines shared. Sozin let Roku die. There is no denying that. The only way to make history forget this is to pretend that the two families are still entertwined in harmony.

You state "like father, like son". I'm betting it's more along the lines of "like father, like daughter". Azula let her ambitions rule, at the cost of anyone else around her, just like Ozai did. She only lost her mind when she realised that instilling fear can go so far, yes, but also when her own father rejected her by telling her, in different words, "stay out of the way". In a way, by doing this, Ozai perpetuated exactly what his own father did to him.

It's speculation, but I'm on the side that thinks that Ozai was the product of either a concubine or an affair. He's much younger than Iroh, and it would factor greatly into why he had such an inferiority complex. It would also explain why Iroh was favoured, and why Ozai was not.
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alexb49: line zuko
User: alexb49
Date: 2009-09-29 18:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:line zuko
Great meta. Well formed arguments.

More support for the lack of distinction in gender roles in Fire Nation- Boiling Rock: a maximum security prison that's mixed gender with mixed gender guards? Clearly no distinction of gender especially when contrasted to the "no girlz allowed" sign at Pakku's waterbending dojo.

As for Ozai not having time to be involved in Zuko's early childhood, I'd have to argue that it had to have been no more than 3 or 4 years between Azulon's death and Ozai taking the throne to Zuko's banishment if you look at Zuko's age difference between the two events. I would suspect that Azula's prodigy status and Zuko's relative lack of ability would have made the difference for such an insanely ambitious father. Since Ozai wasn't in the military as far as we can tell, what was he doing besides sitting around being sexy? Besides being a crappy father. I agree with yukinoomoni that Ozai may have seen more of him in Azula then Zuko.

I think Ursa's eye color was more indicative of her being a firebender rather than her lack of other on screen abilities. Also not to threadjack your meta, it struck me that Azula's fire was blue because she's a sociopath rather then anything passed on to her from Azula. A gas flame is blue at the base where its combustion is most complete and red at the top where things mix in to cause incomplete combustion. Blue firebending from a sociopath- no silly outside emotions to dilute anything. Her firebending was not blue as a child. She was less batshit insane then too. I was curious why people would argue that the flame color would be hereditary.

I think something else that supports your argument that Ursa was not simply the fiercely protective mother is that she's clearly entertained in Zuko Alone when Iroh's letter from Ba Sing Se comes and he writes something to the effect of "City's nice, wish you could see it before we burn it to the ground. LOL!"

I definitely agree that Zuko would have been exactly like Ozai without Iroh's influence. I also agree that Ursa's handling of her kids had the opposite effect of what she intended.

I imagine it would be extremely painful for someone who had worked hard enough to master lightening to have that all of that taken from him, particularly from as ambitious a man as Ozai. It must feel as if he lost his sight or sense of smell.

Thanks for sharing!
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Omoni: Squish
User: yukinoomoni
Date: 2009-10-01 00:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In one of the commentaries, it was dropped that Azula's fire was blue because it burns hotter and brighter than normal fire. This would, in turn, be a point for your argument.

I honestly do not think Ursa was a firebender. I'm not exactly sure why I feel this way, but I don't think she was. I'd like to think that while Ursa was probably a prize to marry (being of Roku's line probably didn't hurt either), I am of the firm and weird belief that she wasn't a firebender.

And a good point about Ursa laughing about Ba Sing Se. I totally forgot about that. That was real laughter, so she probably wasn't all daisies when it came to events outside of the palace walls.
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alexb49: line zuko
User: alexb49
Date: 2009-10-01 02:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:line zuko
I suspect Ursa being a firebender or not is sort of a moot point simply because with how f'd up the family was, someone who wasn't a superior firebender was a disappointment. I have similar ideas that she may not have been a firebender leading to the disappointment Ozai obviously had in Zuko's less than amazing firebending.

As for Azula's fire, it makes a lot of sense for me with a several years of Chinese internal martial arts experience. She had the hotter fire since she had no distractions of normal emotion. She was extremely imbalanced, then was overcome by her own power. The tranquility one sees in internal arts practitioners at higher levels doesn't come from lack of emotion, but balance of emotions. Yin/Yang.
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