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Avatar: What Happened To Zuko's Mother In The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender's Prince Zuko lost his mother when he was just a child and is presumed dead, but the tie-in comics tell the story of exactly why she disappeared and where she has been. The exiled son of Fire Lord Ozai, Zuko spends much of Avatar: The Last Airbender acting as an antagonist towards Aang and his friends, since capturing the Avatar is the only way Zuko will ever be allowed an honorable return to the Fire Nation. Over time, however, Zuko redeems himself and ultimately fights alongside Aang to defeat his father, Fire Lord Ozai.

Zuko's mother is called Ursa, and she is the granddaughter of Roku, the Fire Nation Avatar who preceded Aang. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, it is only revealed that she made a bargain for Zuko's life when his father was planning to kill him and that she was later sent away from the Fire Nation. But who is Zuko's mother? The lack of information in the ATLA TV show led audiences to believe she was dead. However, at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the young Fire Prince confronts his father in jail, demanding to know anything about what really happened to Zuko's mother.

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Luckily, there is a series of sequel comics written by Gene Luen Yang with Avatar: The Last Airbender showrunners Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, set in the days after Avatar Aang defeats Fire Lord Ozai. One of the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics' story arcs, The Search, details Zuko's quest to find out what happened to his mother — and perhaps even be reunited with her. Here is the truth about what happened to Ursa, why she was banished, and where she ended up.

On the night that Ikem proposed to Ursa during one of their play rehearsals, Ursa returned home to find Fire Lord Azulon and his son Prince Ozai in her residence. Zuko's grandfather, Fire Lord Azulon, heard a prophecy from the Fire Sages that suggested that he should mix his bloodline with that of Avatar Roku. This would supposedly produce descendants with great power, securing his family's place on the throne long after he was gone. He managed to track down Ursa and forced her to marry Zuko's father, Ozai, even though she was already betrothed to Ikem.

With no real choice in the matter, Ursa had to accept Prince Ozai’s proposal and leave immediately for her new life as a Fire Nation Princess. Ikem tried to stop them from leaving, forcing Ursa to lie about her true feelings for him and claim that Prince Ozai was the better option for her future. Shortly after Ursa’s wedding to Prince Ozai, he forced her to break off communication with her family back in Hira'a. Although she tried to send letters to her family, Ozai made sure that they were never received. He had firmly separated Ursa from all of her loved ones.

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Zuko's mother, Ursa, lived for many years as Fire Princess and gave Prince Ozai two children, Zuko and Azula. When the children were still very young, their cousin (Uncle Iroh’s only son) Lu Ten was killed in battle. The children overheard Ozai asking his father Azulon to pass Iroh's throne birthright to him instead of Iroh since Iroh had abandoned his duties as General in his grief. As punishment for Ozai’s insolence, Azulon wanted Ozai to feel the pain Iroh had felt upon losing his firstborn son and ordered Ozai to kill Zuko.

Upon discovering this plot, Ursa made a deal with Ozai: she would use her herbal skills to concoct a colorless and odorless poison so that Azulon could be killed (and Zuko's life spared) and Ozai could take his place as Fire Lord. Zuko's father, Ozai, agreed to the murder plot on one condition: after Azulon was dead, Ursa would leave the Fire Nation and never return, ensuring that she could never use the same poison on Ozai. Ozai also threatened that should Ursa try to take her children with her, he would hunt them all down and kill them. A heartbroken Ursa was forced to leave her children behind.

After fleeing the Fire Nation Palace, Ursa returned to the village where she was born. There, she met a man called Noren — who was actually her first love, Ikem. Ikem had asked a spirit called the Mother of Faces to change his appearance so he could escape Ozai's wrath. Ursa decided in Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search that she would make a similar deal with the Mother of Faces to get a fresh start in life. However, when the Mother of Faces felt the pain in Ursa's heart she offered something extra: not only a new face but a new mind, where all her memories of her life as Ozai's wife would be erased. Ursa made the difficult choice to forget her children along with the rest of her former life and was given a new face and a new name: Noriko. She and Noren lived in peace together for many years and had a daughter called Kiyi — Zuko and Azula's half-sister.

Zuko first meets Noren and Noriko in The Search without realizing that they are actually Ikem and Ursa. After learning the truth from the Mother of Faces, Zuko returns to the village and reveals to Noriko/Ursa that he is her son. Noriko then chooses to have her face and memories restored and, finally, she and Zuko are properly reunited. Azula, unfortunately, is not so quick to forgive her mother. Having been driven mad at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender, she believed that Ursa had been secretly plotting her downfall all her life and was responsible for everything bad that had ever happened to her. Fire Lord Zuko manages to stop Azula from killing their mother, Ursa, and watches helplessly as his sister runs away. The Search ends with Ursa promising to tell Zuko everything about her life, starting from the very beginning. The Fire Lord family still has quite a bit of trauma to unpack, but with a positive mother figure back in their lives, the comics suggests they will work it out.

Later in the Avatar: The Last Airbender companion comics, Ursa returns to the Fire Nation Palace for the first time since she was banished and finally confronts Ozai again — now powerless and locked up in the dungeons. Ozai proceeds to threaten to destroy everyone she loves, but Ursa sees him for what he really is: "a small, small man." Ursa walks away from the disgraced ex-Fire Lord, no longer afraid of her former husband, ignoring him as he impotently orders her to grovel for him.

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