Pets are valuable companions; in the sense that they provide companionship that is often impossible to rival. They stick around like glue – and they seem to know just what to do to help make things all better. For Aang and Appa, this relationship was next to brotherhood. Appa went everywhere that Aang went, and they were almost inseparable.
Even when fate had them far from each other, they were both in such a terrible state that they could not function without one another. That’s a true relationship right there.
Aang is obviously the more popular member of this dynamic duo, but that doesn’t diminish Appa’s importance. However, not many people know much about the sky bison – which is understandable, as most people would focus on Aang’s story more than Appa.
More to Appa than meets the eye, more than him being the last remaining Sky Bison in the world; or one of the cuddliest characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the literal definition of a gentle giant, but don’t be fooled, as he can be quite aggressive and quick to anger if he perceives the slightest of threats aimed at his loved ones.
Everything about Appa is expectedly adorable, but many facts about him are not as known as they should be. So let’s take them one by one.
Aang and Appa: The Sky Bison Chose Aang, Not The Other Way Around
When you set out to get a pet, you are the one making the active choice to take one particular animal home. That is how it’s always seemed to be. However, with Aang and Appa, the story all but turns on its head.
Aang becomes an Airbending Master at the tender age of 12, after which he gets his tattoos. This sets a new world record, one that his granddaughter only breaks, Jinora, many years later. Airbending tradition states that the tattoo ceremony includes the bender bonding with a spirit animal. In this case, it is specifically one of the many Sky Bison that populate the regions around the Air Temples.
When Aang sets out to pick his companion, he meets several different calves to choose from. He is, however, aware that he must consider the Sky Bison’s preferences and respect that decision, as opposed to picking the Sky Bison he wanted the most. Once Appa accepts the gift of fruit, Aang and Appa create their bond, and their friendship is set for the rest of their lives, even into the afterlife.
Appa Was Meant To Be A Dog Instead
Aang and Appa would have had a much different dynamic had the showrunners continued with the animal designs they had for Appa in the beginning. Interestingly, Appa wasn’t always a big fluffy Sky Bison at the start of the show’s production. Instead, he was a canine-inspired creature, definitely not as big as Appa; but still big enough to carry Aang around.
It’s interesting to imagine just how the series would have gone had the creators decided to stick to the initial design. Surely, it would have been harder for Team Avatar to travel around the world with the ease that Appa had. It would have also impacted the relationship between Aang and Appa greatly.
However, it all worked out well; the decision to alter Appa into the lovable big ball of fur we know now, and we did eventually get to see the design of the first animal companion. The design was converted into Avatar Korra’s polar bear dog, Naga.
Aang and Appa: The Sky Bison Underwent A Lot Of Stylistic Changes
The animals in the world of the Last Airbender were conceived as combinations between two original animals. These hybrids would eventually become the norm in the series and spinoffs and tie-in comics. This was no different for the animal half in the relationship between Aang and Appa.
Appa, and the rest of his species, was originally conceived as a combination of a bison and a manatee or a sea cow. This is in line with the pattern of strange hybrids that appear in the show. Examples include pairings that produced Rooster Pigs, Ostrich Horses, Hippo Cows, and even Lion turtles.
Interestingly, the earlier designs for Appa show that he was more sea cow than bison, which was eventually changed to what we have in the series. Appa was also supposed to have helical horns. But it would have been difficult to create that, considering the animation style used in the show.
The creators decided to opt for simpler horns instead. We can say their decisions definitely paid off, as fans all over the world fell in love with Appa’s design. Plus, Aang and Appa might have had a weird dynamic with the previous depictions – so it’s a good idea they didn’t go with all that.
Appa Weighs About 10 Tons
Obviously, Appa is a pretty big guy, but what exactly is his weight in numbers?
Team Avatar has given us the answer to this on several occasions. It’s been stated that Appa being around was a gift from heaven, even when his weight just served about the same purpose as a battering ram. He’s one ginormous animal companion, with his size coming in at least 10 feet in height at the shoulder, which is an unconfirmed number but can be deduced from his stance with humans beside him.
In their lengthy time as Aang and Appa, along with observations from the rest of the team, particularly Sokka, the sky bison’s weight has been put at around 20,000 pounds – at least 10 tons. Of course, they didn’t have the means to measure Appa but judging from the bison’s size; you could argue that they are not far off with their estimation.
His size has come in handy, helping them fight or in extremely tight conditions with dangerous weather.
Aang and Appa Don’t Always Agree
Even the best of friends aren’t always on the same page, so considering Aang and Appa are more or less family, that’s not a surprising fact at all. It is not hard to believe. However, the specifics where this applies can be a little comedic.
As much as Appa loves Aang, he doesn’t always answer his master’s calls. Instead, Appa answers a very special sky bison whistle, much like a dog whistle, which Aang uses whenever he needs him. But the whole whistle situation is somewhat humorous.
When Aang purchases a bison whistle on one of their stopovers, the Gaang mocks him for wasting their money. Katara demands that she be allowed to control their finances from that point on.
The whistle looks like a sham largely because when Aang blows it for the first time, Appa doesn’t come as he is supposed to. As it appears, the whistle either does not work, or Appa hears it and refuses to answer because he is sleeping. If anything is clear, it’s the fact that Appa likes his sleep. A LOT. We won’t put it past him if he decides not to answer. Sleep is important, after all.
Appa Understands Human Speech And Gestures
Appa expresses himself in grunts and bellows, and it looks like Aang is the only person who has any idea what is being communicated. Nonetheless, the Avatar has a penchant for making up random stories, so he might simply be playing a prank on his friends.
On the other hand, it’s definitive that Appa can understand what the others are saying, seeing as he accurately responds to Aang’s instructions— like when he asks him to pretend to be tired so that he could stay on Kyoshi Island long enough to ride the Elephant Koi. More importantly, Appa and Momo have developed a language system that is decipherable only amongst themselves.
Aang and Appa Differ In Their Meal Choices
For the most part, Appa behaves exactly like one of the cow family. He prefers to eat plants, hay, fruits, leaves, grass. In fact, a large fraction of his diet is vegetarian, but this still does not make him herbivorous, regardless of his bovine dentition or the arrangement of teeth in the mouth.
When necessary, for instance, during the episode “Appa’s Lost Days,” he tries to eat an egg because he had been starving for quite some time. This proves that he’s obviously an omnivore if he can take in animal meat in any form.
Appa Is Smarter Than Most Humans
Appa is extremely mild-mannered (except when he perceives a threat to Aang or the others), which means that it is surprisingly easy to befriend the gentle creature. One example of this is his instant love for Sokka, which the latter would appreciate more if he didn’t get drenched in Sky Bison saliva so often.
In addition, Appa possesses at least some smarts, which is shown by how quickly and accurately he responds to specific instructions. As a result, a lot of the humans in the show could probably learn something from him.
Aang and Appa Die Together
As sad as it sounds, the connection between an Airbender and their Sky Bison is permanent, implying that it can only be broken through death. So when Aang dies, around 53 years after the end of the Hundred Year War, it is believed that Appa goes with him.
Another reason for this outcome is that both of them had spent a century in icy hibernation, which may have had a drastic impact on their respective lifespans. On a different note: What happened to Momo?
He Is Not The Last Sky Bison In Existence
The Last Airbender is paired with the only remaining member of the Sky Bison, or so it seems in the beginning. Aang suspects that the gentle animals were eradicated along with the rest of the Air Nomads during the Fire Nation raids, a belief that holds for quite some time.
In The Legend of Korra, there are considerably more Sky Bison flying around, and none of them are descended from Appa. Apparently, Aang “discovers” that many of them had survived the Hundred Year War in hiding. They only emerged when the world became more peaceful.