Avatar the Last Airbender is an amazing show set in an elaborate world inspired by real cultures. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the connection between Buddhism and the air nomads. While their lifestyle and clothing certainly ring some bells, the whole concept of reincarnation is a major underlying theme of the whole series. The theme even continues with Momo.
In fact, it’s kind of the whole “avatar” thing. Aang is the reincarnation of the avatar entity – so who’s to say that he’s the only incarnation. One fan was quick to point out that there are many reasons why one of the most beloved (albeit unassuming) is likely a reincarnation.
Reddit user, PM_ME_SOME_ANY_THING, posted about how she believes there is a lot more to Momo than we give him credit for. They argue that Momo is actually the reincarnation of another air nomad, Monk Gyatso.
Who Is Monk Gyatso?
If the name doesn’t ring any immediate bells, don’t feel too bad. The character didn’t get a lot of screen time. In fact, we only got to see him in flashbacks (sparing the scarring moment when the gang discovered his skeleton in the deserted temples). He’s actually a very important character, though, who played a key role in Aang’s upbringing.
Gyatso was both Aang’s guardian and mentor. He was a gentle soul who guided the young avatar and taught him all about the ways of the air nomads. Gyatso was a fun-loving character who was an amazing airbender and, obviously, loved Aang very much. Even though he died nearly a century before, there is some reason to believe that he was watching over Aang and the gang in a somewhat literal sense.
What’s the Argument?
So what’s the reasoning behind Momo the old Monk? To understand this argument, we have to go all the way back to the grisly beginning of the flying lemur. Unlike Appa, Momo was not part of the gang from the start. When Aang first woke up and embarked on his adventure, it was just him, Appa, Katara, and Sokka.
It was a pretty rough and naïve start to this new adventure, and one of their first decisions as a group was to seek out their air temples. From the beginning of the story, we are told how the air nomads were wiped out by the fire nation (specifically to kill off any potential avatar reincarnations as the air nation was next in line). While the audience kind of expects this trip is going to go a little badly, there’s a part of us rooting for someone (anyone) to be there.
Well, it was a complete disaster.
The temples were not only destroyed but abandoned. While Aang remembers his home “just like it was yesterday,” a lot can happen in a hundred years (especially while there’s an intense war going on). Although there is not a person in sight, the gang soon finds out that they are actually not the only living things there. They end up finding the sole flying lemur, Momo.
What happens next is the moment that inspired the entire fan theory. Momo dashes off and inadvertently lead Aang to the remains of his mentor, Monk Gyatso. This seemingly coincidental moment sends Aang off the deep end. It’s our first real glimpse of just how dark this “children’s” show wants to take us.
How does this event point to reincarnation? Well, think about the intention for a moment. They were in a giant temple, and the lemur just so happened to lead him to the dead body of his mentor? Furthermore, the flying lemur doesn’t leave his side since this moment. It all starts out with a seemingly skittish lemur running away, but upon showing Aang the remains of the Monk (and him going full-on avatar-state), he joins the crew and never tries to leave again.
What does Aang think?
Of course, we can’t know what Aang is thinking, and it’s never explicitly said, but his strange relationship with the lemur also inspired the theory. Aang is a loving and compassionate character who takes care of his companions and loves animals. He goes above and beyond to keep them safe (and we all remember the drama and trauma of Appa going missing).
Still, not all of his interactions are the same. Appa, the flying bison with which he was raised (and frozen), is an important part of his life. They are very close, and he treats him with the utmost respect, even going far as defending him from passive-aggressive comments.
However, the relationship they have is really like that of someone and their pet. He gives Appa a few short phrases now and again and constantly tells him what a good bison he is. However, he does not have this same relationship with Momo. Instead, Aang talks to Momo as though he was a person.
He and Momo have a strong relationship that feels more like a person and their friend versus an animal. Momo also demonstrates some cognitively advanced behavior. Of course, this sounds like we’re really “reaching” wince. It’s a kid show, but many of the other animals act on commands or just like regular animals. However, Momo seems to have a higher level of self-awareness.
Considering how big of a part of their lives reincarnation is, it isn’t too farfetched to believe that Aang would believe Momo was a reincarnation. Plus, the two had a pretty deep and immediate connection with each other.
Is this theory confirmed?
So – like many other things in the universe of Avatar the Last Airbender, creators don’t actually comment on anything. They let fans freely express themselves without ever making any real comments. What we could look as is original intentions.
In the Avatar Extras, creators reveal some of the content from the episode where Momo first appeared at the Southern Air Temple. It turns out, originally, they were going to go with the idea that Momo was the reincarnation of Gyatso. Just because it was written into the original plan doesn’t mean that it’s true, though.
Momo went under several different “versions” before becoming the loveable lemur that we grew to know. There were plans to have him be a little robot companion or even have Aang’s tattoos. In the end, we got the lemur, and the direct confirmation about reincarnation was scrapped.
Will we ever know?
Avatar is getting a lot of attention thanks to the surge in popularity following the Netflix re-release. While the show ended over a decade ago, the franchise isn’t dead yet. Comics could always come through, and there is the chance that other elements of the story may be explored in the upcoming show.
For now, though, it seems fan theories will have to remain just that. Without any direct answers from creators, fan theories are just a great way to have fun and add depth to the universe.
Do you think that Momo is a reincarnation? What are some of your favorite Avatar fan theories? We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below!