So while searching through tags on tumblr of a few of my favorite ATLA and LOK characters, I keep having to run into a bunch of daddy issue type of posts. As much as I don’t really seem to know why a lot of the characters seem to be having a lot of these daddy issues, I really do think it does help in development of a character to help shape them up and provide a deeper back story for them to maybe explain their actions and thoughts throughout the series.
But that is not my main point of the thought here, however. While on my search, I constantly find that most continue to write that Ozai will always be the number one worst father ever because of what he’s done throughout the series; which, by the way, also gains him the majority of being the least favorite throughout the series as well. While I do not mind that most seem to dislike or even hate him, I can’t really help but feel a bit of injustice to one of my favorite characters to keep on gaining this much hate because he was just so bad (but also because a select few seem to find a reason to bash on others for liking the characters they like as well).
If we get to take a look a closer look at Ozai, he and Tarrlok seem to share a lot of similar traits.
-Both were the second born and least favored by their fathers.
-Their older siblings were their most favored by their fathers.
-The both of them had high positions in power and were eventually stripped of them by the Avatar.
-They both had their bending taken away and were later imprisoned by a family member (Tarrlok by his brother Noatok and Ozai by his son Zuko, but his bending taken by the Avatar of course)
However, unlike Tarrlok where we were able to get to see his back story and fully understand as to why he and his brother had become the way they were, Ozai was not.
Now I am not saying this because I hate Tarrlok because he is actually a favorite character of mine since the first time he came on screen in LOK, but because I feel the need to share a possible head canon for another favorite character that we barely seem to get a backstory or history on.
In my head canon, I’d like to believe that once upon time Ozai and his older brother were truly very close to each other. Iroh was not only Ozai’s older brother, but also the father figure he never really had through his real father Azulon while growing up.
Somehow I’d like to think that maybe before Ozai was even born, Azulon was taken by surprise by his wife of the news of having a second child because of their old age (though I would think Ilah is maybe 7-10 years younger then Azulon, but I could be wrong). While Ilah was thrilled of having a second child, Azulon was not, seeing as having a baby at her age could possibly pose a threat to her physical health, leaving the two to constantly argue over the fact if the baby was to live or not. Being hurt and devastated by her husband’s actions and thoughts towards her and their baby, Ilah had decided to keep the baby and go to Iroh some more to let him in on the news. While I would imagine Iroh to be a little reluctant and maybe slightly disgusted as well to have a baby brother by the time he was 19-20 years old, he would also be very supportive of his mother’s choices and pitch in to help her through her pregnancy despite constant warning of her husband and doctors that this baby could cause some serious health problems for her later on.
Now this is where another head canon of mine would seem to pop in for Ozai’s back story: whatever happened to his own mother?
I’d like to think that maybe when it was time for Ozai to be born, Ilah had grown constantly weaker and sicker to the point that she had become completely bed ridden with Iroh having to take constant care of her. By the time Ozai was finally born, she had grown so weak throughout her time that she could no longer hold on to stay alive, giving her final push and life for own child. While Iroh was thrilled to see that he now had a healthy baby brother, he would also become saddened to know that their mother had died during child birth and would be given the chance to see her baby. When their father Azulon would hear the news, I would imagine him to feel devastated at the loss of his wife, but also hatred towards the baby Ozai for having killed his wife during child birth and for making her sick while still inside of her.
Azulon would have little to no interest in the care of the child, leaving Iroh to do most of the caring and parental duties his father would not seem to take interest to.
I would imagine with Ozai growing up to have Iroh around so much, he would view his older brother as the caring and loving father figure that his own father could not be towards him. Iroh would become his care taker, his best friend, and protector. Whenever Ozai was in need of help or in some sort of trouble, Iroh would always be there for him to back him up, keep him safe, and stand up for him. Maybe Ozai really did used to look up to Iroh a lot when he was younger to the point that he really never seemed to care about his future of being firelord or not because he simply did not care nor did he really understand about it.
However, this is where my head canon would take its turn for the worse.
Maybe when Ozai was old enough to understand the world a little better, maybe by 12-13 years, Iroh would have to leave due to military business elsewhere (not Ba Sing Se of course as that would be in his later life) and with news of Iroh having to go, Ozai would feel devastated and panicked because not only would Iroh be gone for an unknown amount of time, but more so the feeling of being cared for, loved, and protected would also be gone. Ozai would beg for Iroh not to go, fearing he may never see him again but Iroh would only reassure him that everything would be alright and that he would return for him safe and sound.
With Iroh gone, Ozai was now left alone only with his father, in which I believe that Azulon could have really been the major factor of Ozai’s issues in his later life.
-Maybe Azulon had decided to try and train Ozai, but only to push him so hard to the point of constant ridicule, abuse, and emotional distress of how useless and weak he was that it tore him down into a mental breakdown?
-Maybe Ozai would try to reconnect with his father to better understand why Azulon would not want to have anything to do with him, only in turn to be put through constant neglect and abuse to test his strength not only physically but also mentally which possibly lead him break down and continuously try to gain his father’s love and attention in the same way Iroh had gotten?
-Maybe something worse could’ve happened too?
Whatever had happened to Ozai while Iroh was gone had torn him up so badly that by the time Iroh had come back, Ozai felt betrayed, hurt, angry, and jealous of Iroh because their father really did love him more and took pride in Iroh then he did over Ozai. And with Iroh trying to reconnect with his brother and better understand him, Ozai would only continue to push away and strive to become better then him, hoping in turn to gain his father’s love and favor to prove that he is not weak, but a strong individual willing to take on the duties of Firelord after their father’s passing.
But then it comes to the subject of his relationship with his family as well, something that seems to also gain him less favor in the crowds as he had torn them apart.
Me being me, I do believe that Ozai truly did love his family before and was truly happy being with them. He loved his wife and children very much, having little to no memory of what he had been put through since they had made him happy so much until it finally came back to him one day.
Maybe he favored Azula more than Zuko was for the reason he saw a part of himself in his daughter that showed through her hard work and determination that reminded him of himself when he had worked hard to try and strive for that same affection and love he wanted from his father? Maybe through her strength it had also given him the strength to see in himself that he was not as weak as he had been viewed as, thus pushing Azula harder and harder to the point of breaking her down, much like the same way Azulon had done to him?
And maybe Ozai favored Zuko less over his sister was because Zuko reminded Ozai a lot of his younger self who had been viewed as weak and dependant on his brother Iroh for everything that when Iroh was no longer there, he did not know what to do at all with himself? Maybe Zuko was also that reminder to Ozai that in the world that they are living in, the weak can not prevail in such a world they have now; a thought in which Azulon may have washed into Ozai’s mind for so long?
Maybe that’s why when I think of Ozai burning away a half of Zuko’s face, I like to think that maybe it was not intentional but having been brainwashed into placing the weak where they belong, he saw a younger form of himself through Zuko that reminded him of how weak he used to be through his father’s eyes? And by burning a scar into nearly half of Zuko’s face, he saw that maybe he was burning away a part of himself that haunted him for so long?
I’m quite sure that eventually over time, Ozai did regret a lot of the things he had done to hurt his family but somehow suppressed the thought as he was so focused on becoming the supierior being to prove himself better than his father that he had forgotten what it was to feel anything at all.
The possibilities of what happened to Ozai can range in a number of so many things and yet not once are we ever given the chance to know due to a lack of official back story. Maybe had we been given that chance of having a good glimpse of his back story like we were with Noatok and Tarrlok, maybe we would better understand Ozai’s personality and being as well as the relationship with his brother and family as well.
The thoughts of really happened to them to make them all the way they are will probably remain a good mystery for sometime, but the possibilities are also endless.
Of course this is all just my own little head canon to better understand Ozai as he is one of my favorite characters c:
But as I always say, a character with more backstory helps us all to better understand them, right? <:3