Many fans of the series Avatar and Legend of Korra have had the same question on their minds. Do the characters have last names? The answer, in a word, is—no. With both series set in a pseudo-medieval oriental world, surnames would not be commonplace or commonly used.
When it comes to the world of Avatar, it is admittedly different in several ways. Other than the fact that it is populated by not only spirits and individuals who have the ability to bend the four essential elements, it seems that very few of the characters possess last names.
Avatar’s franchise: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are receiving new fans due to both series having been added to Netflix’s lineup. Although it may seem somewhat surprising that a select few of the characters possess last names, and that any of the characters themselves never brings this fact up, there seems to be a valid reason.
In today’s world, both countries and cultures seem to have residents who carry a last name. Countries that England once occupied, such as India, chose to take on many English customs—primarily one of which was that of surnames. However, in mainly Asian cultures, unless the families were wealthy or famous, a last name was not that common.
This approach appears to be used in Avatar, resulting in the franchise only providing last names to a handful of characters. Although this practice can be seen in both of the series, it is perhaps more evident in the Legend of Korra. As an example, the only main character in the Legend of Korra series that carries a last name is the main character—Toph. Her last name is Beifong, which she then proceeds to pass down to her daughters, thusly Lin and Suyin Beifong.
What is really interesting is that the characters of Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko, do not have a surname, even though their family has ruled over the Fire Nation.
If logic were to follow, the only character that doesn’t have a surname, but should, is that of Aang, seeing he was the Avatar, and his descendants were known to play roles of importance in the affairs of the world. It could also be, that much like the Tibetans who inspired the characters, Aang and his family decided not to take on a surname by choice.
In many of the cultures of the East, in the time period that the series is set, the derivation of surnames was usually from either tribal affiliation or position within the tribe. With this in mind, some of the main character’s full names could present as Fire Lord Zuko, Fire Lord Ozai, or even Korra of the Southern Water Tribe.
As it is, surnames are not needed by the characters for the world in which the series is set. Fans know the vital information—that of their first names and the roles that they each play in the overall storyline.