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Nice work, Lao Beifong.
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Lao Beifong was a wealthy figure and businessman native to the Earth Kingdom. He was the husband of Poppy Beifong and the father of Toph. Caring deeply for his daughter and only wishing for her safety, he was extremely overprotective of her, and hid her existence from the rest of the world. She consequently ran away from home at Gaoling, resulting in a rift between Lao, Toph, and Poppy.

After the Hundred Year War, he became the business partner of Loban and co-founded the world's first joint venture between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom, known as Earthen Fire Refinery. When the project and his life were threatened by a crisis, Lao finally acknowledged his daughter as she was and reconciled with her. Following these events, Lao's company, Earthen Fire Industries, continued to grow, while the settlement around the Earthen Fire Refinery expanded dramatically and became known as Cranefish Town. Lao became one of new settlement's leaders as member of the Business Council.

History

Early life

After it was discovered that Toph was an earthbender, Lao enrolled her in earthbending classes with Master Yu, though he only allowed her to learn basic forms and breathing techniques. Lao loved his only child dearly, but failed to recognize what his daughter really wanted, believing her blindness made her weak, helpless, and frail. As a result of this, he had her guarded and cared for the majority of the time. However, unbeknownst to him, Toph had excellent earthbending skills.[2]

The runaway

In 100 AG, Avatar Aang and his friends showed up at his house, desiring to speak to his daughter. Lao asked the Avatar about how much longer the Hundred Year War would last, and recommended Master Yu to him for earthbending training; unknown to him, Toph and Aang were fighting throughout the dinner. The dinner was ultimately ruined when Aang sneezed and airbent all of the plates off the table.

Lao decided to further restrict Toph's freedom, as he was not able to see his daughter as anything but a helpless girl.

That night, Lao and his wife ventured to the courtyard with Aang's friends and Master Yu, where they discovered that their daughter and the Avatar had been kidnapped, and were to pay ransom at Earth Rumble VI for her return. After returning, they reclaimed their daughter, but the earthbenders insisted on keeping the Avatar. Toph subsequently revealed her earthbending prowess by defeating the Earth Rumble VI competitors who were holding the Avatar hostage, revealing to Lao that Toph was an incredible earthbender. However, his fear for her safety increased rather than being diminished, and decided she would be guarded around the clock, claiming that she had too much time for leisurely activities. This drove Toph to run away from the confines of her home to teach Aang the art of earthbending. Upon realizing she was missing, Lao assumed Aang had kidnapped her, and commissioned Xin Fu, the host of the Earth Rumble VI tournament, and Master Yu, to do "whatever it [took] to bring [her] home", offering a chest of gold as a reward.[2]

However, the two earthbenders were thwarted by Toph's new metalbending abilities, finding themselves locked in the very cage intended to hold her. After they escaped, they gave up their search for Toph, inciting a rift between Lao and his wife Poppy, who blamed her husband for losing their daughter.[1] Lao decided to leave Gaoling to make a new life for himself, and was approached by Loban with an offer to start the Earthen Fire Refinery together. Even though he still could not cope with the fact that his daughter was not like he had always believed,[3] Lao continued to love and worry for Toph during this time, blaming himself for everything that had happened.[1]

Family reunion

Lao saw his daughter again for the first time in two years at the Earthen Fire Refinery.

As co-owner of the factory, Lao accompanied Loban in 102 AG to Yu Dao in order to meet with the city's government in regards to the construction of a railroad between the city and the refinery. When he returned to the factory, he was shell-shocked to find Toph, whom he had not seen in two years, there as well.[4] However, when Satoru pointed out that he had said he did not have a family, Lao recovered and reiterated that statement to be the truth, dismissing Toph as some confused little girl as opposed to his daughter. He promptly turned his back to her and ordered the Rough Rhinos to escort her and the rest of Team Avatar off the premises.

Lao returned to his office, where he reminisced about his family over a family picture. His train of thought was cut short, however, when Toph barged into his office. He dismissed her again as being confused and urged her to leave, lest he called security. When Toph called him out for being a liar, he told her that he had spent countless hours of his life and a good portion of his fortune to raise a poised, demure, obedient young woman, for whom he did everything to protect her from the dangers of the world. When he looked at the Toph before him, he only saw a rude and ungrateful child, whom he did not recognize as the quiet, little girl he had raised. After he was told that was because it had all been an act to please him, he ended the conversation by turning his back on her. Before she could leave his office, he was urged by Sokka, who had barged in, to order all his workers to evacuate an unstable mine. Lao dismissed him, stating that the crystal mine's condition was closely monitored, though was shocked to learn that Sokka was talking about an iron mine, the excavation of which he had not been aware of.

Lao apologized to Toph for his past inability to accept her true self, proving that he loved her.

Lao followed Sokka down to the mine, where his surprise only increased upon witnessing the undeniable evidence of excavation. He stated that the mine should not have been there as he was under the impression that he had an agreement with Loban to not excavate the iron ore in that place as the area was unstable. Despite Loban showing up and denouncing the existence of such an agreement, Lao ordered all the workers to leave the premises, urging them to worry about their lives, rather than their livelihoods. When the mine subsequently collapsed, Lao became trapped with several others under the dirt, his life only saved by his daughter's metalbending, as she used the skill to keep them all from being crushed.[3] Realizing it might be their last moment, Lao approached his daughter and apologized for how he had acted, adding that he had thought about her every day since she had left. Toph told him he did not know her well because if he did, he knew he would not have to doubt their survival as she was the greatest earthbender of all time.

Realizing that he had to treat his daughter like an equal, Lao finally asked for her help.

After Aang and Toph's students rescued the group, Lao quickly reacted as his daughter collapsed from exhaustion, catching her in his arms and assuring The Dark One that she would be fine. He told the students who he was before worriedly resuming his watch over Toph. Lao took her over to a table and held her hand as she lay unconscious when a female worker ran over and called to him. At first, he scolded her for yelling as Toph needed her rest, but to his distress, the worker informed him that Aang was about to destroy the Earthen Fire Refinery. When Toph awoke and asked what was happening, Lao began to explain, but quickly stopped and requested she continue to rest. Toph rebuffed him, not wanting to be safe, prompting Lao to apologize and reveal what Aang was about to do for reasons he was not sure of. The businessman added that it would not only ruin him but also remove a symbol of peace, a sign that nations could work together; he thus called on his daughter to help and watched as she and her students honored the request. His refinery, however, was ultimately destroyed by the angered spirit, General Old Iron.

After Aang vanquished Old Iron, Lao gave a speech to his workers, asking them to stay with him and rebuild, promising that it would be worth their while and not just financially, finishing with a call to build the future together. Afterward, he asked Toph what she thought of his speech, to which he was told it was not bad, although not as good as the ones she gave at her school.[1] Lao subsequently made his daughter an executive partner of Earthen Fire Industries.[5]

Growth of Cranefish Town

In the next months, more businesses were set up in the area where the Earthen Fire Refinery was located. Many people seeking employment followed, and the small worker settlement grew into a bustling agglomeration. It became known as "Cranefish Town", and soon began to experience growing unrest due to overpopulation, unemployment, as well as tensions between benders and nonbenders. Noticing that the town was growing rapidly and crime was on the rise, Lao and other factory owners founded the Business Council as unofficial governing body for Cranefish Town in order to oversee the growth of the settlement and find solutions for its problems.[6] Lao began to employ his guards as the town's security force.

Lao thanked his daughter for brining the Avatar to Cranefish Town.

When Team Avatar arrived in Cranefish Town so that Toph could see her father, Lao and his guards hurried to meet them. He enthusiastically greeted the group, thanking Toph for bringing the Avatar to the city in its hour of need. Lao then explained the settlement's rapid growth to Aang as well as his friends, and invited him to come to a Business Council meeting so he could see Cranefish Town's issues for himself.

Before they could do so, a brawl escalated between different bending gangs on the nearby street, forcing most of Team Avatar to intervene. Lao was shielded by his guards from the chaos, and asked if Sokka also intended to join the fight before their conversation was interrupted by a gang member. Thanks to Toph, however, the criminal could do no harm to Lao and his companions. After the brawl had ended, leaving several houses destroyed, Lao approached Aang and stated that fighting between benders has become a serious problem in the city, and that he needed Aang's authority as the Avatar to deal with it. Aang reiterated his agreement to attend the Business Council meeting, though he insisted on first helping the people who lost their homes in the building's collapse. After one woman rejected Aang's help, saying she did not want her home that was destroyed by benders to be repaired by them, Lao assured him that he is already helping by agreeing to attend the meeting, and that he may have a solution to end the bender violence in the city.

Lao then escorted the group to his ostrich horse carriage. While traveling through the streets to the city hall for the meeting, Aang again noted how much Cranefish Town has grown in such a short time. Lao explained that many people came to the city to find work, but that the factories were unable to employ everyone, and as a result, some benders resorted to using their skills to make money through dishonest means, including robbing nonbenders.

Lao proposed banning public bending to stop the conflict between benders and nonbenders.

They arrived soon afterward, and Lao greeted his fellow Business Council members before beginning a small speech. After praising Cranefish Town's recent successes, Lao noted that bending violence had become a major issue, and proposed to ban public bending. The proposal stunned the Avatar and caused the council to descend into a heated dispute. One of the bender council members claimed that benders should be free to use their abilities however they want, with another accusing Lao of having an anti-bender agenda. In response, one of the nonbender council members asked the benders how they would solve the problem, stating that she is afraid to walk through her own neighborhood at night. The meeting broke down as th the two sides hurled accusations at each other, while Lao attempted to calm them down.

Lao finally managed to get the argument under control and invited Aang to speak. Acknowledging the problems caused by bender violence, Aang nevertheless rejected Lao's suggestion of a ban on bending, believing it would punish honest benders as well as criminals. Lao was left a bit miffed by this turn of events. Instead the Avatar proposed creating a police force in the city to maintain law and order, a proposal that is seconded by Liling, a bender council member. Liling revealed that she had a security team of benders recruited from Cranefish Town's population, whom she suggested could be trained as police officers. Aang asked about the size of her security team, and Liling admitted that she did not have enough to police the whole city, but they could pass their training on to others once they themselves were trained. Lao asked that nonbenders be included the police force, and Liling agreed to do so once the police force had been established and the violence in the city dealt with. Despite this, Lao had doubts about the idea, but Aang claimed that a police force is a logical way to protect the people of Cranefish Town. Liling thanked Aang for his contribution to the meeting, stating that Cranefish Town needed true leadership rather than unfair laws that punish honest people. Getting the hint, Lao was annoyed how Liling had once again questioned his leadership. She called for a vote on Aang's proposal, and the entire council save Lao voted in favor of it. Lao later told Katara that he had set Team Avatar up with a house for the duration of their stay in Cranefish Town.[5]

On the next morning, Lao was informed that the Earthen Fire Refinery had been bombed by benders, quickly traveling to his property to check the damage. Once there, he informed Team Avatar that several other factories had been attacked in the night. Lao also agreed to provide the names of those factory owners who had suffered from attacks to the Avatar.[7]

Upon being saved by Toph, one council member told Lao that he had an amazing daughter.

As tensions escalated from Liling's bender supremacists who revealed Lao's proposition to ban public bending, the Business Council building was set on fire with Lao and several other council members still inside. However, they were saved thanks to Team Avatar's quick intervention. Aang and Katara doused the fire with waterbending, Toph broke down the doors and guided her father and the others out. At that momement, one fellow council member told Lao that he had an extremely impressive daughter, causing him proudly smile. Regardless, the attack on the council was merely a distraction, as the supremacists successfully freed Liling who had been imprisoned at the Earthen Fire Refinery. Once there, Lao supervised the damage and listened as Team Avatar planned their next moves.

Later that afternoon, Team Avatar and Lao's guards defeated the supremacists. After the uprising had been quelled, Lao thanked Suki for detaining most of the bender supremacists, and that he did not want to see her go. Aang assured Lao that he had not only asked Suki to stay, but also asked the rest of the Kyoshi Warriors to come help the nonbender police force formed from Lao's guards. Suki promised that they would stay in Cranefish Town as long as they were needed. She believed that the city had the beginnings of an excellent police force, and Aang wanted to find some trustworthy benders to be a part of the police force as well. Lao then respectfully bowed, thanking the Avatar for his commitment and aid.[8]

Following the end of the Bending Supremacist Uprising, Lao started to guide aspiring entrepeneurs and did what he could to employ locals looking for work.[6]

Later life

Lao and Poppy eventually reconciled and resumed living together. In 141 AG, they gave shelter to their granddaughter Suyin after she was sent away from Republic City by her mother to avoid having to go to jail for participating in a robbery.[9]

Personality

Lao believed in progress and a better future, as showcased when he requested help from his employees during a speech.

Lao was a generally caring and kind man who valued his family and employees, trying to prioritize their well-being; the latter felt consequently considerable loyalty to him.[1] A shrewd though moral businessman, Lao liked to take opportunities to both further his wealth as well as improve the world by doing so.[1][5] Lao hoped for a world where the four nations would work together and overcome their violent past, seeing his own projects as a pathway toward this future.[1]

Lao sought what he believed to be the best for his family, though he could be extremely overbearing, notably to his only daughter, Toph. Ignorant to Toph's true earthbending abilities, he perceived her as helpless and fragile, an image to which, in reality, Toph did not compare in the least. This view remained unchanged even after seeing Toph's undeniable skill first hand. Toph's blindness resulted in him being overprotective of her and she was placed under strict surveillance. His wish to keep his daughter safe often influenced his decisions and contradicted Toph's own desires.[10] It was the culmination of his overprotective nature and his blindness to the truth which galvanized Toph to leave, but even following this, rather than admitting his error, his attitude did not change, as he first believed Aang had kidnapped her[2] and continued to refuse to acknowledge her true self.[1][2]

In regards to his family, Lao displayed a hard side, unwilling to change his views for a long time.

A part of Lao's perspectives regarding Toph was his certainty and self-convinced view that he had raised Toph to be an obedient girl, his ideal image of a perfect daughter. He could not reconcile his delusion with the reality of his daughter being more than what he saw her as and wanted her to be. His pride refused to allow him to admit he was wrong, even when his wife blamed him for their daughter running away and even after reuniting with Toph later. He displayed his pride and delusions yet again by first refusing to acknowledge Toph as his daughter until she forced him to admit he was lying and confess his self-righteous thoughts and feelings where he laid blame upon Toph rather than himself, by calling her a rude and ungrateful child while Toph told him the daughter he thought he had raised was a lie born from a miserable wish to please him.[3]

Still, Lao showed himself to value the lives of his employees over profit and when he witnessed Toph's mastery of earth as well as metal, he recognized this might be his last chance to do so and reconciled with his daughter and, from then on, he treated Toph with respect and as an equal.[1] Following the growth of Cranefish Town into a city with massive problems, Lao felt responsible to tackle them, organizing the Business Council, enacting laws, and using his guards as an ad hoc police force.[5]

Relatives

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Lu
   
   
Wumei
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Descendants
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Lao
   
   
Poppy
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Kanto
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Toph
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Lin
   
   
Suyin
   
   
Baatar
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Baatar Jr.
   
   
Huan
   
   
Opal
   
   
Wei
   
   
Wing

Appearances

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book Two: Earth (土)

Graphic novels

Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game

Trivia

  • In contrast with most Earth Kingdom citizens, Lao had brown eyes instead of the typical green.[3]
  • Lao is the first out of three known fathers of a member of a Team Avatar to be antagonistic toward the team, the others being Ozai and Hiroshi Sato. However, he is the only one to have never attempted to murder his child.
  • According to the Avatar: The Last Airbender YouTube channel, Lao was a direct descendant of Lu Beifong.[11]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Rift Part Three (November 5, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 DiMartino, Michael Dante (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (May 5, 2006). "The Blind Bandit". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 6. Nickelodeon.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Rift Part Two (July 2, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.
  4. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Rift Part One (March 5, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Hicks, Faith Erin (writer), Wartman, Peter (artist), Hill, Ryan (colorist). Imbalance Part One (December 18, 2018), Dark Horse Comics.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 74.
  7. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Hicks, Faith Erin (writer), Wartman, Peter (artist), Hill, Ryan (colorist). Imbalance Part Two (May 14, 2019), Dark Horse Comics.
  8. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Hicks, Faith Erin (writer), Wartman, Peter (artist), Matera, Adele (colorist). Imbalance Part Three (October 1, 2019), Dark Horse Comics.
  9. Mattila, Katie (writer) & Graham, Ian (director). (July 18, 2014). "Old Wounds". The Legend of Korra. Book Three: Change. Episode 6. Nickelodeon.
  10. Throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  11. Toph Beifong's COMPLETE Family Tree!. Avatar: The Last Airbender (YouTube channel) (August 22, 2020). Retrieved on September 6, 2020.
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