Sokka and Chief Arnook have a discussion that answers my question, What inspired Sokka to turn to who he turned to in Bitter Work?
Takes Place after the Season 1 Finale and then during Bitter Work; heavily spiritual; written before the announcement that the map of the Avatar world we see in the show opening is the
“The spirits gave me a vision when Yué was born. I saw a beautiful, brave young woman become the moon spirit.” Chief Arnook of the Northern Water Tribe sighed in resignation, looking up at the realization of his vision at last. “I knew this day would come.”
The boy who had loved his daughter as much as he had looked up at him. “You must be proud.”
“So proud. And sad.” Sokka had no response, but before a depressing silence could set in, the chief spoke again. “Sixteen years ago, I prayed to the great spirits of the moon and ocean, the guardians of my people, the source of our power, to save my daughter…” He did not add, but instead, this… but Sokka heard it loud and clear all the same. He was thinking the same thing.
“The spirit of the moon did save her,” Sokka said next, trailing off. He did not add, But why couldn’t the spirits save her without strings attached? but the chief heard it loud and clear.
She had lived only to die, only to sacrifice herself for a “great” spirit powerless against men. Sokka couldn’t help feeling like Yué and her family and people (and himself) had been cheated. Her fate had never been her own, her life never hers to live. Was this the price everyone paid who turned to the spirits for help? Were all the spirits so vulnerable they needed humans to sacrifice to protect them, too? This was what the Northern Water Tribe worshipped, feared, and revered?
But this wasn’t the time to vent but to mourn, so all Sokka said was, “Why did it have to happen this way?”
Chief Arnook lowered his gaze from the moon and looked straight ahead as he answered, “Even the spirits are not all-powerful.”
Sokka had no reply to that. He had never liked magic or all the mysticism surrounding bending and the spirits. He thought of the Hei Bai that had kidnapped him and the Face Stealer Aang told them about on the way back to the oasis from the tundra last night. The spirits were powerful, all right, but they were hardly invincible. So much for depending on them, then, Sokka thought.
Sokka opened his eyes and looked back up at the moon, trying to think of what to say before Chief Arnook spoke again. “When I was a young boy, my father once took me on a diplomatic mission to the kingdom on the Western side of the world.” Sokka turned toward the chief with involuntary interest as he continued. He had never met or even heard of anyone who had been to the strange lands in the West before. “They believe in a very different sort of being in the West. They do not worship the many spirits of the elements, but the one all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing Creator of the whole world.”
“What do they call it?” Sokka asked.
“This Spirit of the World has no name,” the chief replied. “He needs none, for to them, there is no other.”
“And this being has the power to answer prayer without strings attached?” Sokka wondered out loud, skeptically. “So why hasn’t He done something about this war already?”
“Even our spirits cannot affect free will and how humans will misuse it,” Arnook answered him. That was true, Sokka silently agreed, and in all honesty, the thought of a higher power controlling his free will was less appealing than a higher power who allowed humans free will, even if they didn’t use it in the best way. That didn’t mean he bought the idea.
“I sure wish this ‘Creator’ had been listening sixteen years ago,” Sokka said sarcastically, but the chief answered him seriously.
“Why do you say that?” Now Arnook closed his eyes, almost mournfully. “I never asked for His help.”
Sokka wondered if the chief was saying all this because… he believed the story? “You think He would have saved Yué, really saved her, for good, had you asked him instead?”
“We will never know, will we?” was the only answer. “But if there really is an all-powerful being for whom nothing is impossible, I should like to know more about Him.”
Sokka wondered how the spirits he knew for sure were real would feel about that idea, but if this omnipotent spirit of the West really existed, they would probably be no match for Him. He still didn’t buy it, though.
“How could you get to know someone when you don’t even know their name?” Sokka said, more to himself than Arnook.
“I lost my daughter for the moon spirit today,” said the chief. “Even the moon and ocean alone could not protect my people when it came down to the wire. Perhaps someday, Sokka, if you ever again find yourself in dire circumstances beyond your control, trapped between a rock and a hard place, you may find yourself turning to a higher power for help.”
“I’ve never asked the spirits for help, and if this is the best deal they can give you,” Sokka said, gesturing toward the moon, “well, I’m not impressed.”
He was venting now. Time to go, he decided, but the chief turned to leave first. “Neither are the inhabitants of the West.” The two were facing back to back now. “ ‘Wait until it comes down to the wire. See who you will turn to for help.’ That is what they told my father. That is what I tell you.” With that, the father of the girl he loved walked away and left the young man alone with his thoughts.
“Even if I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place,” Sokka concluded, “Why would I ask some Highest-Power-with-no-name for help?”
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
“Okay, Karma Person, or Thing, or Whoever’s in charge of this stuff, if I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat and sarcasm! Okay?” He wasn’t really sure how this worked. Making some sort of deal was how it worked with the spirits, if he remembered correctly, but calling out to the spirits from his prison in this crevice had never occurred to him.
When it truly came down to the wire, there was only one place he turned to for help…