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|“||So you may prepare your guardians, build your monuments to a so-called "free world", but take heed... there will be no victory in strength.||„|
|~ Salem to Ozpin.|
|“||A smaller, more honest soul. It's true that a simple spark can ignite hope, breathe fire into the hearts of the weary. The ability to derive strength from hope is undoubtedly mankind's greatest attribute... which is why I will focus all of my power to snuff it out. How does it feel? Knowing that all of your time and effort has been for nothing? That your guardians have failed you? That everything you've built will be torn down before your very eyes? Your faith in mankind was not misplaced. When banded together, unified by a common enemy, they are a noticeable threat. But divide them, place doubt into their minds, and any semblance of power they once had will wash away. Of course, they won't realize it at first. Like you, they'll cling to their fleeting hope, their aspirations. But this is merely the first move. So you send your guardians. Your Huntsmen and Huntresses. And when they fail and you turn to your smaller soul, know that you send her to the same pitiful demise. This is the beginning of the end, Ozpin. And I can't wait to watch you burn.||„|
| ~ Salem in "End of the Beginning".|
Salem is the main antagonist of RWBY. She leads a group of people with malicious plans, with her goals being to divide and weaken the people of Remnant, then collect the four Relics and summon the gods so they may wipe the world clean and she can remake the world the way she sees fit.
She is voiced by Jen Taylor, who also voiced Cortana in the Halo series.
Salem's skin is a deathly white color, covered with deep red and purple veins that run up her arms and face. The sclerae of her eyes are jet black and her irises glow red. She has a black diamond-shaped marking in the center of her forehead.
She wears a very long black cloak with red designs resembling eyes. The designs bear a striking visual resemblance to the markings found on Cinder's glove (it is assumed to be her emblem). She has white hair formed into a bun with six offshoots from which ornaments are suspended.
|“||Salem's smart. She works from the shadows, using others to get what she wants, so that when it comes time to place the blame, we can only point at each other. She's trying to divide us - humanity, and so far she's done a pretty damn good job.||„|
|~ Qrow Branwen describing Salem.|
Salem is a highly insidious and manipulative individual who patiently moves to undermine and destroy her enemies with cold and deliberate resolve. She is also shown to be highly intellectual, with a healthy respect for her enemy, mankind, which she recognizes as possessing both resourcefulness and ingenuity. She also acknowledges humanity's capacity to draw strength from hope, but she uses this knowledge to subvert and destroy them. She is humble enough to recognize that there are limits to her abilities and that she can only do so much for her subordinates.
She is very confident and self-assured, secure in her knowledge that she can best whatever Ozpin sends to stop her and her goals. She also appears to be cruel or sadistic, for she seems to relish the prospect of watching Ozpin burn.
In contrast, Salem is also fair and collegial towards her allies, giving credit where credit is due and showing genuine appreciation to those who are loyal. In enforcing this atmosphere of fairness, she also discourages unnecessary malignance and cruelty amongst her associates. When Tyrian Callows returns after having failed to capture Ruby Rose, she merely tells him that he disappointed her and walks away. She is also seen tolerating her allies unruly behavior to some extent, such as Tyrian's manic tendencies and Watts' snide and condescending attitude.
However, Salem is not above losing her temper, as she is particularly demanding when inquiring whether Cinder has truly killed Ozpin or not. She later became angry with Lionheart after he started to become less afraid of her and be more outspoken in her presence. Salem, on the other hand, as shown in Volume 6, will lose her temper at the mere mention of Ozpin, as her hatred for him is so deep, upon learning from Hazel that he is still alive and has tasked Team RWBY to deliver the Relic of Knowledge to Atlas causes her to let out a primal scream that shatter the windows of her room.
Both Qrow and Raven describe her as someone who would make use of anybody to help further her goals, something Salem herself suggests when explaining her decisions to Cinder. Raven states that she would then discard the people uses if they become obsolete to her. Salem is actively seeking out the Relics left behind by the brother gods. Her current goal is to acquire all four Relics as well as the power of the four Maidens, needed to unlock the chambers containing the Relics.
In a time before the world was Remnant, Salem was a human woman locked in a tower by her cruel father. One day, she was rescued by a brave knight named Ozma. The two fell in love and spent their life together until Ozma fell deathly ill and passed away. Desperate to bring back her lost love, Salem met with the God of Light to beg him to bring Ozma back, but the God of Light refused in order to maintain the balance of life and death.
Seeing no other hope, Salem turned to the God of Darkness for help. The God of Darkness, thinking he has a worshiper and follower, agreed to her request. However, the God of Light intervened and explained the situation to the God of Darkness, who corrected his mistake. The two of them then cursed Salem with immortality by bathing her in the Fountain of Life, hoping it would teach her the importance of life and death.
Salem was distraught that she could not die and be with her beloved, even trying to kill herself many times. However, she decided she could use her gift to get revenge on the gods. She went around the world, flaunting her immortality and claiming she stole it from the gods. She would describe the gods as being able to be overthrown, leading to a massive human revolution against the gods. When humans tried to kill the gods, the God of Darkness wiped out everyone in the world except for Salem, and the gods abandoned the world as a "Remnant" of what it once was.
Salem wandered the world for centuries as life returned to it, but only desired to die. She eventually came across the God of Darkness' Grimm Pool, which she thought would counter the Fountain of Life and finally kill her. She dove in, but was not killed, but rather transformed into an entity craving destruction while also given authority over the Grimm.
However, Ozma was given the chance by the God of Light to return to Remnant and reunite humanity. Once he did, he could gather the relics of knowledge, creation, choice, and destruction to summon the gods again and have them once again live among them. However, if humanity was still divided when they returned, the gods would wipe the world clean again. Ozma agreed to the task so he could be with Salem again, and returned in a new body. He found Salem, and the two reunited, though she blamed the destruction of the old world on the gods and Ozma did not tell her of his task. Seeing each other as immortal beings, Salem suggested they use their powers to become the new gods of the world. Ozma reluctantly agreed, and the two grew a following as god-like beings. Eventually, the two married and started a family, parenting four daughters.
However, Salem's ambitions grew stronger, and her desire to rule over humans began to become her one goal and obsession. Ozma, fearful of the person she had become, explained to her why he had been sent back. Feeling betrayed, Salem caught Ozma trying to sneak away with their children. Salem lashed out and the two did battle, resulting in the deaths of Ozma and the children.
However, because his task was not yet completed, Ozma's soul traveled into the body of a like-minded individual. This continued for centuries until Ozma, now known as Ozpin, remembered his task and began trying to reunite humanity. However, Salem opposed him and tried to divide humanity. She planned to find the relics so she could summon the gods; when the gods would see how divided the world still was, it would be destroyed and could be made anew, this time in the way she designed.
In "Ruby Rose", Salem narrates the early of history of humanity, born from dust. She tells of their struggles against the Creatures of Grimm, their discovery of nature's wrath, Dust and the beginnings of civilization in the absence of the shadow of the Grimm. Salem ominously warns that "there will be no victory in strength". However, Ozpin replies that "Perhaps victory is in the simpler things that you've long forgotten. Things that require a smaller, more honest soul."
In "End of the Beginning", after the fall of Beacon Academy and the death and destruction that are wrought upon Vale, Salem's conversation with Ozpin is continued. Salem declares that this is merely the first step in her plan to divide humanity, to snuff out their source of hope which they draw strength from. She claims that she will destroy everything that Ozpin has built, and she invites him to send in his Guardians, his Huntsmen and his Huntresses, and his "simple soul"; she will defeat them all and watch Ozpin burn.
In "The Next Step", after the Fall of Beacon, Salem holds a meeting with her subordinates in her lair. She orders Doctor Watts to meet with an informant in Mistral, Hazel Rainart to meet with the White Fang leader, Sienna Khan and Tyrian Callows to hunt down Ruby Rose whilst Cinder Fall stays at her side for "treatment". She claims Haven Academy will be the next to fall.
In "Of Runaways and Stowaways", Salem remains in her lair with Cinder as she receives her "treatment". Salem tells Cinder "it" can sense her fear and tells Cinder to make it fear her instead. A Seer floats into the meeting room and gives a message to Salem regarding the Grimm's lack of progress in finding the relic at Beacon Academy. Salem turns to Cinder and adamantly asks her for a final answer reporting on whether she killed Ozpin or not.
When Cinder turns to Emerald to speak on her behalf, Salem angrily slams the table and orders Cinder to say it herself. Cinder reaffirms Ozpin's death. Salem orders the Grimm to reinforce their numbers at Beacon Academy, stating "The relic is there." She then mutters to herself, "What are you planning?"
In "Taking Control", Salem is seen training Cinder to control her Fall Maiden powers by pitting her against Grimm. Furious that Cinder continues to have difficulty using them, Salem asks Cinder if she lied about wanting power. Tyrian then enters the room and Salem asks if he succeeded in retrieving Ruby Rose. Upon hearing he failed his mission, Salem expresses disappointment in him before leaving the room.
In "No Safe Haven", Salem is seen watching Cinder train with more Grimm and smiles when Cinder mercilessly incinerates a vision of a defeated Ruby Rose created by Emerald.
In "Dread in the Air", Salem and a recovered Cinder are contacted through a Seer by Watts and Leonardo Lionheart. Lionheart informs Salem that Qrow Branwen had arrived at Haven Academy with Team RNJR and told them he believes the Spring Maiden is hiding in Rave Branwen's bandit tribe. Pleased at this news, Salem instructs Cinder to travel to Anima with her team to meet with Watts and convince Raven to cooperate with them.
Once they have the Spring Maiden and use her to retrieve the relic, Cinder will then contact Hazel and fulfill their promise to let the White Fang destroy Haven Academy. In the meantime, Salem assigns Watts to begin work on a new tail for Tyrian, who lost it in battle with Qrow and Team RNJR, before ending the call.
Salem then listens to Cinder vent her frustrations about working with bandits and keeping Ruby Rose alive. Salem tells Cinder not to underestimate the usefulness of others, using Lionheart as an example, and warns Cinder that if Ruby has learned to harness her powers, she must make sure to protect her own. Before Cinder departs, Salem requests that she informs Tyrian she wishes to have a word with him.
In "Haven's Fate", when Professor Lionheart attempts to gather items in his office and flee the losing battle at Haven, Salem contacts him through the Seer and asks Lionheart where he was going, to which Lionheart can only stammer. Salem then asks him if there was something he wanted to tell her, to which he tells her that Cinder was to blame for deviating from the original plan. When Lionheart begs that he could flee to her location and prove he still has use to her she replies with nothing but silence.
Realizing that Salem has no intention of letting him live, Lionheart tries to destroy the Seer only for Salem to have it knock Lionheart's weapon away, after which Lionheart attempts to run away only to be grabbed by the Seer and while begging for his life and contentiously telling Salem he could still be of use to her, Salem has the Seer viciously stab Lionheart to death. After killing Lionheart, Salem looks through the Seer and disgustingly notes that Lionheart was a coward.
In "Uncovered," the God of Light's creation Jinn reveals that Salem was once a human.
In "The Lost Fable", Jinn tells Team RWBY, Oscar, and Qrow Salem's story, from being locked in her tower as a human to her fall, her rebirth as a monster, and her conflict with Ozpin. However, she also reveals that Salem cannot be destroyed.
In "So That's How it Is", Salem calls a meeting. She disciplines Hazel, demanding he tell her the reason they failed at Haven Academy. Hazel explains that it was Cinder's fault, and Salem decides that she will leave Cinder behind. Hazel then tells her that Ozpin is still alive, and has inhabited a new body much sooner than normal. Salem dismisses her faction, then unleashes her rage with a scream so powerful it shatters the windows of the room.
In "Our Way", Emerald, and Mercury look on in shock and horror as Salem creates new, hybrid Beringels with wings on their backs. Hazel tells them that Salem is taking matters into her own hands.
Powers and Abilities
|“||I've seen the things she's made, and let me tell you – they are fear.||„|
|~ Qrow, talking about Salem.|
Salem's is a very powerful magician and uses various types of destructive magic. She can create energy projectiles, crush and warp other beings, teleport, levitate, create magic beams, and conjure fire and electricity.
Due to her curse, Salem is immortal and cannot be killed by conventional or mortal means.
Because she threw herself into the Grimm's Pool, Salem is the Grimm's master. As such, she can command them to do her bidding and even create them from the pools of black liquid outside of her home. Salem has lived for thousands of years, during which she acquired extensive knowledge of the nature of Aura and Dust, as well as an understanding of human nature, society and history.
Salem is also very effective at getting others to follow her orders through fear. She controls Tyrian with statements of approval or disapproval and controls Lionheart and others by conveying their well-being is contingent on cooperation.
Qrow Branwen claims he has "seen the things she's made" and that "they are fear". She also possesses knowledge on how to steal the powers of Maidens, a feat of which was never accomplished before according to Ozpin's group.
Salem also appears to know how to graft Grimm body parts to human bodies, as is the case when Salem gives Cinder the arm of a Grimm.
- The name "Salem" comes from the Hebrew word שלם (shalém), which means the state of being whole or intact. The name also has associations of witchcraft and the occult, due to the infamous Salem witch trials, where many people were accused of witchcraft and executed.
- It is also a cultivar of rosemary with pale blue flowers.
- Salem alludes to the Wicked Witch of the West from the Oz series.
- Salem shares a visual similarity with the Wicked Witch of the 1939 film; she appears dressed in all black.
- Along with Ozpin, all of the members of Ozpin's Group (which is dedicated to combating Salem) introduced so far allude to Oz characters; Qrow Branwen being the Scarecrow, James Ironwood being the Tin Woodsman, Glynda Goodwitch being Glinda the Good Witch, and Ozpin alluding to Oz himself.
- Her winged Beringel Grimm allude to the Flying Monkeys, the servants of the Witch of the West in the Oz series.
- Her unofficial themes are "Divide" by Jeff Williams featuring Casey Lee Williams, which can be heard during the end credits of the Volume 3 finale "End of the Beginning" on the RWBY Vol. 3 (Original Soundtrack and Score) album, and "When It Falls", the opening theme for Volume 3 that can also be heard as well as on the RWBY Vol. 3 (Original Soundtrack and Score) album.
- The songs contain references to her character, quotes from her, and her plans.
- Until her first full appearance in "End of the Beginning", Salem was credited as Mysterious Narrator.
- In an interview with Afterbuzz TV, writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross revealed that Salem's concept was done before the concepts for Team SSSN. At the first RWBY Panel at RTX 2016, they estimated that she was the ninth character designed (after Teams RWBY and JNPR).
- Writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross have confirmed that any visual resemblance between Salem and the original Winter Maiden (from the RWBY: World of Remnant episode "The Four Maidens") was a coincidence and unintentional.
- In the Japanese dubbed version, Salem is voiced by Kikuko Inoue, who also voiced I-No.