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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 the American animated web series 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 will finally end her immortality.
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.
During Salem's arrival in Atlas she wears a similar dress but the red lines extend further down the dress, she also wears a necklace of some sort and armguards.
|“||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 shown to possess a fair and collegial attitude 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 shatters 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 the past, Salem was shown to be a kind yet lonely woman. However, her manipulative streak and desire for happiness lead to her making the mistakes that would doom humanity when her lover Ozma died of an illness, as she tried tricking The Gods to bring him back and then later tricked Humanity to turn against them, only for both to fail. After she jumped into the Pools of Grimm in another suicide attempt, she gained a destructive nature.
Despite this, however, Salem at that time still possessed some of her humanity, as when she and Ozma reunited, she was shown to be truly happy and Salem was shown to be a genuinely kind and loving mother to her daughters. However, when Ozma betrayed her and tried to take their daughters away from her, Salem became so infuriated that she murdered Ozma and accidentally their daughters in a rage. The destruction of the family they had clearly greatly contributed to her hatred towards Ozma, to the point where when Ozpin comes in, her usual cold ruthlessness and calm composure would swiftly turn into rage and cruelty: She visibly relishes when she learned that Ozpin was killed and stated that she will destroy him, but only after she destroyed everything he did and swiftly lose her temper 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 shatters the windows of her room. When they finally reunited, Salem took time to mock Ozma for his choice of a vessel and Oscar pretending to have fully become Ozma was enough to make Salem furiously grab his head to make it clear she can see through his lies and she seems to take pleasure in torturing Oscar. When Ozma emerged from Oscar finally, Salem was visibly pleased that she could force him to watch as she destroys Atlas and took time to mock him that he was too late. However, Salem seems to still have some affection for Ozma, which even borders on possessiveness, as she calls him "My Ozma" and asks if he has nothing to say to her. Although she considers Ozma as arrogant, that doesn't seem to prevent her from having respect for Ozma's intellect and how he was able to persist against her for so long despite her immortality, as she respectfully conversed with him over humanity, was not surprised when Oscar stated he knew nothing about the Relic of Choice, and despite easily seeing through his lies that the Lamp is out of question, complimented Oscar's ability to come up with lies in a blink of an eye, stating she can see why Ozma chose Oscar. She also conjured smoky images of her daughters, suggesting that Salem still has lingering feelings for them and their deaths may be the main reason of her hatred towards Ozma.
It is later revealed, however, that Salem's plans no longer involved remaking the world but now simply wants to die: As Ozma noted, while she may have once dreamed of ruling the world together for eternity with the reincarnating Ozma and her family, the destruction of their kingdom and the deaths of her daughters as well as the many centuries she has lived, surrounded with people she only considers pawns and unable to let go of the grief and pain she had felt over the tragic destruction of the one chance she had for happiness, have removed any such desire from Salem and she was simply projecting a facade of wanting to remake the world but in truth all she desperately wants is to be released from her curse to finally die. Her drive to finally rest and all that she had suffered had reached such levels to where she is fully willing to divide humanity completely so the Gods will see mankind as unredeemable and destroy Remnant with herself along with it. In fact, Salem even shows apparent and genuine joy at the prospect of finally dying to where she would sing while attacking Atlas. She later on expresses a belief that Remnant is a broken ruined world, showing how tired she is of living in such a world, and shows a mixture of pity and anger towards Ozma for his defiance of her and her desire to die and apparently be reunited with their children and maybe even him once his reincarnation ends, commenting how the once mighty and powerful warrior that she fell in love with had weakened himself for what she believed to be nothing before angrily asking why does he keep opposing her.
Powers and Abilities
|“||I've seen the things she's made, and let me tell you – they are fear.||„|
|~ Qrow, talking about Salem.|
Salem, as the member of the first wave of humanity, has access to magic, which has seemingly only been amplified by her immersion in the Pools of the Grimm and her curse. With Ozma, the only other remaining member of the first humans, having given much portions of his magic to the Maidens, and the Gods having left Remnant, Salem's magical power currently is unmatched. She can create energy blasts and beams capable of torturing but not killing others, which she used to torture Oscar. She is able to exert a powerful telekinetic force capable of easily crushing a Nevermore and shattering the windows of her council room in an uncontrolled rage. She can use two forms of clairvoyance, able to observe battles through her crystal ball and also conjure an image of Atlas. She is also capable of powerful elemental magic, as she can generate fire and electricity and conjures a massive storm cloud to mask her fleet as she attacks Atlas, which acts as a barrier capable of shotting out anything close. At one point, she conjures shadowy images of her daughters.
Having been cursed by immortality by the Gods, Salem is immortal, making it impossible to destroy her. Not even the Grimm's Pool was able to destroy her and destroying her body and killing her will only cause her to resurrect, completely healed, regardless of how much damage she sustains.
As Ozpin stated and Salem herself believes, the only way for Salem to die is for the Gods to revoke her immortality and kill her themselves.
Superhuman Physical Prowess
Seemingly due to the power of the Grimm Pool empowering her, Salem displays inhuman levels of physical strength, speed, endurance and durability, even without her immortality. This was shown when she easily upturned a table with a single hand and was able to effortlessly catch up to and restrain Emerald despite the distance between them before she could react and was completely unfazed by the punches of the considerably strong Yang and besides recovering from the explosions Yang set on her, she showed absolutely no pain over having dozens of bombs go off half of her body and easily restrained her with one hand once she got a grip on her. Even a magical beam from Oscar only dealt minimum non-lasting pain on her, with Salem proceeding to easily threw Yang at him with enough force to knock them down. She also withstood being punched by Hazel with enough force to launch her off her feet with no damage, even able to position herself accordingly to land on her feet, and was able to grab and slam Hazel repeatedly to the ground.
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.
Noted by Qrow Branwen to have done extensive modifications to the Grimm and even described as having created things that are fear itself, Salem possesses the capability to experiment with the Grimm to modify them, as she causes Beringels to sprout wings and transforms a faunus into the Hound as an experiment, resulting in it being extremely intelligent. She can generate and manipulate Grimm Liquid at will without needing the pools of Grimm Liquid from the Land of Darkness, seemingly able to conjure the substance on her own, as she breaks Atlas's defenses with it and would proceed to use the Liquid to spawn countless Grimm.
Salem can also summon Shadow Hands, an ability which she creatively uses in battle by summoning dozens of them from the ground in an instant to restrain her opponents and can also spawn them from her hand directly to grab and pull them to her, as shown when she paralyzes Hazel, Oscar, Yang, Ren, and Jaune with multiple Shadow Hands and pulls Yang to her. She also gives Cinder the arm of a Grimm, which can steal the powers of Maidens, a feat of which was never accomplished before according to Ozpin's group. She also proves capable of controlling the Arm to cause Cinder pain if she disobeys her.
Salem has always been an incredibly manipulative and cunning individual: She was even able to trick the God of Darkness to bring back Ozma for her, even convincing him to fight the God of Light for him, and the Dark God only realized the truth when his brother revealed how Salem went to him first. After being made immortal, Salem was also able to manipulate many humans into rebelling against the Gods, using the fact that she was immortal and able to spend many centuries unaffected and able to endure any attack to her advantage. She along with Ozma would later succesfully trick humanity into believing they were gods and establish a huge kingdom that would succesfully conquer many other oppositions with Salem as the leader due to Ozma's reluctance to go that far.
Having lived for thousands of years has only made Salem more cunning and she has acquired extensive knowledge of the nature of Aura and Dust, as well as an understanding of Human nature, society, and history, her knowledge being comparable to that of Ozma despite his much greater activity in Remnant, able to perfectly describe the nature of Aura and Dust as well as narrate the history of the Kingdoms. Henceforth, she was able to effectively wage war with Ozma through the centuries, managing to fight the Huntresses he built and having been responsible for the fall of Beacon and able to outsmart Ironwood completely to attack Atlas.
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.
- 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).
- The 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.
- She was also similar to Calamity from Valkyrie Crusade due to their similar appearance; both have red eyes, pale skin, and white hair and also wore black clothes. Most interestingly, both of them were known to be cursed (while Salem was cursed with immortality, Calamity herself was cursed with the Miasmic Curse).
- However the difference is that while Salem is the villain, Calamity is the heroine.
- It is a popular theory that the Maidens were created by one of Ozma's incarnations as a homage to his and Salem's deceased daughters and it is also shown that Ozma was able to move on from Salem and find happiness and love and have children again. The fact that she targeted the Maidens, coupled with the fact that Salem had sent in her minions before to crush Ozma's happiness, as she sent in a warrior to kill Ozma when he was the Infinite Man and sent Grimm to attack a village where one of Ozma's reincarnations lived with his children, may be an act of spite, as Salem likely finds the Maidens and any children Ozma may have as Ozma's attempt to let them go and find peace over his part in their deaths and wants to forever remind him that he is responsible for their deaths, while Salem's desire to destroy the organizations he created may be out of revenge over the fact that the fight between her and Ozma destroyed their kingdom. Indeed, when they reunited, Salem expresses possessiveness over Ozma and conjures shadowy images of her children as if wanting to remind Ozma of them, clearly indicating she was aware of his incarnations having lovers and children.
- Despite the fact that bringing the Relics together will summon the Gods to judge Remnant, which she learned from Ozma, Salem astonishingly sets that as her goal for unknown reasons despite knowing that if the Gods are summoned, they may very well remove her immortality along with also exterminating all of humanity. In fact, In Midnight, Ozpin states that if Salem brings the Relics together, it will bring about the end of all, suggesting Salem actually wants to summon the Gods to end Remnant, despite knowing how it may very well kill her for good. Indeed, Salem doesn't deny this and simply states that Ozpin is too late.
- In War, it is finally confirmed that Salem's true goals is in fact to summon the Gods to Remnant and that she was using the Grimm and her subordinates to cause so much chaos that the Gods would deem the world unredeemable and destroy everything, including herself, as Ozpin reveals all the time she only has one goal: To be rid of her immortality and finally rest.
Creatures of Grimm