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She is the leader of a cabal of people with malicious plans and operates out of Evernight Castle in the Land of Darkness. Her goals are to find the Maidens and take their powers to obtain the Relics from the Huntsman Academies, as well as weaken Humanity by snuffing out their hope.
She was a part of the original Humanity, before being cursed with immortality and falling into a Grimm Pool. She was married to Ozma before their ideologies tore them apart making them mortal enemies.
In "Ruby Rose", the first episode of the series, Salem serves as the narrator, giving the opening voice-over for the series, but credited only as the Mysterious Narrator in "Black and White" and "Breach" until her first on-screen appearance in the Volume 3 finale, "End of the Beginning". She is also the narrator of the first four RWBY: World of Remnant episodes.
Eons ago, Salem was a woman with fair skin, pale platinum blonde hair and light blue eyes. She wore most her hair in a half up-done bun style, with a small, simple bun on the top, and the remainder of her long, straight hair hanging at the bottom. Most of her bangs were tied back, barring several large locks that framed her face to her left.
She wore a white, two piece dress consisting of a sleeveless, diagonally overlapping white backless pleated top with a raised, pale blue halter-top square collar adorned with an aquamarine colored rhombus-shaped crystal on the clavicle, surrounded by two smaller white rhombuses. Her long, high-waisted skirt was white with a faint purple tint - adorned with white diamond emblems and white wavy lines near the bottom hem, ruffled around the waist and completed with a purple sash. For accessories, she wore gray, circular earrings and a pair of dull brown bracers, and her long fingernails were painted pale lilac.
Original (Volume 3-6)Edit
Salem's skin is currently a deathly pallor, with jet black sclerae in her eyes, and glowing crimson irises that shine brighter when she is agitated. While she initially retained her half-bun hairdo for her now bleached, pale white hair, she has since re-styled it into a larger bun with six offshoots wrapped together that also suspends several obsidian-colored ornaments. Over the passage of time, she has since grown dark purple veins that line her face and arms, and now has a black diamond-shaped marking in the center of her forehead.
She currently wears a very long, short-sleeved black robe that obscures her feet and partially drags across the ground, with its distinctive feature being a curved high collar with dark red trim bordering the outer edge of a narrow window exposing her bust in a vertical ellipsis resembling an eye, and completed with a long shawl emblazoned with three interconnected, maroon-colored vertical elliptic sigils resembling a trio of overseeing eyes above a series of maroon-colored diamond emblems. She also wears a ring resembling a beetle on her right middle finger, which now have longer fingernails with jet-black nail polish.
When Salem appears as an apparition through a Seer, most of her body appears to be covered in black and purple smoke. She is able to hover over the air, and towers over others. The center of her chest glows red. Beneath the smoke, she appears to be wearing a new outfit through the mirage, including arm warmers, and a shirt with exposed shoulders.
Current (Volume 7)Edit
Following her arrival in Atlas, Salem dons a new set of clothes. She now wears a long sleeved, black partially exposed "cold shoulder" robe, ending in middle finger loops, with red trim flowing from her raised collar, bordering through the vertical window exposing her bust, to the sides of her hips and three crimson stripes flowing all the way down to the bottom hem of her robe. Additionally, she has ornate, gunmetal-colored bone-like arm cuffs on her upper arms, and an elaborate, cross-shaped brooch with a rhombus-shaped ruby gemstone atop her clavicle, closing her outfit and forming the aforementioned slightly wider, diamond-shaped window. Completing her ensemble is a similar black cape with matching red trim, with a couple additional red gemstones hanging from her bun.
Salem is insidious, patiently moving to undermine and destroy her enemies with cold, deliberate resolve. She is also highly intelligent, with a healthy respect for her enemy, mankind, who she recognizes as possessing both resourcefulness and ingenuity, acknowledging Humanity's capacity to draw strength from hope. She is humble enough to recognize that there are limits to her abilities and that she can only do so much for her subordinates.
The World of RWBY: The Official Companion states that Salem's goal is to possess all four Relics and absorb the powers of the Maidens, in order to crush Ozpin's forces and rule Remnant as its dark queen. 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 fail.
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 malignancy and cruelty among her associates. She is also seen tolerating her allies' unruly behavior to some extent, such as Tyrian's maniacal tendencies and Watts' snide and condescending attitude. In "So That's How It Is", Salem shows her fairness when she only blames Cinder, who was in charge of the mission, for their failure in acquiring the Relic of Knowledge during the Battle of Haven. She forbids Hazel from taking the blame, even threatening him when he continues to do so.
Salem knows how to manipulate people and has different methods to motivate each of her lieutenants. She is one who would make use of anybody to help further her goals, something Salem herself suggests when explaining her decisions to Cinder, but would later discard the people she uses if they become obsolete to her, which is later violently demonstrated when she uses a Seer to kill Leonardo Lionheart for trying to run from the Battle of Haven.
However, Salem is not above losing her temper, as she is particularly demanding when inquiring whether Cinder has truly killed Ozpin or not. This display of sheer dominance shows Salem's rather imperious and demanding personality. Her biggest displays of anger are shown in "So That's How it Is", when she first binds Hazel to the floor after he tries to cover for Cinder, and then when she destroys all the windows in her council chamber upon learning that Ozpin has already reincarnated and has acquired the Relic.
In the distant past, Salem was shown to be a kind yet lonely woman, but appeared to be slightly manipulative. This was shown when her lover Ozma died of an illness, 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.
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, this did not stop her from murdering Ozma and, accidentally, her daughters in a rage when she learned they were trying to flee their home once Ozma realized the monster she had become.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
Salem, being a member of the first wave of Humanity has access to Magic. She is shown to be able to fire large energy blasts from her hands, as well as generate electricity around her. In addition to her other magic, she is able to project telekinetic force as seen when she crushed a Nevermore and shattered the windows in her council chamber in a fit of uncontrolled rage. Furthermore, she possesses some form of superhuman strength, as she easily flips the massive table in her headquarters, all while seated. She also processes clairvoyance, as she is able to observe a battle going on through her crystal ball. In "The Enemy of Trust", she creates a massive storm cloud to mask her fleet as she arrives in Atlas.
Salem was also cursed with immortality by the Gods, making it impossible to destroy her. When the God of Darkness vaporized all of Humanity, her immortality allowed her to remain unaffected. This was further shown during her battle with Ozma, where she was reduced to a pile of ash, but reformed instantly.
After the Gods destroyed the first Humanity and left Remnant she jumped into the Grimm Pools in the Land of Darkness, which altered her body further and turned her into a being with a desire for pure destruction. Raven Branwen reveals that Salem is the Grimm's master. As such, she can command them to do her bidding. She possesses the ability to alter the physiology of Grimm and graft Grimm body parts to a Human's body. She causes Beringels to sprout wings in "Our Way" and gives Cinder a Shadow Hand. In addition, she has the ability to summon multiple Shadow Hands on command as seen in "So That's How It Is", when she used them to immobilize Hazel. The Shadow Hand she gave Cinder allows her the means to steal the powers of Maidens, a feat of which was never accomplished before.
- Salem alludes to the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.
- She shares her name with Salem, Massachusetts, a town with a well-known historical event called the Salem Witch Trials.
- She is the enemy of Ozpin, who alludes to the Wizard of Oz.
- She is capable of magic.
- In the Volume 6 post-credits scene, she creates an army of winged Beringels, referencing the Witch's winged monkeys.
- Another allusion that Salem may be based on is she is the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella.
- This is due to Cinder's own relationship and backstory with Salem, where before becoming affiliated with her, Cinder was stated to be weak and had nothing. But upon aligning with Salem, she has now become formidably powerful and gained the means to steal the powers of Maidens.
- 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 Salem witch trials, where many people were accused of witchcraft and executed.
- It is also a cultivar of rosemary with pale blue flowers, which is also associated with witchcraft.
- "The Girl in the Tower" is likely based on Rapunzel, the German fairy tale made famous by the The Brothers Grimm.
- 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).
- Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross have also 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.