Salem has stated that she wishes to snuff out the hope of Humanity. However, she possesses a healthy respect for their resourcefulness and ingenuity and knows that Humans are able to derive strength from hope. However, by dividing them and depriving them of hope, she believes that she can rob Humanity of their strength.
Salem is the Grimm's master and as such, she can command them to do her bidding. She also possesses the ability to alter the physiology of Grimm and graft Grimm body parts to a Human's body.
Cinder's Faction is working under Salem. Emerald Sustrai and Mercury Black are brought with Cinder back to Salem after her injury, while Roman Torchwick referred to being employed by people he could not stop.
After his wife's passing, Salem's father locked her away in a giant tower in fear and paranoia of losing his daughter as well, allowing only himself and a nanny to visit Salem under the threat of death. Her father would visit her frequently, bringing Salem gifts to make sure she loved him. He originally hoped that his child would be born a boy since he wanted an heir, but was disappointed that his child was born a girl instead.
Over time, her father became more consumed by grief and paranoia, visiting Salem less and less as he took to materialism and mania. Salem would discover that the spell he put on the tower only kept away animate objects, as such inanimate objects could pass through.
On Salem's 16th birthday, he visited her tower and explained why she was locked in the giant tower specifically – the view was Salem's mother's favorite place in the tower, ignorant that it had become Salem's prison. That day, Salem realized her father didn't love her like a child, and hatched a plan to escape, asking him for pen and paper to write stories of her own. Salem penned stories of being locked by an utter monster who wished to keep her at home forever, sending the letters out of the window into the air. Word caught wind about The Girl in the Tower, and after many warriors died trying to save her, Salem's father was one day killed by the legendary hero Ozma, who rescued the young princess from him.
In the later stories that would become the famous fairy tale, Salem would detail her father's past, but would use it as propaganda to elicit sympathy for herself to bring others to serve her, leaving out her own mistakes and taking away from many morally ambiguous aspects of the full story, such as the many who died for her sake.
Salem's mother died whilst giving birth to her, and as such they never met.
Salem's nanny was the only other person besides Salem's father to be allowed to see her whist she was locked away in her tower. The nanny would teach Salem to read and bring her stories and books of brave heroes and fairy tales to entertain Salem.
Not much interaction has been shown between Salem and her daughters, but she loved and cared for them deeply. When she found out that one of her daughters could use magic, she looked genuinely happy and proud of her. However her love for them was not enough to stop her from fighting Ozma when he tried to leave with them and they were killed in the ensuing battle.
Whether Salem has remorse or not for their deaths and still feels love for them is unknown.
Salem's Inner CircleEdit
Salem holds Cinder in high regard due to her status as the Fall Maiden, her success with destroying Beacon Academy, and her understanding that Cinder killed Ozpin. Salem does, however, refer to her as "young Cinder", which adds a note of condescension in their relationship. While treating Cinder in "Of Runaways and Stowaways", Salem asks her if she really killed Ozpin. She forces Cinder to speak for herself without relying on Emerald's assistance. Whether or not she believed Cinder is uncertain, but she did order more reinforcement at Beacon directly after. Salem puts Cinder through harsh training soon afterward, reminding her of her desires for power. In "No Safe Haven", Salem is pleased when Cinder displays mastery over the Maiden's power. In "Dread in the Air" Salem reminds Cinder that while she will get the power Salem promised her, that there is only so much she can do to aid her.
In "So That's How It Is", Salem is revealed to know that Cinder is alive, but that she is greatly disappointed at Cinder for being unable to complete the mission. She calls her a failure and decides to keep Cinder isolated until she redeems herself. She is unaware that Cinder is going against orders to bring Ruby alive.
Salem appears to find Watts to be a rather competent subordinate, leaving the complex and highly specialized task of replacing Tyrian's tail to him. However, despite her trust in him for such complex medical feats, she does find his commentary regarding Cinder's injuries at the hands of Ruby Rose to be less than charming and rather counterproductive to their agenda, showing that her respect for his talents and tolerance for his less savory behavior has its limits.
Salem trusts Tyrian enough to have him hunt Maidens and Ruby Rose. In "Taking Control", she states that she is very disappointed by Tyrian's failure to capture Ruby.
In "Dread in the Air", she requests Watts to have a new tail made for Tyrian following his loss to Ruby Rose, showing that her use for him is not yet at an end despite his failure to capture Ruby and kill Qrow. Before Cinder leaves, Salem asks her to bring Tyrian and says she wants to have a word with him. Tyrian's commitment to Salem and his zealous if not psychotic determination to serve her at all costs is likely why she granted him the clemency of seeing fit to have his tail restored in spite of his failure.
As one of Salem's lieutenants and her former liaison with the White Fang's Adam Taurus, Salem trusts Hazel to handle matters with the extremist faction into working in her favor of dividing Humanity.
However, when Hazel tries to take the blame for failing the mission at Haven, Salem retaliates by binding him to the floor with Grimm arms, knowing that Cinder was the real guilty party and dislikes how he lied to her, despite his noble actions.
Prior to her death, Tock served under Salem as a subordinate. During their time together, Salem was a mentor to her, advising Tock on use of her Semblance and warning her to finish her prey off before it wore off. Tock never took this information to heart, remaining cocky and ultimately resulting in her demise in a battle with Maria Calavera.
During her attendance to Cinder's meetings with Salem, Emerald showcased a level of fear when near or interacting with her, as seen where she showed horror when observing Salem's command over the Grimm.
Following their loss at Haven, Salem easily intimidates Emerald into confessing that Cinder was the reason for their defeat. Pleased with her truthful answer, she adds that Cinder is alive, but is temporarily exiled for her failure until she can redeem herself. She later frightens the girl when she is about to burst out in fury upon learning that Ozpin has reincarnated.
Similar to Emerald, Mercury was shown to possess the same feeling of fear at Salem and her powers. Later, upon expressing her anger and hatred for Ozpin after hearing his revival, he fled away with the others.
Ozma, Ozpin's original form and identity, was the one who freed Salem from imprisonment by her father. After their escape, the two fell deeply in love, planning great adventures and a full life together until Ozma fell gravely ill and passed away. Salem deeply loved Ozma and grieved horribly upon his death, her grief was great enough for her, to decide to go against the Gods in order to get him back.
When Ozma and Salem encountered each other again centuries later after he'd been reincarnated, despite the many changes they'd gone through, the two instantly recognized one another and shared a heartfelt reunion. Though when they discussed their circumstances, Salem lied to Ozma, afraid he would feel disgusted once he learned of the lengths she had gone to either bring him back or commit suicide to be with him in the afterlife, blaming her situation on the Gods. Together, the two of them used their powerful magic to portray themselves as gods to Humanity and the two formed a Kingdom together. The two finally got married and formed a happy family, with Salem giving birth to four daughters.
However, Ozma's lingering guilt overtook him and he confessed to Salem. She reassured him that the past didn't matter anymore. Though, when Salem proposed a plan to exterminate and replace Humanity with a species in their vision. Ozma's warning from the God of Light came true and made him decide to take their daughters and escape. After catching him trying to leave with their children, a hurt and betrayed Salem attacked Ozma in a bloody duel that resulted in the deaths of their daughters. Flipping an injured Ozma on his stomach, Salem condemned him for choosing his promise to the Gods over their family, then burned him alive. Thus the millennia-long feud between the two began.
However, in the present, she is heard calmly and respectfully conversing with Ozpin in the episode "Ruby Rose". Ultimately, in "End of the Beginning", Salem affirms that she intends to watch Ozpin burn, but only after she destroys everything he has built. Judging from comments made by Cinder during the events of "Heroes and Monsters", Salem now deems Ozpin exceedingly arrogant. In every aspect of their conflict over the Relics, Salem appears to hold a great deal of contempt towards the man.
Given that their conflict is thousands of years old, her enmity for him has been given a great deal of time to ferment into a festering hate for Ozpin. When Salem learns from Hazel that Ozpin had already reincarnated and was taking the Lamp to Atlas, she orders all her subordinates to leave before unleashing a scream of fury and destroying her conference room. This display of her barely restrained powers shows just how strong her hatred for her former husband has grown.
Salem appears to hold some amount of respect for Qrow, believing him to be the most competent of Ozpin's followers and referring to him as "the last eye" after Tyrian reveals that he poisoned him. However, in "Dread in the Air", after finding out that he survived she grew visibly enraged but was able to maintain her calm demeanor until she was alone with Tyrian.
Leonardo was Salem's informant in Mistral. Salem used his fear of her to control him and intimidated him if he overstepped certain boundaries. In "Haven's Fate", Leonardo was preparing to flee Haven when Salem's Seer caught him. Leonardo then offered to go to Salem insisting he could still be of use to her, but she disagreed and had her Seer kill him, calling him a coward afterward.
Due to her actions during the Fall of Beacon that traumatized him, Ironwood considers Salem an immense threat to Humanity and has gone through many lengths in order to stop her from invading Atlas. This is shown with his various controversial deterrents to prevent her agents from infiltrating the Kingdom.
Eventually as revealed during his talk with Oscar, Ironwood's fear of Salem has seemingly pushed him to the brink of paranoia and caused him to have panic attacks when something triggers the memory of how she thoroughly outmaneuvered him during the Fall of Beacon.
In “Gravity”, Salem offered Ironwood a deal to surrender the Lamp and Staff to her in order to spare Atlas, but he refused her offer. She made things personal for Ironwood, so he felt like he had to come up with a solution to her arrival.
Even before meeting, Salem was aware that Ruby and her Silver Eyes are a threat to her agenda, and is, therefore, planning to eliminate this problem. At the end of "End of the Beginning", Salem refers to Ruby as a "smaller soul", referencing Ozpin's words from "Ruby Rose".
When Cinder inquires about Ruby in "The Next Step", Salem reassigns Tyrian from going after the Spring Maiden to capturing Ruby and bringing her to the Land of Darkness. She expresses disappointment in Tyrian after his failure in carrying out the task and Cinder expresses that she may be punished if she kills Ruby instead of bringing her alive to Salem while talking to Neo, showing that Salem views her capture as very important.
It is not until "Gravity" when the two meet. As Salem is demanding that Ironwood surrender the Staff and the Lamp to her, Ruby interjects to tell her how they learned the truth about her from the Lamp and will still stop her even without killing her. Salem merely tells her that Summer Rose once said those same words but was proven wrong, causing Ruby to break down crying with her silver eyes flickering and flaring.
During "Gravity" it was revealed that Salem once encountered Summer Rose. What happened during the encounter is unknown, but it was implied that Salem is possibly responsible for her death and that the encounter was memorable enough for Salem to distinctly remember it.
Raven is aware of Salem's existence and seeks to protect her tribe from her. Raven is intuitive enough about Salem's goals and methods to have predicted Beacon's fall and Ozpin's failure. She knows that Salem wants the Relic that was left behind and is fearful enough about her having it to seek information from Qrow. Upon learning that Raven has the Spring Maiden, Salem sends her subordinates to convince the bandit leader that she needs to cooperate for the survival of her people.
However, in "Vault of the Spring Maiden", she is unaware that Raven Branwen is the true Spring Maiden and the tables have been turned against her and her faction. In "Haven's Fate", Yang states that if Raven gets the Relic of Knowledge, Salem will go after the bandit with everything she has until the Relic is hers.
Salem was grateful for Adam's loyalty to her cause and entrusted him with ensuring the White Fang's cooperation. Adam was aware of her existence and stated that having her backing is part of the reason that the White Fang can win a war against humanity. On his own initiative, Adam killed Sienna Khan and took over the White Fang, stating this resolved Salem's concerns about Khan's willingness to work with them. Ironically, this decision would end up backfiring for both of them. As Adam would use his newfound power in a failed attempt to kidnap Blake Belladonna and kill her parents, who later formed a Faunus militia that foiled Adam’s end of the mission to destroy Haven. It is unknown if Salem knows or cares that Adam is dead.
Salem expressed interest in recruiting the leader of the White Fang and sent Hazel to a meeting with Khan set up by Adam. However, Khan rejected working with her subordinates due to their tactics and was killed by Adam, who usurped her position. It is unknown of what Salem thought of Adam's killing of Sienna without Hazel having the chance to convince her of working with her subordinates.
As stated by Tock and suspected by Maria Calavera, Salem has been eliminating Silver Eyed Warriors due to their power to destroy Grimm. This was likely done because of their potential to ruin her plans.
Salem harbors a deep resentment for the Brothers, calling them "monsters" for denying her pleas and killing Ozma repeatedly in their feud. For the God of Light, she harbors hate due to his initial refusal to bring Ozma back to life and later destroying him after being resurrected. For the God of Darkness, she watched him kill Ozma in her arms after he was told by his brother of Salem's attempt to manipulate him into disrupting the balance between life and death. After both Gods cursed her to walk the world alone after being granted immortality to deny her from rejoining Ozma in the afterlife. In time, Salem fruitlessly attempted multiple suicides simply to spite them and grew to resent them to the point of raising an army against them.
Out of any other group or individual, Salem appears to hate the Gods nearly as much as she grew to loathe Ozma.