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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 is the true main antagonist of RWBY. Originally serving as the narrator, giving the opening voice-over for the series premiere and the first four RWBY: World of Remnant episodes, she makes her first on-screen appearance in the Volume 3 finale.
Salem is a very mysterious figure in Remnant, highly knowledgeable about the world and its forgotten history. She is the leader of a group of people with malicious plans. Her goals are to find the Maidens, kill them and take their powers, and destroy the Huntsmen academies and kingdoms. She is opposed by Ozpin, with whom she speaks directly in "Ruby Rose" and "End of the Beginning".
She is voiced by Jen Taylor (English), who is also the voice of Cortana, and Kikuko Inoue (Japanese).
Salem's skin is a deathly white, covered with tortuous, 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. She has white hair formed into a bun with six offshoots from which ornaments are suspended.
Salem is an individual of unknown origins, and virtually nothing is known of her past. She is highly knowledgeable in the history of Remnant and has an encyclopedic knowledge of many of the elements, beings and societies that exist within the world. It is not known when or why Salem embarked on her goal of destroying humanity, but at some stage she fell into opposition with Ozpin, who aligned himself with the humans and placed his faith in them.
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 and thereby destroy them. 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 Watts to meet with an informant in Mistral, Hazel to meet with the White Fang leader, Sienna Khan and Tyrian 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 their 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 mutters to herself, "What are you planning?"
Salem is insidious, patiently moving to undermine and destroy her enemies with cold, deliberate resolve. She is also 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 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. While she discourages malignance among her own ranks and thanks those who succeed in the tasks she gives them, Salem is not afraid to lose her temper when necessary.
Powers and Abilities
While her true power is left to be seen, Salem is known to have an extensive knowledge of the nature of Aura, Dust and the Grimm, as well as an understanding of human nature, society and history. Only current outlook on her power and abilities is mentioned by Qrow Branwen as he claims he has "seen the things she's made," and "they are fear."
- 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.
- Given her name's association with witchcraft and her antagonistic nature towards Ozpin, it's possible she is based on or alludes to the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.
- Salem also shares a visual similarity with the Wicked Witch of the 1939 film; she appears to be dressed in all black.
- Along with Ozpin, all 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, and Glynda Goodwitch being Glinda the Good Witch.
- Until her first full appearance in "End of the Beginning", Salem was credited as Mysterious Narrator.
- Her unofficial theme is "Divide" by Jeff Williams feat. Casey Lee Williams, which can be heard during the end credits of the Volume 3 finale "End of the Beginning", as well as on the RWBY Vol. 3 (Original soundtrack and Score) album.
- The song contains references to her character, quotes, and perhaps even plans.
- Salem shares similarities with Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter universe:
- They both have pale chalk-white skin and red eyes.
- They both dress in black.
- They both hold a meeting with their followers at the beginning of an installment in one of their respective appearances, Voldemort's being the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Salem's being the first scene of the first episode of Volume 4.