Salem is the primary antagonist of RWBY. In "Ruby Rose", the first episode of Volume 1, she serves as the narrator, giving the opening voice-over for the series. She is also the narrator of the first four RWBY: World of Remnant episodes. She makes her first on-screen appearance in the Volume 3 finale, "End of the Beginning".
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, take their powers, take the Relics from the Huntsman Academies and weaken humanity by snuffing out their hope. She is opposed by Ozpin, with whom she speaks directly in "Ruby Rose" and "End of the Beginning".
Salem's skin is a deathly pallor, 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, even brighter when she is agitated. She has a black diamond-shaped marking in the center of her forehead.
She wears a very long black robe with red designs resembling eyes. She also wears a ring resembling an insect on her right index finger. She has white hair formed into a bun with six offshoots from which ornaments are suspended.
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.
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.
However, she is not above losing her temper, as she is particularly demanding when inquiring whether Cinder has truly killed Ozpin or not.
Salem believes in the existence of the relics and is actively seeking them out.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
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. Qrow Branwen claims he has "seen the things she's made," and "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. Later, in "The Next Step" Grimm are seen being birthed from pools of black liquid outside of her home. This does not directly look as though she created them, but their association with her is implied. Her authority over Grimm is established in "Of Runaways and Stowaways" where she is shown commanding them.
- 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.
- 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.