This episode has a delightfully one-track plot. No more half-truths or silly jokes. No diversions to Cinder, Adam, or Roman’s hat’s perspectives. We dive right into the origin stories of Salem, the lonely girl in the tower (who is totally analogous to Rapunzel), and her rescuer, the valiant warrior Ozma.
You read that right. Ozma.
Who is Ozma?
Ozma is an interesting choice of a name, considering that his fairytale namesake is also a princess. Specifically, the rightful heir to the throne of the Land of Oz in L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books.
In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second book, it’s revealed that Ozma was deposed as an infant by the great and powerful Hot Air Balloonist of Kansas, and through sorcery, transitioned (against her will) to peasant male.
The spell was eventually undone, and Ozma got to preside over her kingdom as a queen thanks to Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man, and an animate pumpkin named Jack.
All right, kids — can you name any other RWBY characters whose fairytale analogues are of the opposite gender?
The Maidens and the Relics
After escaping from the tower, RWBY’s Ozma and Salem fall in love, but fate has other plans for the couple.
Long story short, Ozma dies, and in her efforts to revive him, Salem royally ticks off Remnant’s creators, the brothers of light and dark, who curse Salem with immortality.
The brothers get so mad at Salem’s further provocations (i.e. rallying all of mankind against them), that they leave the planet, annihilating mankind and shattering the moon in the process.
But then Ozma comes back at the behest of the light brother, because Ozma is perhaps the only person qualified to go toe-to-toe with Salem, and is entrusted with four relics: a sword, a bottle containing a genie, and a couple of other objects that are thankfully not more genie bottles.
When Ozma returns to the world, the first thing he does is find Salem and … get married to her. (This pairing always struck me as a crackship among fans, so I’m surprised the writers actually went with it! That’s another count of fan service, in my opinion.) They go into relationship this keeping secrets from each other, like the Grimm pets that Salem adopted from the brothers; and Ozma’s relics. This is a surefire red flag. Nevertheless, they persist.
It’s very obviously hinted that the four magic-using children of Ozma and Salem are the original incarnations of Princess Elsa and– I mean, the four seasonal Maidens. Who else would Ozma, Ozpin, or whatever trust to guard his most sacred treasures but his children?
I remain upset at Ozpin for putting so many people in harm’s way, but in hindsight, I see a paternal undertone to the way Ozpin selected Pyrrha as the new carrier of his daughter’s spirit. He really cares about who embodies the spirits of his children, even if his priorities aren’t always in order.
I guess I’m now left with the question of how this ties back to the World of Remnant’s coverage of the Maidens’ origin story. Are the four girls who visited the lonely old wizard truly reincarnations of Ozma’s daughters, or did the Wizard somehow find a way to re-internalize his children’s magic and bestow it on four random strangers who coincidentally reminded him of his deceased kids?
What we do know now is why Ozpin kept the four relics securely separate, because the moment they’re united, the light brother will come back and probably won’t be very impressed. You think the moon had it bad?
But on that note, if the brothers left Salem as the last living human on Remnant, how come Ozma comes back to a world full of people? Granted, Salem can live forever, so perhaps eons passed before Ozma returned; there’s time to repopulate the world.
But if Salem was truly the last human, that still doesn’t make sense.
Remnant’s Creation Narrative
Now, I’ve always gravitated towards the theory that Remnant and the shattered moon are as they are because of post-apocalyptic conditions that transformed our world into theirs. I’m not mad at people who proposed this super-compelling theory; nor am I mad that it didn’t play out the way I believed it had.
As a monotheist, I don’t particularly enjoy narratives about “the gods,” especially when they conflict with the creation narrative I grew up with. While I can reconcile them in my own mind from the perspective of an avid Sims player and author of fictional worlds, I suppose I’m just slightly disappointed that this portion of the RWBY story depends so heavily on a religious, “the gods did it” angle.
In the real world, I can reconcile the Big Bang theory and my faith’s creation narrative for myself. I think it’s possible to see divinity in occurrences we attribute to science, and see the science in occurrences I attribute to divinity; and I believe things happened as they did to allow for skepticism. So in this show, I personally would’ve preferred if the brothers remained shrouded in myth, to allow for viewer skepticism, instead of forcing viewers to believe in, or at least accept the presence of these deity figures for the purposes of this show’s plot.
Sympathy for the Salem?
So, following up on last week’s post, did this episode end up making me feel bad for Salem? Not really. She’s a selfish and duplicitous and clearly doesn’t mind letting the whole world burn to get her way. She even destroyed her own children! (And the 2019 Mom of the Year award goes to….)
I am more sympathetic, if anything, towards Ozma/Ozpin, who keeps getting dragged back into this fight and has lost so much in the process. Did he make a mistake of trying to settle down with Salem instead of being more proactive in his mission? I think so. Did he make a ton of mistakes throughout his many lifetimes? Absolutely.
Oz, too, tends to put his own wants and needs before the welfare of others; I believe he is also partially responsible for the death of his family when he and Salem had their onscreen marital spat, if we can even call it one. Perhaps that’s why they complement each other so well, despite all the rough patches. They’re not all that different, Oz and Salem. But Oz has a shred of a conscience, or a shred of concern for his environment where Salem doesn’t.
Why Unite the Relics Now?
What’s changed that Ozpin is motivated to bring the relics together now? As noted, the world doesn’t meet the stated criteria. It seems it is a matter of acquiring them before Salem does; perhaps Salem believes that the cure to her immortality will be to reunite the relics, incite the brothers’ ire, and as such, destroy the entire world with her in it.
But that would be too easy. What’s most likely to happen, in my opinion, is the world going BOOM and Salem floating aimlessly through the vacuum of space, unending and undying and all those other ominous big words.
Oh well. Remnant would be canonically gone, but at least there’d still be RWBY Chibi.