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RWBY: The Importance of Colours and Fairy Tales

The sixth volume of RWBY was a colourful turnaround for Rooster Teeth’s headline animated series. Speaking of colour and awful segues, two of RWBY’s core themes are those of colour and fairy tales. Virtually every character and often their weapons are named after colours, or things that invoke them. This rule also applies to fanmade characters, as insisted by show creator Monty Oum. With a couple of exceptions, the names of every character must be related to or invoke a colour. This can make it challenging to come up with OCs with names that fall under these rules.

In the lore of RWBY, this colour naming tradition came into effect at the end of the Great War. As a sign of unity between Remnant’s kingdoms, each new generation would be named after colours to invoke peace.

Now comes the fun part. We are going to dive into the huge world of Remnant, and decipher the colourful names and fairy tale origins of the many characters of RWBY.

This article contains SPOILERS for the whole series, so take heed if you are currently watching the show.

TEAM RWBY

Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang are all based on classic fairy tales. Ruby Rose’s name and origin is a no brainer, based on Little Red Riding Hood, given away by her trademark red hood. It has been suggested she takes inspiration from Dorothy Gale, her name being a pun on the ruby slippers.

Weiss Schnee is based on Snow White, her namely being German for “white snow”. Weiss comes from a troubled home life, and her first theme song was called “Mirror, Mirror”. Her faithful butler Klein Sieben is based on the Seven Dwarfs, his name meaning “small seven”, and has different personality traits based on each dwarf.

Blake Belladonna cleverly doubles as both Beauty as well as the Beast, being a cat Faunus. Blake loves to read, alluding to Belle’s shared passion. Blake’s abusive ex-boyfriend Adam Taurus is based on the Beast, sporting horns, and has a rose symbol on his back. Blake’s name is Old English for “black”, whilst her surname comes from the deadly nightshade, known for its black toxic berries.

Yang Xiao Long alludes to Goldilocks, particularly through her blonde hair and carefree personality. In early episodes, Yang picks a fight with bear-like Grimm, and brawls in a nightclub run by Hei “Junior” Xiong, whose name translates to “black bear”. Yang’s full name can be translated in Mandarin as “little sun dragon”.

TEAM JNPR

Team JNPR (“Juniper”) are all based on heroes who have crossdressed in their legends. Though so far, Jaune is the only one who has actually done it in the show.

Jaune Arc is based on Joan of Arc, the French knight and saint who fought for her people, only to be burnt at the stake. “Jaune” is French for yellow, and his surname could come from arcenciel, the French word for rainbow. His sword and shield are called Crocea Mors, Latin for “yellow death”, and the name of Julius Caesar’s sword. Jaune is bullied by Cardin Winchester, leader of Team CRDL, based on Henry Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester, who oversaw Joan of Arc’s trial and execution.

Nora Valkyrie is based on Thor. Her main weapon is a war hammer, and her Semblance allows her to absorb electricity. Nora unlocked her Semblance after being struck by lightning or a “crazy Thursday”, Thursday being Thor’s day. Valkyrie is a nod to the elite Norse women warriors who flew on winged horses into battle. Her first name might come from the pink-hued Nora Barlow columbine flower.

Pyrrha Nikos is based on the Greek hero Achilles. In one legend, Achilles disguised himself as a woman named Pyrrha, which means “flame-coloured” in Greek. Both Pyrrha and Achilles are renowned heroes, and considered amongst the best of the best. Tragically, Pyrrha’s death also alludes to Achilles, being shot in the ankle by Cinder Fall.

Lie Ren takes inspiration from Hua Mulan, who dressed in her father’s armour to join the Chinese Army. Ren carries his late father’s dagger with him, wishing to fulfil his dad’s will by killing a certain Grimm, like Mulan representing her own father in war. His name may come from the Japanese word for the lotus flower.

OTHER TEAMS

Team SSSN (“Sun”) don’t really have a connecting pattern, aside from being based on heroes from classic stories, and design cues from K-pop band Big Bang. Sun Wukong is based on the Monkey King from Journey to the West. Neptune Vasilias is based on the Roman sea god. Scarlet David is Peter Pan, though more specifically, the official sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet, where Peter wears Captain Hook’s red coat. Sage Ayana is based on Aesop, or rather one of his fables, though it isn’t explained which one.

The ever cool Team CFVY (“Coffee”) all take their names from various sweets or desserts. Coco Adel is actually based on fashion designer Coco Chanel, her name coming from the coco bean. Fox Alistair’s fairy tale origin is unknown, though his name references the fox hunter’s pie. Velvet Scarlatina is based on The Velveteen Rabbit, but also the red velvet cake. And Yatsuhashi Daichi alludes to a Japanese pastry, but also Yatsuhashi Kengyo, a Japanese poet.

Penny Polendina alludes to Pinocchio. Her name likely references copper-coloured pennies, though her surname references to Geppetto, “Polendina” a nickname given to him based on his polenta-esque wig from the book.

ALLIES

Team STRQ (“Stark”) are made up of Ruby and Yang’s parents and relatives. Their dad Taiyang has yet to allude to any fairy tales, though his name is translated similar to Yang’s. Ruby’s mother Summer Rose is a nod to the poem The Last Rose of Summer. Uncle Qrow is implied to be a reference to the Scarecrow from the Land of Oz, his alcoholism equalling brainlessness. But, Qrow, and his sister Raven Branwen also reference Muninn and Huginn, the ravens of Odin. Branwen is Welsh for “blessed white raven/crow”, and both siblings can transform into birds, acting as spies for Professor Ozpin.

Speaking of Ozpin, he is, give or take, based on Dumbledore, the Wizard of Oz, Odin, and King Arthur. He is the headmaster of an elite school and has many secrets like Dumbledore. His name references the Wizard of Oz’s true name Oscar Diggs (the full name’s initials can be read as “Oz Pinhead”). Ozpin’s relation to King Arthur is pure speculation; one of his past incarnations possibly being the last King of Vale, who stopped the Great War, unifying the kingdoms of Remnant together. Ozpin’s original identity was Ozma, a reference to the long lost princess of Oz. Ozpin’s current host, Oscar Pine, refers to the Wizard, Dorothy Gale (living on a farm), and Princess Ozma.

Ozpin’s allies are all based on either children’s books or Oz characters. Glynda Goodwitch pretty much speaks for herself. Dr. Bartholomew Oobleck is based on Dr. Seuss’ book Bartholomew and the Oobleck, the Oobleck being a sticky green substance. The boastful Peter Port alludes to Peter and the Wolf, and port is a type of red-coloured wine, matching Professor Port’s jacket. General Ironwood is based on the Tin Man, whilst Professor Lionheart is based on the Cowardly Lion, sans the courage.

Maria Calavera, Ruby’s new mentor introduced in Volume 6, gets her name from Marian blue, and her surname is Spanish for skull. Maria does take inspiration from the Grim Reaper, but also La Calavera Catrina, a Mexican personification of death, and the icon of the Day of the Dead.

ANTAGONISTS

And finally, there are the bad guys. Salem, the big bad of RWBY, lacks the colour theme like Ozpin, though considering their backstory, it makes sense. Her name comes from Salem, Massachusetts, infamous for its witch trials. Salem is based on the Wicked Witch of the West, being Ozpin’s enemy, and her fixation on Ruby. In the final scene of Volume 6, Salem creates flying monkey Grimm. She may also allude to Rapunzel, having begun her life trapped in a high tower.

Roman Torchwick alludes to Lampwick from Pinocchio, being a relatively young crime boss who enjoys mischief and cigars. His name may come from the roman candle firework. Most notably, Torchwick’s look references Alexander DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. As for Neo, aside from her name coming from Neapolitan ice cream, nobody knows who she is based on, but speculation runs high.

Cinder Fall, our resident central villainess, is based on Cinderella. Or rather, an insane, sociopathic version who can summon glass as weaponry. Her usage of fire dust cleverly alludes to how glass is made from heated sand. Emerald Sustrai takes her name from the green gemstone, whilst Sustrai is the Basque word for thief. She likely is inspired by Aladdin, Cinder meeting her as a street urchin. Mercury Black is based on the Roman messenger god of the same name. His emblem resembles a winged shoe, and he fights mostly with his prosthetic legs. His deadbeat father Marcus is based on Mars, the Roman god of war.

If you have any speculation or theories on who or what the characters of RWBY could represent, leave a comment below, or on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

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Mark Russell

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