it's like he's questioning his whole existence

RWBY Theory: Is There Psychological Torture at Work (aka Tyrian’s past)?

Okay.  We all knew from the start that Tyrian was a little messed up in the head.  Anyone with a laugh that psychotic is bound to be crazy. But from what we saw in Taking Control, I have reason to believe that he wasn’t always like that.  I’m sure that the showman/thespian part of his personality existed before he joined Salem’s band of misfits; as he continuously shows off in front of RNJR and Qrow.  

But the whole “she’ll forgive you” bit?  The whole worshiping Salem on his hands and knees?  And most importantly, his reaction to Salem’s disappointment?

That didn’t come on its own.  Salem planted that there.  She saw him, saw potential, and made him worship her, to the point that he would break down in the scariest way possible at the slightest hint of disapproval from her.  

The question is, how?

My guess is that Salem helped him when no one else would, and that was how it started.  To call back another one of my theories, I think Salem might have been the one to teach Tyrian how to “see” with metal sounds and vibrations in the earth, therefore being the person that taught him how to fight.  And if that isn’t enough, there are several things that pointed to him being in a circus/performance type thing before this (perhaps since he was a kid), and how Salem managed to get him out.

  1. He’s a scorpion faunus.  And from what we’ve seen, arachnid fauna are really rare.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some shady racist circus troupe took him in because he was a rare breed of faunus.  This was probably where he learned to fly around like a little acrobat.  If Salem didn’t teach him how to navigate a battlefield, this is where he learned it.
  2. I’m pretty sure this circus troupe took advantage of Tyrian’s poor eyesight on more than one occasion, making it so he couldn’t escape.
  3. Also, the higher-ups gave Tyrian some kind of reward if he did well and a punishment if he did badly.  Salem would take advantage of this later.
  4. The other circus members (out of jealousy or out of spite) ridiculed him.  Of this I’m almost certain.
  5. So Salem goes to see the circus, and…well, there’s a bit of an accident, which attracts the Grimm…and conveniently, Tyrian is the only survivor.

From here, I can only assume that a new form of torture starts to take place: the psychological kind.  Salem taught Tyrian how to fight, but–and I’m not entirely sure how this kind of stuff works–she conditions him to be completely loyal to her and her alone.

In a TV show, the closest thing I’ve ever seen to something like this was the work done by this guy in Gotham…

…when he conditions Butch to be loyal to Penguin.  We didn’t get the full details of what Zsasz did exactly, and I doubt we’ll get the full details of what Salem did to Tyrian. 

But whatever she did to him, it wasn’t good.

I mean, look at him.

He staggers in, choking on his own sobs and muttering self-reassurances to himself that it looks like he doesn’t even believe, and throws himself to his hands and knees begging for retribution.

Not once does he mention that his tail is in pieces, nor that he was injured in any way: that much is obvious and he would be calling attention to himself (and it’s clear that he thinks himself a speck of dust compared to her).

All Salem has to say is “You disappoint me.”  She doesn’t even turn around and fully look at him.

And he breaks.

I seriously remember being scared for my life.  We all knew that RWBY was going to get dark…but this dark?  I thought we’d have to wait another few seasons for something like this.

Well, anyway…hopefully we’ll see more of Tyrian’s story in Volume 5.  Josh Grelle, in the AfterBuzz interview, mentioned that he knew how Tyrian came to be a part of Salem’s group.  If he knows, then that means that we will eventually know as well.

…I really hope we find out soon.