The massive Fenrisian Wolf (Lupus fenrisii) is a fearsome semi-sentient predator and an enduring symbol of the Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter's frozen homeworld of Fenris. Space Wolves Astartes, in the ancient tradition of their Primarch Leman Russ, often befriend and train Fenrisian Wolves (in so much as such a feral being can truly be trained). Fenrisian Wolves will fight ferociously beside their master against his foes and certain breeds of these beasts can even be ridden as a form of cavalry into combat.
The Wolves of Fenris are amongst the most vicious predators in the known universe. Very few know the sheer diversity of Fenrisian Wolf species that exist upon Fenris, but they range from the common but nonetheless deadly Fenrisian Wolf, to the hulking Blackmaned Wolf, all the way up to the infamous Thunderwolf that prowls the northernmost ice caps. Legends tell of creatures larger still, whose jaws are capable of crushing steel and whose teeth are as large as tree trunks. These creatures roam the vast tracts of Asaheim, the inhospitable tundras and hinterlands that surround the foot of the mountains of Fangard upon whose peaks stands the Space Wolves' vast fortress-monastery, The Fang. The Wolves of Fenris are said to be more intelligent by far than ordinary Terran wolves. It is also said that they are led by a great king of their kind, a black wolf that is darker than night and as large as a mountain who is called Kjarg, the King of Wolfkind.
According to Fenrisian tribal legends, the Space Wolves' Primarch Leman Russ fought and tamed the great Fenrisian Wolf packs of the continent of Asaheim. He cast down the two-headed wolf Morkai, and made him the guardian of the Gates of Death, a task which Morkai has endured ever since. There are many stories of how Russ fought Morkai's lieutenants and banished each in turn. The Thunderwolf was one of the ancient wolves that Russ fought and vanquished. So vast was the Thunderwolf that its growl was the thunder and the glint of its fangs the lightning, but Russ was louder and more fearsome still. The Thunderwolf ran from Russ and continues to run to this day, forever circling Fenris. It can still be seen as a constellation in the night sky, fleeing across the heavens. The most terrible of all was Blackmane, a terrifying giant with midnight-black fur also known as the Howler of the Night, whose long keening calls the dead from their graves. Russ fought the Blackmane and slew him, making his pelt into a magic cloak that allowed him to pass beyond the Gates of Death and return when his people needed him.
Fenrisian Wolves vary in colouration from dappled grey or white to the rarer black. They have wild, shaggy manes and possess powerful shoulders and overdeveloped, iron-hard teeth. Fenrisian Wolves are grouped into packs, obeying the natural order of certain mammalian predators, hunting in groups and instinctively obeying the largest and most ferocious of their kind who functions as the pack's alpha male. It is these alpha males that lead the Fenrisian Wolf packs; making decisions, facing down external threats and challenges to his position and enjoying the benefit of getting first pickings of the pack's kill and primary mating rights with the female pack members. The savage menfolk of the Fenrisian human tribes respect the position of the alpha male, striving to emulate these creatures in their own social groupings. Hunting down a pack of these supernaturally ferocious beasts and slaying one of these legendary creatures armed with nothing but their wits, is considered a great feat by the Battle-Brothers of the Space Wolves Chapter. This ritual is known as a Lone Hunt. Should the Battle-Brother somehow kill the alpha male of a pack, the rest of the Wolves will instinctively treat the Astartes as their new alpha male. When this Battle-Brother returns to The Fang, it will be in the company of a pack of Fenrisian Wolves. Many of these packmates form a lasting bond, and from that moment on they will fight at their master's side until one or both of them die in battle. Such is the bond between Astartes and Fenrisian Wolf, that should the beast be critically injured in battle the Chapter's Iron Priests will cybernetically augment it with bionics so that it may live to fight another day.
Fenrisian Wolves as AlliesEdit
Fenrisian Wolves are simple, brutal beasts, loyal only to their master and remorseless against their enemies. As a follower, wolves will trail behind the Battle-Brother wherever he goes, whining if forced to stay behind, and attack his enemies with a gesture or a word. Fenrisian Wolves aid Space Wolves in numerous ways during battle. Their speed makes them a great flanking unit with which to harry the Space Wolves' enemies and pick off smaller units. They are also used as a fast moving distraction to the main battle line, leaving the Space Wolves' opponents guessing at their next move. They will also stay by the side of the Battle-Brother if he falls, protecting his body and maybe even pulling him to safety. Fenrisian wolves are also quintessentially linked to the Space Wolves Chapter and will often be a point of contention and friction with Battle-Brothers of other Chapters, especially if they are the ones which have to squeeze into a Rhino with it or suffer it panting through a tactical briefing.
Types of Fenrisian WolvesEdit
- Common Fenrisian Wolf - The common Fenrisian Wolf is a larger-than-normal lupine-like mammalian predator that is no less deadly than its larger cousins.
- Blackmaned Wolf - Similar in anatomy to that of the more common variety of Fenrisian Wolf, the Blackmaned Fenrisian Wolf is as tall and muscular as an ancient medieval warhorse. Their heads are proportionately larger and their teeth are even more pronounced. It is said that their jaws can exert as much pressure as those of an ice shark, and they are capable of hunting the largest prey through the thickest winter blizzards. These forbidding creatures are only seen in the dead of a Fenrisian winter when packs descend from the mountains to the lowlands where the Fenrisian barbarian tribes live to feed, leaving little more in their wake then ravaged pieces of bloody bone. Famously intractable, only the most celebrated Wolf Lords of the Space Wolves go into battle alongside these fierce beasts. According to Fenrisian myths, the Blackmaned Wolves serve in the afterlife as the minions of Morkai, the two-headed guardian of the Gates of Death. It is believed that any mortal who crosses into the afterlife with a Blackmane at his side will never truly die.
- Cyberwolves - Cyberwolves are created from critically injured Fenrisian Wolf packmates who have been cybernetically augmented by the Space Wolves Chapter's Iron Priests to continue serving alongside their Space Wolf masters beyond the point of death. These cybernetically-enhanced lupine allies are often seen accompanying Iron Priests into battle.
- Thunderwolves - The legendary Thunderwolf is undoubtedly the apex predator in the frozen realms at the top of the world, dwelling at the very northernmost point of Fenris, making their lairs in the fabled Mountains of the Maelstrom. These fierce creatures are venerated by many Fenrisian tribes as a spirit totem. Solitary creatures, they usually attack each other on sight, as if every Thunderwolf strives to be the alpha male of the entire world. Physically, these creatures are truly monstrous, having more in common with a Terran rhinoceroid than with a Terran canine. Clad in a shaggy coat of rough fur as tough as matted steel wire, their jutting jaws are strong enough to chew through steel. Unlike their smaller cousins, Thunderwolves do not track their prey down over time, instead they bear down upon their victims in a terrifying charge. They then snatch their unfortunate victims up in their massive maw, then tear their prey's head off with violent thrashing motions and their gnashing, grinding bite. Only the Space Wolves have the constitution to hunt these fearsome creatures that haunt the perpetually ice-ridden storms that could flay the skin from a lesser creature. This is an extreme version of the ritual Fenrisian hunt known as the Lone Hunt. It is believed that this is an initiation ritual to the upper echelons of the Wolf Guard. Legend has it that those that have joined with a Thunderwolf, do so on a spiritual and sometimes even mental level. By force of will or mutual respect, lesser Fenrisian wolfkin will obey their snarled commands. These creatures have given rise to the legendary Thunderwolf Cavalry. This small elite within the ranks of the Wolf Guard have remained surprisingly absent from official Imperial records. It is believed that the Space Wolves augment their lupine steeds with all matter of cybernetic enhancements, including vicious Adamantium jaws, hissing pistons and back-jointed metal limbs that end in razor-sharp blades. Though the Space Wolves continue to deny the practise of riding these beasts to war since they are technically semi-sentient xenos in the Imperium's eyes, rumours still abound across the Fenris Sector about the glorious charges of the Space Wolves' Thunderwolf Cavalry.
Notable Fenrisian WolvesEdit
- Freki and Geri - It is said that Primarch Leman Russ marched to war with two gigantic Blackmane Wolves at his side, possessed of fierce near-human intelligence who were known as Freki and Geri, meaning "Fierce" and "Cunning" in the Fenrisian dialect of Low Gothic. When the infant Primarch first crash-landed in his gestation capsule upon the frozen Death World of Fenris, the mewling man-infant was found by a Fenrisian she-wolf and raised as her man-cub alongside his two lupine companions. They are believed to be his original pack-brothers, growing to maturity at much the same time because of Russ' unusually rapid growth to adulthood.
- Fangir - Fangir is the monstrous Thunderwolf ridden by Canis Wolfborn. It is said that he is strong as a mastadon and as tall at the shoulder as a Fenrisian Ice Troll.
- Svangir and Ulfgir - Svangir and Ulfgir are the two Fernrisian Wolf companions of Wolf Lord Ragnar Blackmane. In the image of Leman Russ' Freki and Geri, both wolves accompany their human pack-brother wherever he goes and fight ferociously at his side, sadly howling in frustration in those occasion Ragnar is forced to leave them behind due to the demands of warfare.
- Icetooth - The Wolf Lord Harald Deathwolf rides a monstrous Fenrisian Grey Wolf into battle. During a confrontation with the Renegade Wolf Lord Svane Vulfbad in 913.M41, a shard of the Traitor's Frost Axe was imbedded within the cybernetic jaw of Harald's Thunderwolf. Thus, the beast gained the name Icetooth which he has carried ever since.
Throughout the Horus Heresy novels "Prospero Burns" by Dan Abnett and "A Thousand Sons" by Graham McNeill, the phrase, "There are no wolves on Fenris," is mentioned throughout these novels. There are cryptic references by none other than the Thousand Sons Primarch Magnus the Red as to the unique nature of the genetics on the world of Fenris and the Canis Helix sequence of genes within the Space Wolves' gene-seed. It has already been mentioned in various sources of official canon that the Canis Helix is responsible for the peculiar lupine traits possessed by the Astartes of the Space Wolves Chapter. It is also hinted that perhaps the Fenrisian Wolves are actually Astartes whose genetic alteration has spiraled out of control, reshaping them into bestial creatures. This would explain how and why these supposed "wolves" fight alongside the Space Wolves in battle and readily obey their Astartes masters in the heat of battle, perhaps retaining some fragment of their former lives and sense of duty.
But this does not explain how "wolves" have existed on Fenris since before the first Space Marines of the VI Legion came to Fenris. It is generally known that during this earlier age when Mankind colonised the galaxy that humanity possessed advanced genetic engineering technology. For those early settlers that colonised the inhospitable, icy Death World of Fenris, they may have attempted to find a way to adapt themselves to the harsh environments of their new homeworld, splicing their DNA through gene-manipulation with that of Terran wolves that were more suited to the arctic conditions and climatic extremes. One could extrapolate that this would have provided the Fenrisian colonists with a fighting chance at surviving this hellish environment. In some cases this manipulation must have had unforeseen consequences.
Perhaps the first generation of "wolves" came from the original gene-tailored colonists that devolved over time until their genetic alterations stabilised, creating the first Fenrisian Wolves. When the VI Legion arrived much later during the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium and began recruiting Astartes from the Fenrisian population, there was the occasional destabilisation of the delicate balance which resulted in the rampant genetic mutations which resulted in a new, more potent genetic line of Fenrisian Wolves. The larger and hardier stock of Thunderwolves may be the possible genetic offshoot of these early Astartes, while the more common Fenrisian Wolf would be a result of the original colonists' gene-enhancements. The interbreeding between the two species would have resulted in the development of the lesser Fenrisian wolfkin, producing a viable breeding population. It has also been hinted throughout the novels that the Wolf Pelts and fetishes worn by the Space Wolves were actually the hides of the descendants of these mutated humans.
If all modern Fenrisians are descended from the original colonists who attempted gene-splicing with that of lupines and canines, that would mean that all Fenrisians are in some way part wolf. The process by which a new Space Wolf Astartes is created would awaken these genetic traits that already lie dormant within their bodies, resulting in amber-coloured wolf-like eyes, long canines and an enhanced sense of smell. But when these genetic traits run rampant, the result is accelerated and uncontrollable growth, giving rise to the Curse of the Wulfen -- mirroring what had occurred to the original Fenrisian colonists thousands of years earlier. In the novel "A Thousand Sons" it is mentioned multiple times that when someone fighting a Fenrisian Wolf looks deep into the creature's eyes, in that moment the horrible realisation sinks in that they are facing something almost...human.
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 31, 34, 88
- Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition), p. 14
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), p. 108
- Index Astartes II, "Wolves of Fenris - The Space Wolves Chapter", by Phil Kelly, pp. 2-11
- Warhammer 40,000 Compilation (1st Edition), p. 16
- Prospero Burns (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill