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The Space Wolves were one of the twenty Space Marine Legions, being led by their Primarch Leman Russ. After the Horus Heresy and the resultant reforms, the legion was divided into two chapters: the new Space Wolves chapter retained the name of their parent Legion, while the second chapter took on the name of the Wolf Brothers. The latter however suffered from mutation and was disbanded. It is currently unknown if there are any other descendant chapters of the Space Wolves at all. Defying the rules of the Codex Astartes, the Space Wolves have 12 Great Companies.
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Primarch Leman Russ grew up on the distant planet of Fenris, a snow-covered world inhabited by primitive, warlike tribes of humans. He was raised by a pack of the massive Fenrisian Wolves that prowl the snowy lands.
He was discovered by a man named Thengir, King of the Russ, who had organised a party of hunters to clear the wolf pack from his lands. As most of the wolves were slaughtered the young man was captured and brought to Thengir who took him into his care, under the name of Leman Russ.
The Primarch learned the ways of man quickly, and many legends sprung up about him. Upon his adopted father's death, the leadership of the Russ passed to Leman. Leman became a mighty leader, winning many victories, often fighting alongside packs of Fenrisian Wolves, led by two of his Wolf-brothers who escaped Thengir's hunters.
The Emperor travelled to Fenris having heard word of the exploits of Leman Russ realising that they could only be the work of a Primarch. At first Leman Russ refused to pay him homage, going as far as challenging him.
The challenges consisted of three different contest, one being eating, the other drinking, and the third being a fist-fighting one. Russ managed to beat the Emperor at both eating and drinking, but the third challenge was more to the Emperor's liking. Having at first seemed like a disappointment, a drunkard and a boaster, the Primarch suddenly launched a furious attack. This very challenge proved to the Emperor that this was indeed one of his sons, Russ fighting with outstanding speed and power. After having the disappointment lifted from his spirit by his son's ferocity, the Emperor stopped holding back and quickly found an opening in Leman Russ' defences. The Emperor raised his power fist, knocking the Primarch out with a single blow that would have killed a lesser man. Leman Russ awoke later and blamed his loss on the alcohol, but in the end admitted defeat and swore loyalty to the Emperor.
He fought well during the Great Crusade, gaining the reputation as a cunning and fierce, as well as slightly unstable, warrior and leader. During a pacification war, the Dark Angels aided the Space Wolves, and the leader of this particular planet insulted Leman Russ's honour, and so he wanted to defeat the leader personally for the insult. The Dark Angels and Space Wolves, both led by their prospective Primarchs assaulted the tower where the leader was. Leman Russ burst into the throne room just in time to see Lion El'Jonson beheading the leader. Angry that the honour was not his, Leman Russ marched up to the Lion and punched him in the jaw. This lead to a battle that lasted a week or more, until finally Russ saw how immature their squabble was and started laughing. Lion El'Jonson took this as Russ mocking him and punched Leman Russ into unconsciousness before leaving the planet with his legion. This led to a bitter feud between the Legions (and subsequent Chapters), which lasts to this day - although recent events may finally have led to an end to the rivalry, though it is still customary for selected champions from both sides to engage in a (usually) non-lethal duel.7
Just prior to the Horus Heresy, the Space Wolves came into conflict with their brother Space Marines once again. The Primarch of the Thousand Sons Space Marines, Magnus, had ignored the Emperor's command to not dabble in sorcery. The Space Wolves were then ordered by the Emperor to bring Magnus before the him to answer for this. Russ, however, was convinced by Horus to launch an attack on the Thousand Sons rather than attempt to negotiate. The surprise assault upon the Sons' homeworld of Prospero was furious, and rather successful; however, many of the Sons, including Magnus himself, escaped into the wild region of space known as the Eye of Terror. A blood feud still exists between Wolves and the survivors of the Thousand Sons, who are now dedicated to the Chaos God Tzeentch.
During the Horus Heresy, the Space Wolves were far from Terra, alongside the Dark Angels, and were unable to assist their loyalist brethren in the fighting there. Knowing of the imminent arrival of the two Legions, which would tip the balance in favour of the loyalists, Horus allowed the Emperor to personally attack him in a gamble to swiftly end the war. The two Legions arrived just after the battle concluded, with Horus dead and the Emperor mortally wounded.
Leman Russ was devastated by his inability to save the Emperor. After the war was fully completed, and all resistance was crushed, Russ held a great feast, at which he declared he would be leaving, and would return for the 'final battle'. He then vanished, and is said to have gone into the Eye of Terror to continue hunting down the traitorous Marines who fought against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy. Another tale has it that Russ vanished after chasing a Kabal of Dark Eldar who had raided Fenris right into their city of Commorragh. Any evidence for either theories is yet to be presented and there is a large possibility that both are mere fables. The true whereabouts of the Primarch remains a mystery.Apparently Magnus The Red knows but the Deamon Primarch and his Thousand Sons are not sharing that information with any outside their traitorous ranks.12
Harek Ironhelm was the chapter's Great Wolf during M32. Ironhelm sought for many years to bring Magnus to battle. Several times Magnus appeared to him in visions among the ruins of devastated cities and taunted the Great Wolf for his inability to stop him. After many fruitless efforts to catch up with the raiders Harek became obsessed, and took to searching worlds along the edge of the Eye of Terror itself. Eventually he found what he believed to be the Thousand Sons' secret base on Gangava and launched a full-scale attack against it. This was a deception to draw the Space Wolves from their homeworld, leaving it undefended; Gangava was held by a Chaos force allied to Magnus but it served only as a distraction, allowing a massive Thousand Sons' Fleet to besiege Fenris.
The Fang was held by only the 12th Great Company and their servitor-thralls. For forty days and forty nights the Thousand Sons assaulted the citadel. Bjorn the Fell-handed, most ancient of the Space Wolves dreadnoughts, was woken from his long sleep with 11 others16c . Jarl Vaer Greyloc of the 12th company organised and leaded the defence on the front lines himself16b . The assault was held at bay as the frigate Nauro, which had managed to flee from the Thousand Sons blockade, under the command of Haakon "Blackwing" Gylfasson escaped to Gangava to locate Harek Ironhelm16a . On Gangava, the space wolves had to fight members of their fallen successor chapter the Wolf Brothers16d , Ironhelm then realized that Magnus had played with him once again. When the warning about the Fang finally got to him, Harek Ironhelm returned to meet Magnus in battle on the slopes of the Fang itself. Ironhelm came back with the chapter just in time. He arrived by drop pod just after Magnus had slain Greyloc and his retinue as well as incapacitating Bjorn16e . Despite the fact that Magnus was wounded, Ironhelm, an astartes, could not fight a primarch exalted to Daemonhood and he was slain. However, the return of the chapter made the Thousand Sons retreat in the face of imminent defeat. A lot of the remaining forces of the traitor Legion were killed during the assault of the Fang.
- First War for Armageddon Logan Grimnar led 300 Space Wolves alongside 100 Grey Knights against Angron and a diabolic horde of Khorne.
- Third War for Armageddon.5 The Space Wolves fielded 5 Great Companies in the defence of Armageddon.
- Thirteenth Black Crusade.6 The Space Wolves committed 12 Great Companies against this Black Crusade.
- Deployed Land Raider Helios against Orks on Centius Prime.8
- Saw action against the forces of the Draxian Incursion on Medes 841.8
- Saw action against Chaos at Hesperida. Forces included elements of Ragnar Blackmane's Great Company.
- Ragnar Blackmane's Great Company was despatched to aid the Imperial Guard forces fighting Chaos at Corinthus V.
- Fielded Vindicator's during the Magdelon Confrontation.8
- Fielded all but one company to Garm to recover the Spear of Russ. After securing the temple, they tried to recover the Spear of Russ, but it was lost to the warp in order to close a portal being formed by marines of the Thousand Sons.
- In the year of 837.M41, Flesh Tearers and Space Wolves cross swords, leading to the battle known as Honour's End10d
The Space Wolves are known for their fiercely anti-authoritarian behaviour. They strongly resist the central command structure of the Imperium, and refuse to follow the dictates of the Codex Astartes, which lays the structure and tactics to be used by all Space Marines. Unlike some Chapters, for example the Ultramarines, the purpose of the Space Wolves is not to build empires, the Space Wolves were created to murder empires and to destroy anyone who opposes the Emperor included other Adeptus Astartes, who dared go against the Emperor's will.14 Their unorthodox behavior and organisation as well as their single minded dedication to tear the enemy, any enemy apart like a wolf pack brings down a deadly prey reflects this original purpose.14 Their army has a strong Viking feel to them along with many wolf references and long drinking sessions, right down to their wolf-like teeth and heightened senses. They also practice many old Norse practices such as the purely oral re-telling of history great sagas and stories to pass the time in the cold on Fenris, this is accompanied with the eating of raw meat and drinking of Mjod, so strong it would eat out a unmodified humans guts if imbibed. Therefore the Space wolves are often seen as barbarous and lacking in self-control compared to the more orthodox chapters. But in reality it takes a great deal of discipline and focus to be as dangerous and capable of anything as the Space Wolves are. Their original, unique and effective organisation seems not to hinder them at all but allow them the operational freedom to be potentially the most dangerous loyalist chapter*15
They are very superstitious and only rarely make use of advanced technology used by other Chapters, such as teleportation. But they should not be underrestimated: The Space Wolves should be understood as a savage chapter, but not simpel-minded savages themselves. They apply great attention to planning, coordination of their packs movement in battle, the encirclement of the prey and the cleanliness of the kill.13
The Great Companies
The twelve Great Companies are a defiance of the standardised Codex laid out by Roboute Guilliman. Each Great Company is based in the Fang, the Space Wolves Chapter Fortress and is led by a Wolf Lord,who answers only to the Great Wolf. Each Great Company is fully self-contained, made up of a body of fully armed troops as well as the spacecraft necessary to transport the Great Company. They each also have their own forges and customs. The size of each Great Company is unknown but the Space Wolves Legion was said to be one of the smaller Legions. As each Great Company serves as an independent army, they maintain a much greater number of troops as opposed to codex companies.
Each Great Company is made of a number of packs that function much like a Space Marine squad. However, their tactical usage varies greatly. Each squad is unique in that it doesn't ever receive reinforcements, making the higher level squads smaller in number compared to the lowest Blood Claw pack. Many Blood Claw packs start with as many as fifteen marines. However, losses take their toll, and by the time a Blood Claw squad reaches the level of Grey Hunter, normally only 9 or 10 are left. As they age, further losses limit the squad sizes of Long Fangs down to just 5 or less.
The Blood Claws are young Space Wolves who have just finished their most basic training and initiation rites including drinking from the Cup of Wulfen and surviving. They function like Assault Squads, but they do not normally use jump packs. Contrary to normal Space Marine doctrine the new initiates of the Space Wolves are not assigned to a single scout company. Space Wolf Blood Claws are instead assigned to any one of the Great Companies.
The reckless trouble makers from the Blood Claw packs are reassigned to the Skyclaws as their 'reward' and are given jump packs to aid in their eagerness to charge straight into the line of battle.10b
Grey Hunters are Blood Claws who have survived the trials on the field of battle, combat experience having made them less impulsive and thus less suited as a force of pure assault. Comprising the majority of the Space Wolves these marines fill the Tactical Squad role.
Long Fangs are the next level up from Grey Hunters. These take the role of Devastator Squads. Long Fangs are the only Space Wolves regarded as experienced enough to individually choose what to target with their heavy weapons.
The Wolf Guard are made up of those Space Wolves seen to have performed an exceptional feat of valour, courage or bravery and are invited to join the pack. These are the Veterans of the Space Wolves and often lead other squads as a Veteran Sergeant would in other chapters. As with other Veterans they sometimes wear Terminator Armour however much less so than in other chapters.
Wolf Scouts are Space Wolves whose entire pack has been lost or that have left their pack for other reasons. They operate as Scouts do in a codex chapter, however they are trained to work alone behind enemy lines for long periods of time. Space Wolf Scouts are not assigned to any of the Great Companies. They instead answer directly to the Great Wolf and are under his sole command unless assigned to a Wolf Lord and his company on an as needed basis.
Space Wolves do not reinforce their packs when casualties occur and for this reason the Long Fangs and Grey Hunters operate at a reduced strength. Even the most experienced packs will sometimes suffer such a great loss that only one survivor remains from the pack. These survivors are known as Lone Wolves10c
Each Great Company has a Wolf Lord chosen from that company’s Wolf Guard. It is his duty to organise his Great Company. He has the powers of a codex Chapter Master within his Great Company. When a Wolf Lord dies, the Great Company’s mark will be changed from that of the old Wolf Lord to that of the new.
Wolf Priests take the roles of Chaplains and Apothecary within the chapter. They are selected from any part of the chapter but usually from the Long Fangs or Wolf Guard due to the greater wisdom of these marines. Instead of using codex medical equipment, Wolf Priests using healing potions and balms, using knowledge passed down from one Wolf Priest to the next.
The codex role of Librarian is taken by the Rune Priest. It is his duty to keep the knowledge of the chapter’s history, reciting the great sagas of old. The Rune Priest's duty as a Librarian is carried out through the shamanistic rituals of the Fenrisian shaman traditions.
The Iron Priest's duty is that of a Techmarine, but with additions. He is required to keep the equipment of his Great Company in working order, maintain the machine spirits of its vehicles, in addition to all other duties of a Techmarine. He is also required to tend to the spirits of the Dreadnoughts in the depths of the Fang, and it is his duty to rouse them from their deep slumbers if they are needed in battle. They are accompanied in battle by Servitors.
Amongst the number of Dreadnoughts in the Space Wolves chapter, some are extremely ancient, carrying warriors, such as Bjorn the Fell-Handed, who walked beneath the same sky as the Emperor himself, and who stood beside Leman Russ in battle. These dreadnoughts are revered and so respected is their skill in battle that on rare occasions, a Dreadnought may be called upon to lead an army into battle. The troops following in his footsteps will chant his name, remembering the many sagas they have heard of his exploits. This is a fearsome scene to behold for any enemy.
In honour of Leman Russ the Space Wolves keep a number of Leman Russ Exterminators in their inventory. They use these in battle rarely but to devastating effect, the tanks fearsome array of weaponry enhanced further by the skills of the marines inside.
The Thirteenth Company
See main article: 13th Great Company
Space Wolf legend states that the group that came to be known as Thirteenth Company was sent by Leman Russ to pursue the Thousand Sons legion, after the failed attempt to eliminate the Chaos-supporting legion. They vanished from Imperial records, and their loss is honoured by a black stone in the Grand Annulus (the record of Space Wolf Great Companies).
Their reappearance at the beginning of Abaddon the Despoiler's Thirteenth Black Crusade has brought them back into the spotlight. They appear to still be in pursuit of the goal Leman Russ set for them, and it was believed that Leman Russ himself was their leader, although this was never proven.
Notable Space Wolves
- Leman Russ - Primarch
- Logan Grimnar - Great Wolf (Chapter Master)
- Berek Thunderfist - Wolf Lord
- Ragnar Blackmane - Wolf Lord; succeeded Berek Thunderfist
- Kyrl Grimblood - Wolf Lord during the the Age of Apostasy
- Sigrid Trollbane - Wolf Lord
- Bran Redmaw - Wolf Lord
- Harald Deathwolf - Wolf Lord
- Ulrik the Slayer - Wolf Priest
- Njal Stormcaller - Rune Priest
- Bjorn the Fell-Handed - Dreadnought; was previously Great Wolf and a Wolf Guard to Leman Russ
- Gymir the Ice-Fisted - Dreadnought
- Ranek Icewalker- Wolf Priest
- Gnyrll Bluetooth - Commander of the Wolf of Fenris
- Torvald - Rune Priest, member of the Thirteenth Company
- Bulveye - Wolf Lord of the Thirteenth Company
- Haegr the Mountain - former member of the Wolfblade and comrade of Ragnar Blackmane
- Torin The Wayfarer - a member of the Wolfblade, the only one to voluntarily become a member
- Freyr - Long Fang during the Horus Heresy
- Arjac Rockfist - The Man-Mountain, Anvil of Fenris. Wolf Guard, Before becoming a Space Wolf he was a blackmsith of the Bear Claw tribe. He has risen to become the Personal Champion of Logan Grimnar10a
- Lukas the Trickster - The Strifeson, The Laughing One, The Jackelwolf. Veteran who has never risen from the ranks of the Blood Claws10a
- Canis Wolfborn - Thunderwolf riding Wolf Guard to Harald Deathwolf 10a
- Hrafnkel - Flagship11
Symbols and Colours
The Space Wolves wear blue-grey coloured armour with other colours as highlights, notably red, yellow, black and white, and often adorned with tokens taken from wolves, such as furs and teeth. The Legion symbol is a silhouette of a snarling wolf.
Great Company Badges
The Space Wolves have a rather different system of markings than that used by more Codex adherent Chapters. Rather than using the company markings as laid down in the Codex Astartes, the Space Wolves use a number of different wolf symbols to denote the different Great Companies that make up the chapter. These are normally a stylised wolf emblem denoting some aspect of the native Fenrisian mythology. These are chosen by a new Wolf Lord upon his election from the ranks of the Wolf Guard, and are adopted by all of the Space Wolves within the Great Company as a mark of fealty. They are also woven onto the various Great Company banners, The symbol remains with the Great Company until the Wolf Lord falls in battle, whereupon a new Wolf Lord is chosen, and so the badge changes.
Even these marks bow down to the Space Wolves reputation for nonconformity, and hence lack of any formal uniform system. There is never only one way to represent a Great Company badge, and within a Great Company it is likely to find a number of variants of the badge being used at the same time. Indeed, there are currently three different stylisations of the Blackmane Wolf emblem (currently used by Ragnar Blackmane's Great Company) in Imperial records. Indeed, over the centuries many hundreds of different styles of badges have been recorded by Imperial scribes.
The one company that does not change its icon is the household of the Great Wolf. The household uses "The Wolf That Stalks Between Stars", the badge of Leman Russ himself, as its emblem. This badge is perhaps unique within the Space Wolves, as there are no recorded variants of it, a testament to the respect that the Space Wolves have for their Primarch. It is this badge that represents the Space Wolves as a chapter, and is woven on the Chapter's banner.
Also, many of the Space Wolves most honoured and treasured relics carry this symbol, having been in the possession or service of the Chapter (and hence the Imperium) since the days when Russ walked among the stars. Many of the Chapter's most sacred Banners have a rendition of this symbol on them, a tangible link to the time when Russ walked among them. Whilst many of these are treasured in their own right, perhaps the most treasured of all is the Dreadnought Bjorn the Fell-Handed, who fought alongside Russ during the Great Crusade. He carries the mark on his Dreadnought armour to show this perhaps unique distinction.
The Space Wolves have a long, varied, and altogether proud warrior heritage. They especially appreciate acts of bravery, courage and skill among their own comrades, and proudly display badges that denote these acts. These badges are normally painted or carved onto the armour and weapons of the Space Wolf.
As with most Space Wolf displays, there is no formal system of awards, it only matters that those the Space Wolf fights with understand the significance of the symbol. However, some symbols have acquired a special significance to the Space Wolves over time, and the Sergeant and Veteran badges are good examples of this. There are also some more general symbolism which is used in the honour badges; badges with bones tend to signify wounds suffered in battle, knife and claw symbols represent ferocity and bravery in battle and wolf tails signify great courage in battle.
It is quite common for Space Wolves of different Great Companies to find themselves fighting alongside one another in the same task force. In order to aid identification, and to provide a greater amount of task force cohesion on the battlefield, an army marking is usually applied to the Space Wolf's armour, as well as to the vehicles of the task force. As with all badges, there are some that are preferred over others. Of particular note is that used by the current task force of Ragnar Blackmane; A fanged skull superimposed on two crossed bones, mounted on a black lozenge. This particular badge has appeared many times in the past, and therefore probably has some special significance to the Space Wolves.
- 1 Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition)
- 2 Codex: Space Wolves (3rd Edition)
- 3 Codex: Space Marines (4th Ed.)
- 4 Index Astartes Volume II
- 5 Codex: Armageddon
- 6 Codex: Eye of Terror
- 7 Warhammer 40,000: Compilation, Leman Russ
- 8 Imperial Armour Volume Two - Space Marines and Forces of the Inquisition - Pg. 74, 107, 162
- 9 Warrior Brood by C.S. Goto
- 10 Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition)
- a: Pg. 51-54
- b: Pg. 32
- c: Pg. 29
- d: Pg. 19
- 11 A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill - Pg. 243
- 12 Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight - Pg. 457
- 13 Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight - Pg. 277
- 14 Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight - Pg. 418
- 15 Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett - Pg. 98,131, 134-135, 190
- 16 Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- 16a: Pg. 32, 48, 100
- 16b: Pg. 83,84
- 16c: Pg. 261
- 16d: Pg. 351-35
- 16e: Pg. 477-481