As wolves became less common in inhabited areas, people became less wary and more curious of them and started to look at their positive traits. No longer seen as simply destructive beasts, they were soon written as proud and dignified symbols of nature that were intelligent, dignified and reasonable. Though still dangerous, if a Noble Wolf is antagonistic, it's probably not just because it hates you or wants to eat you. Rather, an antagonist Noble Wolf will probably have been offended at your trespasses or your competition for resources.
Though leaning more towards neutrality, a Noble Wolf can easily be a heroic figure. With their intelligence, doglike figure and social nature, it is easy to pick out good traits to emphasize. Having a lupine ally or pet instantly makes any character much more threatening or impressive. Any heroic wolf of this sort will be a force to be reckoned with as wolves are still taken very seriously today.
Compare and contrast Savage Wolves. Compare animals with similar reputations like Heroic Dolphins, and especially its close relative Heroic Dog.
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Anime & Manga
In InuYasha there are two major wolf creatures: Rouyakan is a gentle forest guardian who has no interest in the Shikon Jewel - a very rare thing given that most of the youkai the main characters come across are eager to get hold of the jewel to amplify their powers. Naraku has to force a jewel shard on him to brainwash him, and Kaede is shocked by the ferocious behavior that results.
Wolf's Rain is an anime revolving around this trope, following four wolves in disguise as humans wanting to seek out Paradise while the Earth is dying.
In Ginga Nagareboshi Gin, a manga-only short after the Big Bad's defeat features both good and evil wolves, in which the dogs join forces with the former to defeat the latter.
Spice and Wolf is about a merchant who finds a wolf deity who then travels with him. She is haughty, self sufficient and can be cruel, but she's also wise, well meaning and was once a village patron deity that helped bring good harvests.
Digimon Adventure has Garurumon/WereGarurumon/MetalGarurumon who is literally the best friend Yamato has ever had. He evolves via The Power of Friendship. It's appropriate for a hunter that travels in packs.
Digimon Frontier has Kouji whose Digimon forms are Wolfmon/Garmmon/Beowulfmon/MagnaGarurumon (Lobomon/KendoGarurumon/Beowulfmon/MagnaGarurumon). His true form represents The Sacred Darkness. While scary and menacing, he is still a force for good.
Digimon Xros Wars: Dorurumon tries to be a lone wolf but he has a Morality Pet in Cutemon and can't help himself from aiding Xros Heart before formally joining. Wolves are meant to be in a pack.
Princess Mononoke. The wolves were portrayed both as noble creatures who just want to protect their own and even saved a little child abandoned by her parents but also as savage creatures that kill humans indiscrimintely. The point of the movie is that neither the animal spirits nor the people of the Ironworks are any better or worse than the other.
Corrector Yui: War Wolf is a zigzag; he's very powerful as a Corruptor, and also very powerful as a Corrector.
The Captain from Hellsing is a Made of Iron werewolf who is one of the strongest characters in his series. Despite being a member of an evil Nazi organization bent on starting World War III, he seems to have an incredibly strong sense of honor, refusing to fight any humans he doesn't have orders to kill, and has a sense of chivalry for fellow warriors (he even decided to spare Heinkel, against orders). He also is incredibly loyal to the Major.
Kiba the wolf from Cat Paradise, despite being a Spirit Beast, is not nearly as malicious as many of the other Spirit Beasts that appear, and even agrees to help the humans after his job is finished. Possibly justified, since his species flourished overall in the advent of humanity, unlike some other species.
The clan Mowgli encounters in Siberia fits this trope. Brutal predators but bound by their honor and customs.
The Phantom has Devil who is much more loyal and heroic than his name implies. In the 1943 movie serial he was even played by the real-life Wonder Dog, Ace.
In the G.I. Joe comics continuity originated by Marvel, Snake-Eyes has a wolf named Timber who is his on-again, off-again pet. He and the wolf both spook the nearby townspeople so bad that it's rumored he's a werewolf. When he's reactivated and brought into G.I. Joe, he leaves Timber behind. One of the two characters who came to get him asks the other about his leaving "that poor animal" without any support. The other points out it's a wolf, not a dog, and it "doesn't eat Alpo".
In The Grateful Beasts, one beast was a wolf. The king's last Impossible Task is for Ferko to summon all the wolves in the kingdom together. It's the last because the wolves are hungry. Only the princess escapes because she was locked in the tower for objecting to all these impossible tasks.
The Grey Wolf in general in Russian Folklore is an aristocrat of the forest.
The Fifth Elephant is a complicated case. A wolf's natural instincts include killing any werewolves they come across, (even Angua) but for a good chunk of the story they are kept in line by another wolf. Even then the wolves are not portrayed as evil. Angua accepts that they have some pretty good reasons to hate werewolves.
The leading lady, Holo, is a wolf deity. Her true form is so big and scary that Lawrence (her Love Interest) shat himself the first time he saw it; so does everyone else. On the other hand, she only takes this form in Lawrence's defence and proudly calls herself a 'wise wolf'.
Another (nameless) wolf deity was much less friendly but still granted the duo safe passage through his forest after Holo got on her knees and begged him to.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, most wolves are considered Savage Wolves, but the semi-supernatural direwolves from north of the Wall are much more intelligent and human-like. The direwolf is notably the Animal Motif of the famously honourable House Stark, and the litter adopted by the Stark children vary according to the personality of their owner and how well they're trained. Among the more heroic are:
Grey Wind and Ghost, Robb's and Jon's respectively. They are trained Attack Animals who will attack only at their masters' command and to hunt.
Summer, who is Bran's. Like the former two but taken Up to Eleven; since Bran is The Beastmaster, he can enter Summer's mind and control him at will. After a long time as a Bond Creature, it's hard to distinguish where Bran's mind ends and Summer's begins.
Lady, who is Sansa's, is a fully tamed, gentle, and sweet-natured housepet. She gets unjustly killed off in the first book.
Darkest Powers: Derek is a werewolf with an instinctive need to protect his "pack", i.e., his supernatural buddies. The 'noble' aspect is downplayed because he's also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
Zigzagged with Alpha from Survivors. On one hand, he is seen ruling over his pack of wild dogs with a strict paw and a level head. However, he's showed his cowardly side in Darkness Falls, treats the Leashed Dogs like crap, and dislikes Lick (later renamed Storm) all because she's a Fierce Dog. In The Endless Lake, he gets meaner and eventually betrays his pack to join the Fierce Dogs.
If not totally idealized, wolves are still treated as clever and admirable predators rather than ravening monsters. This is mostly explained by the phrase/idea that the wolves simply have a different system of morality than humans. ("Try to be a little more open-minded")
The wolf is the sorcerer Belgarath's preferred secondary form, and his wife was originally a wolf, though her own preferred form is now of a human. Based on her example, wolves are calm fatalists who instinctively know their role in the world and will live as long as necessary to complete their purpose. She also makes a huge sacrifice to enable the Light Prophecy to be fulfilled.
Wolves in The Wheel of Time hate Shadowspawn and will go well out of their way to fight them. Because they have no weapons or advanced tactics, they will often lose an entire pack to take down the more dangerous ones, but do it anyway. Indeed they are intended to fight to balance the Darkhounds, wolves corrupted by the forces of evil, referred to by the wolves as Shadowbrothers. However, in the Southern lands they are seen as creatures of Shadow, particularly by the Whitecloaks, because Shadowspawn are rare in those regions and they are known only as dangerous animals.
The Canim from Jim Butcher's Codex Alera are anthropomorphic Wolves. They actually fit this trope both ways - most of the Alerans hate and fear them because of their great skill and physical power and ruthless raiding habits, but Tavi learns to have a great deal of respect for their culture. The Canim generally are treated as the Alerans' Worthy Opponents.
The Dresden Files: Tera West is a real wolf who turns into a human, and is disgusted by how some evil werewolves are acting, because animals don't kill for fun, only to get food or to protect themselves or territory.
Although the accuracy of Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf has been disputed, it cannot be denied that the book helped change a lot of minds about the true, and far less threatening, ways of the North American wolf.
There are a number of wolf-based cards in Magic: The Gathering. Most of them are green or white cards and emphasize cunning and teamwork.
In old Slavic Mythology, some gods were said to take wolves as their avatars, and the animal is a potent symbol of otherworldly power. The animal was so respected that the neighboring nations were said to believe Slavs sometimes turn into wolves themselves.
In old Turkic mythology, the Wolf was the Turkic people's ancestor and the Turks' primary symbol throughout the centuries. Even today the gray wolf is Turkey's national animal.
In Native American lore, the Wolf often appears as a teacher and mentor.
Great Grey Wolf Sif from Dark Souls is a sort of cross between this and a Savage Wolf. In the past, he served beneath the God of sunlight, alongside the late knight Artorias, and even now guards his master's grave. True to the original trope, Sif is both large and formitable. The player character only comes up to his chest, and in the area where you fight him, there are many swords stuck into the ground, and corpses littered around. His opening cutscene shows him leaping off a great stone tower towards the player, removing a Big Fancy Sword from the ground with his jaws, and flipping it to the other side dramatically. Prepare to Die.
Wolf generally tries to depict wolves realistically, but was made with the intent that seeing how they live would make people care about them. The information snippets are definitely written with a Noble Wolf in mind.
In Ōkami, the sun goddess Amaterasu takes the form of a fluffy white wolf with red markings and Reality Warper powers, and goes around Nippon helping people, beating up evil demons and generally making the world bright and beautiful. While technically she is a goddess and not a real wolf, she behaves very much like a friendly, playful (and occasionally naughty) dog.
The Rawulf race from Wizardry games are playable anthropomorphic wolves. This is a unique take on them — as they have a well-rounded build, but with more Piety than most races, making them a good choice for Lord (think of Paladin), Valkyrie, and Priest classes. Rarely do you see a wolf-like race associated with support!
Ōkamiden with the adorable puppy protagonist Chibiterasu.
Wolf O'Donnell of the Star Fox series. Originally presented as a generic "evil Star Fox", the later games showed him to be a gruff pilot with a sense of honor, teaming up with Star Fox in many an occasion.
In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link turns into wolf in the Twilight Realm. Later in the game, he gains the ability to turn into the wolf at will. Thus, he's a knight in furry armor.
Monster Rancher: Tiger of the Wind is (overly) proud and often rather ruthless yet brave and loyal to the point of death.
Luceid, the Guardian of Desire from the Wild ARMs series, takes the form of a wolf and is frequently the only Guardian strong enough to take a physical form without a medium.
Metal Gear Solid: Sniper Wolf, who apart from the name has many pet wolves and many of the traits of this trope with a dollop of Savage Wolves thrown in for good measure.
World of Warcraft: With a few exceptions, the portrayal of any wolf that isn't a Random mob is a noble creature/spirit to be respected.
Even a wolf you do kill is also respected and revered by the local natives, even if none truly mourn Ghost Howl's death due to his unfortunate insanity. Still, one of three spawn points of said mob puts it in a good spot to eat newbie characters without any chance for retaliation.
King Varian Wrynn is generally associated with these. Most notably the Wolf Ancient, Goldrinn aka Lo'gosh, whom he was named after while he forgot who he was and was pressed into being a Gladiator.
Many Worgen are literally Noble Wolves, as in, Aristocratic werewolves with a Cockney accent.
Pokémon: Mightyena looks more like a striped hyena, but its behavior is more wolf-like in that it lives in packs and knows the move Howl. It's Dark-type, but is described as being very loyal to a skilled trainer.
Volk from Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits was a humanoid wolf species of the Deimos (monsters) that wielded an axe. He starts the game with a hatred of the humans, but he ends up fighting alongside some in the last half of the game for the greater good.
Suikoden Tierkreis: King Diulf is the king of the Furious Roar tribe, and a very powerful and loyal ally.
His true form is that of a fox, but after being trapped in Annie's stuffed wolf and his Character Development starts, Reynard fits this trope. Also invoked literally: Rey has two forms — a small stuffed toy, and a larger wolf that is much more elegant. Typically, he stays in toy form when acting as comic relief, but switches to the other shape when feeling especially "noble" or attacking someone.
Ysengrin appears to be a Noble Wolf by default (if a bit guarded, proud, and standoffish), but his temperamental nature and very possibly Coyote's influence cause him to swing between this trope and Savage Wolf depending on his mood and the situation.
Young Justice has Wolf, a big white wolf and one of many wild animals injected with the Kobra venom (a combination of Bane's steroids and the blockbuster formula). Starts off as a Big Bad Wolf that Superboy fights, but fights alongside him after Superboy removes the mind control collar, and decides to stay with Superboy instead of return to the wild. The Super Strength granted by the venom makes him a very useful fighter.
In Ben 10, one of the many forms the protagonist can assume is Benwolf/Blitzwolfer, a Werewolf-like alien. The alien he sampled it from was an example of Savage Wolf, but Omniverse reveals the species as a whole isn't evil.