Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Space Wolf

Go To

"War Within. War Without. War Unending. That is how we live, little brother. That is who we are."

Space Wolf is a series of Warhammer 40,000 novels, begun by William King and completed by Lee Lightner. The novels are centered on Ragnar Blackmane, a member of the Space Wolves— a feral, but surprisingly nice, chapter of Space Marines living on the Death World of Fenris. Or even more concisely, they're Vikings IN SPACE with a wolf motif.

Books in the series:

  1. The Space Wolf Omnibus (2008). Collects:
    1. Space Wolf (1999) by King
    2. Ragnar's Claw (2000) by King
    3. Grey Hunter (2001) by King
  2. Space Wolf: The Second Omnibus (2009). Collects:
    1. Wolfblade (2003) by King
    2. Sons of Fenris (2004) by Lightner
    3. Wolf's Honour (2005) by Lightner

Several characters from this series also appear in the 40k Turn-Based Tactics game Warhammer 40000 Sanctus Reach, as well as in several books of the Space Marine Battles and Space Marine Legends series (particularly Bjorn the Fell-Handed).

Not to be confused with the furry comic Space Wolf.

Also check out the character sheet.

Tropes included:

  • Animated Armor: The Thousand Sons exist as souls bound to their Powered Armor thanks to a spell cast on them in the backstory.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Many Fenrisian words are made to sound vaguely Scandinavian via liberal application of ΓΈ.? "Fenrys Hjolda" more or less means Fenris Endures.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Ragnar specializes in this even by Space Wolf standards. He is able to beat opponents that are more skilled than him by attacking himself when a sane person would have been blocking.
  • Beard of Barbarism: A proud Space Wolf tradition, liberally mixed with Manly Facial Hair. Ragnar notes that it's explicitly forbidden for Blood Claws such as himself to grow beards and can only do so after being elevated into the Grey Hunters, which Sven eventually does.
  • Back from the Dead: The Wolves use the tribal warfare between the Fenrisians as recruiting opportunities. They watch battles to find young men who fought, and often died, with honor, and revive them with Imperial medical technology in the latter case.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Space Wolves are badly mauled by the Thousand Sons' uprising, Haegr sacrifices his life, and Mikhail Sternmark spends years trying to recover from succumbing to the Wulfen curse, but Ragnar manages to save the Chapter from gene-seed corruption, kill Madox, and restore his honour by recovering the Spear of Russ. However, it's even more bittersweet when you remember that at the very end of the first book [set chronologically later] Madox is once again leading the Thousand Sons.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In-Universe. The reason there's so many "Wolf X" is because whoever translated their names from Fenrisian to Gothic did a horrible job. For example "Wolf-Lord" is really Jarl. Their Chapter name isn't even Space Wolf: it's "Vlka Fenryka" (Wolves of Fenris).
  • Canis Major: Fenrisian wolves are enormous. They're the result of genetic modifications to the original Fenrisian settlers Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Career-Building Blunder: During the first two books, Ragnar has a promising future as a Space Wolf, with the full expectation from his superiors that work with him that he'll be a fine warrior of the Chapter if he survives... then during a mission to retrieve the Spear of Russ, he uses it without any authorization to close a warp portal that Magnus the Red is entering reality through, losing it entirely just as the Chapter found it again. While he does prevent a great catastrophe from occurring, what he did instantly turns him into a pariah among the Chapter overnight; it's only due to extenuating circumstances that he doesn't get executed instead. The next couple of books deal with the fallout of his actions.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ragnar first brings himself to the attention of the Space Wolves as a boy who harpooned a sea dragon through the eye during a storm at sea. In the third book, he demonstrates that his spear throwing skills have not diminished by spearing Magnus the Red through the eye. In the sixth book, Ragnar reclaims the Spear of Russ and prepares to throw it in Magnus' face again, and the Primarch runs away rather than get stabbed in the face again.
  • Challenging the Chief: Killing the leader of a Fenrisian wolf pack means that the pack will follow the Space Marine.
  • Combat Medic: Where other Astartes chapters have Apothecaries, the Wolves have Wolf Priests, who are officers first and medics second.
  • Death World: The parts of Fenris that aren't completely frozen alternate between frozen and undergoing volcanic eruptions. The krakens in the sea can reach up to miles in size, the Fenrisian wolves are some of the most dangerous predators in the galaxy, and there are things the locals call trolls wandering around. And the Space Wolves love every minute of it.
  • Decadent Court: In Wolfblade, Ragnar gets assigned to bodyguard a Navigator of House Belisarius and accompany her to Terra itself, where the Space Wolf gets a triple-whammy culture shock; for someone who was born and raised on a tribal world, the sheer wealth of Terra is mind-boggling. Even worse, Ragnar's totally wrong-footed by the fact that he's explicitly ordered to treat the holiest planet in the Imperium as an active battleground because other Navigator Houses will try to kill his charge, and that the Navigator treats this like it's both expected and normal.
  • Death Is Cheap: By the epilogue of the first book, Ragnar has apparently killed the Thousand Sons sorcerer Madox twice, and he's been resurrected both times. Mostly averted otherwise.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Ragnar closes a warp portal by tossing the Spear of Russ, a relic of his Chapter, through it and STABBING MAGNUS IN THE EYE. Later on, he gets Magnus to retreat by threatening to do it AGAIN.
  • The Dilbert Principle: In Wolfblade it is explained to Ragnar that the Paternoval Envoy, who represents the Navigator Houses among the High Lords of Terra, is always elected from one of the smaller, less-powerful houses, based on his or her lack of charisma, wealth, or influence. The greater Houses are at each other's throats so often that putting one of their number in such an exalted position would spell all-out war.
  • Enemy Mine: In Space Wolf between Ragnar and Strybjorn, a fellow initiate whom Ragnar believes killed his father during the battle that got them both killed, then resurrected and recruited by the Wolves. Ragnar continuously plots Strybjorn's death, despite the admonishments of senior Wolves, until they end up having to team up after discovering a Thousand Sons enclave near the Fang and having to survive long enough to Bring News Back.
  • Framing Device: The first and last chapter of each book shows Ragnar as a Wolf Lord remembering his time as a Blood Claw.
  • Hard Head: Standard Astartes Bio-Augmentation, such that Ragnar survives a headshot from a sniper in the opening of the first book.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Space Wolves often go bare headed when they don't need the environmental seal. Justified, as they rely heavily on their incredible senses to learn about their environment and coordinate with each other, particularly their sense of smell which is strong even by Space Marine standards. Ragnar compares putting his helmet on to being deafened twice over at one point.
  • High Turn Over Rate: In Grey Hunter Ragnar narrates that the rate of attrition among the Blood Claws is horrible. And this is intentional.
  • Humble Hero: Ragnar is always quick to point out the Blackmane wolf he killed as an aspirant wasn't exactly in good fighting shape to begin with. This is considered quite a strange trait to the other Wolves, who like a good story and expect its teller to embellish it a bit to make it more entertaining.
  • Hypocrite: The Space Wolves are among the most fantastically opposed to the existence of psykers, yet won't hesitate to use their Rune Priests to fry their enemies with powers practically identical to that of said psykers. They try to maintain that they draw their power from Fenris itself rather than the Warp, but it's revealed in Prospero Burns many of them secretly know that it's a load of shit but they stand by it regardless. Then later in Wrath of Magnus it turns out the priests were actually right all along.
  • Ideal Illness Immunity: Used for the most part, since as with other Space Marine chapters, the Wolves' enhanced physiology renders them immune to mundane diseases and poisons. Key word there: "mundane". In Ragnar's Claw Ragnar and company are sickened by mere proximity to a Great Unclean One, a daemon of Nurgle, the Chaos god of disease and corruption.
  • I Gave My Word: All loyal Space Marines are bound by their oaths. So Ragnar maintains his oath to spare Cadmus and his oath to allow Jeremiah to deal with Cadmus by giving Cadmus a chainsword and allow him a fighting chance against Jeremiah.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: One of Ragnar's fellow Blood Claws blows his own head off while cleaning his bolt pistol. Another Blood Claw gets himself with a grenade.
  • Insert Grenade Here: Ragnar destroys a Predator tank piloted by PDF traitors this way in the prologue to Ragnar's Claw.
  • Interservice Rivalry:
    • Inquisition vs. Space Wolves. In Grey Hunter Wolf Lord Berek arrives to back up Ragnar's squad in a dispute with an Inquisitor over the fate of a loyalist PDF squad, explicitly because the Wolves do not give up what they have won.

      This stems from a dispute with the Inquisition and Administratum due to a purge conducted on Armageddon following the First War of Armageddon, wherein the entire population was to be herded into concentration camps to be worked to death by slave labor in order to weed out any remaining Chaos sympathizers. The Wolves' Chapter Master Logan Grimnar considered this an abominable course of action and told the Inquisitor involved this to his face, and after a series of conflicts that led to a significant number of deaths on both sides including the death of one of the Grey Knight Grand Masters and the intervention of Bjorn the Fell-Handed, the Inquisition and the Space Wolves agreed to stop fighting before the conflict involved outsiders.
    • They have another with the Dark Angels due to a fight between their Primarchs ten thousand years earlier. These days it's likely to end up as a series of ritualized duels rather than warfare, although in Sons of Fenris some Dark Angels blunder into the middle of a Space Wolf operation while hunting one of their Fallen, causing a mini-Civil War that the Thousand Sons exploit.
    • Also one with the Blood Ravens due to their perceived over-reliance on psykers which given the heavy hints they are actually descended of loyalist Thousand Sons is irony in its truest form.
  • Meaningful Rename: Many Space Wolves take on (Or are given) new surnames to commemorate a memorable deed they performed. Ragnar Blackmane was born Ragnar Thunderfist, but was given the new name because of his killing a Blackmane Wolf while still an Aspirant. He is not related to Lord Berek Thunderfist in any manner other than through their geneseed, as Berek's name was taken from his artificial arm.
  • The Mole: The captain of the Inquisition starship in Ragnar's Claw turns out to be working for the Great Unclean One in the pyramid on Aerius.
  • Mutual Kill: Ragnar and Strybjorn, before either of them became Astartes. The fight is actually what impresses the Wolves enough to recruit them both; they immediately get tossed in the same squad.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ragnar loses the Spear of Russ to close a warp gate in Grey Hunter, and is wracked with guilt over losing one of the holiest relics the Space Wolves have.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: The book Wolfblade is essentially Ragnar's quest for redemption after an event in the previous story, where he gets pseudo-exiled to join the Wolfblade on Terra instead of being executed for his shame.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Russ hated his Spear, but since it was a gift from the Emperor, he couldn't just get rid of it. He alternately ignored it and tried to "accidentally" lose it constantly. One of the 13th Companymen who knew Russ personally stated that if it wasn't being trotted out for a ceremony, it was promptly tossed into the nearest corner or being thrown at increasingly hilarious targets in an effort to get rid of it: one time Russ got drunk and tried to hit Fenris's moon with it, and it took the Wolves four days to recover it. Consequently, Ragnar nailing Magnus in the eye with the damn thing would've put a grin on Russ' face, even as he ordered Ragnar to get it back.
  • Nemean Skinning: It's common for Space Wolves to wear pelts of wolf skin over their Power Armor, such as Ragnar wearing the pelt of the Blackmane Wolf he killed.
  • New Meat: Blood Claws are Wolves recruits, and are given the 40k super soldier treatment of the trope..
  • No Animosity in the Afterlife: Fenrisians consider recruitment by the Space Wolves after falling in battle to be something like Valhalla, but Ragnar gets picked up alongside Stybjorn, a warrior from a rival tribe who may have killed his father, and they spend most of the first book as bitter foes. By the end of the novel they've fought together against a Chaos Space Marine incursion and put aside their dispute from their old life.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Par for the course with 40k, a PDF squad in Grey Hunter that stayed loyal to the Imperium is rewarded by a deep mind-probe by an Inquisition psyker that kills one and ages the others a few years.
  • Old Soldier: Exaggerated with Bjorn the Fell-Handed, a Space Wolf Dreadnought who dates all the way back to before the Horus Heresy, making him over ten thousand years old in the series' present day. He occupies a deeply venerated position as an advisor to Logan Grimnar and lorekeeper to the chapter writ large, and got a book to himself in Space Marine Battles.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different:
    • Being initiated into the Space Wolves involves the threat of turning into one. The ones who go on to join are those who manage to fight off the madness and turn back into "ordinary" Space Marines again, and they probably won't ever transform again. Probably...
    • The giant wolf creatures that populate Fenris may also count. They're actually the descendants of early space colonists from the Dark Age of Technology who had their genes spliced with arctic wolves to allow them to adapt better to the planet's cold climate. It worked a little too well.
  • Plot Coupons: One novel is about finding a trio of jewels to re-seal the can the Eldar sealed the Great Unclean One Botulaz in a few millennia ago once its influence starts seeping out again. They turn out to actually be the key to setting it free.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Invoked. There is a major argument on if it is possible to prevent a prophesy, or if that would just prove the prophesy false. It ends up being rendered irrelevant when the Spear of Russ is recovered and the prophesy is still possible.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The Space Wolves treat their long-held oath to provide Space Wolves to House Belisarius' command as this, which is fairly unusual on paper as it's explicitly a guard detail on Holy Terra itself (most Imperial soldiers/citizens would fight to death to even spend 10 minutes on Terra). But since it's the Space Wolves we're talking about here, being bound to a guard detail far away from any glorious crusades or wars against the Imperium's foes makes the job a convenient place to send Space Wolves who've embarrassed the Chapter in some way, far away from troubling their superiors any more.
  • Reentry Scare: In Grey Hunter the Wolves deploy by Drop Pod, during which the automatic system to trigger the retro-rockets fails on Ragnar's pod. The sergeant hits the manual override and they make it down without further incident.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In "Wolfblade", Skorpeus Belisarius lets an Imperial assassin into House Belisarius's secure estate, believing that their House's rival, Cezare Feracci, plans to eliminate the elder members and place him at the head of Belisarius as a figurehead. In his own head, Skorpeus is planning to turn the tables on Cezare and be a fully effective and powerful house ruler - right up to the moment the assassin aims his gun at Skorpeus's face, saying all they needed from him was to unlock the door.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Black Pyramid on Aerius, an Eldar construct sealing a Great Unclean One off from the galaxy.
  • Series Continuity Error: Granting that Warhammer 40,000 has always been pretty loose about its canon, Wolf's Honour depicts a female Lord General Militant of the Imperial Guard commanding forces alongside the Space Wolves, contradicting the assertion in Ciaphas Cain: For the Emperor two years earlier that Jenit Sulla became the first woman in Imperial history to reach that rank.
  • Shout-Out: In Ragnar's Claw, Sven says "The sleeper has bloody well awoken" after Ragnar recovers from an injury.
  • Storming the Castle: In Grey Hunter the Wolves use a full-scale attack by the Imperial Guard as a diversion so they can infiltrate a Chaos-held fortress from below.
  • Succession Crisis: The plot of Wolfblade is House Ferrachi trying to cause one in House Belisarius.
  • Tempting Fate: After the tale of how a young Ragnar Thunderfist speared a dragon in the eye got added to the history sagas of the Thunderfist clan, Ragnar believes that he has achieved immortality, that his name and legacy will never die so long as his clan lives. The clan dies later that afternoon.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Sven and Ragnar. Ragnar and the rest of the Wolfblade.
    • Really, the Space Wolves have no other type of friend but the Vitriolic type. Constant boastful ribbing is their main off-duty conversation style.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Par for the course with 40k. In Ragnar's Claw, a spaceship operated by the Inquisition is tended by enslaved criminals, who are kept chained to the machines they work, and starved or tortured for disobedience. Grey Hunter's narrator contrasts it directly with one of the Wolves' Battle Barges, which has an all-volunteer crew drawn from Space Wolf-protected planets.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: When Ragnar learns the true extent of the Navigator elders' rampant mutations, he starts thinking that the Brotherhood is right to want to kill the Navigators, but ultimately decides that his oath to protect House Bellisarius outweighs his indoctrinated hatred of mutants. But he still hates doing it.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The entire series is framed as Wolf Lord Ragnar recalling his time as a Blood Claw.
  • Your Head Asplode: Virtually any time somebody scores a headshot with a bolter. It is a one-handed rocket launcher, after all. Invoked in Grey Hunter when the Wolves stymie the resurrection of the Thousand Sons by blowing off the heads of their worshipers, which have the runes enabling their resurrection painted on them.

Wolfy wolf, wolf wolf!