The Great Wolf is the Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter's equivalent of a Chapter Master. Although he is one of the most powerful individuals in the Imperium, the Great Wolf considers himself only a steward of the Chapter rather than its true lord and master. The Space Wolves are utterly convinced that their Primarch Leman Russ will somehow fulfill his oath of returning to his Chapter, from death if necessary, to lead it in its final battle. Thus, the Great Wolf leads the Chapter only while Russ, the true leader of the Space Wolves, remains absent. The Great Wolf is chosen by acclamation from amongst the Chapter's Wolf Lords upon the death of his forebear, and he will remain the Great Wolf until his own death. The current Great Wolf is Logan Grimnar, who has lived for over 800 standard years, and has lead his Chapter for the better part of it.
Epitomising the fury of the Fenrisian people, the Great Wolf is a figure of awe, not just upon the Death World of Fenris but across the breadth of the Imperium of Man. As the warrior-king of the Space Wolves, the Great Wolf is a wise and cunning leader of men. The valorous deeds and noble actions of these venerable warriors fills the vast archives of the Chapter's Librarium. In addition to the eleven Great Companies of the Chapter, there is also the Company of the Great Wolf. When the Great Wolf dies, the entire Chapter selects his successor from amongst the twelve Wolf Lords currently leading the Great Companies. This process is done by the casting of stones into the Dragon's Skull in the heart of The Aett. Each stone is enscribed with a name-rune; whichever Wolf Lord has the most runestones at the stroke of midnight is elected as the new Great Wolf. Though these votes are usually carried by a great margin in favour of one Wolf Lord or another, on the extremely rare occasions that two Wolf Lords accrue equal amount of stones, a duel is fought between the two prospective candidates upon the feasting table of the Great Hall, much in the manner of the duels between Leman Russ and the Emperor millennia ago. The victor, helping his opponent back to his feet with a smile, is roundly hailed as the new Great Wolf.
The Company of the Great Wolf is effectively another company of the Chapter but it differs from the Great Companies in some important respects. This company is host to the Chapter's priesthood; its Wolf Priests, Iron Priests and Rune Priests. It is also where the Chapter's honoured Ancients, its Dreadnoughts, are kept in extended stasis to preserve their already prolonged lifespans. Unlike the emblems of the Great Companies, the Great Wolf's emblem is always the same. This is the Wolf That Stalks Between The Stars; the ancient badge of Leman Russ himself and the symbol proudly emblazoned on the Space Wolves' Chapter Banner.
The Disappearance of Russ
The tradition of the Great Wolf hails to the bygone era immediately following the dark days of the Horus Heresy. After the Arch-Traitor Horus and his Traitor Legions had been defeated and the Space Wolves had successfully resisted being divided up into Successor Chapters, all of the Space Wolves and their Wolf Lords, including the Leman Russ himself, were gathered for a feast on Fenris. The holiday, known as the “Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension," commemorated the day the Emperor defeated Horus and "ascended" back into the Immaterium on the Golden Throne. On this occasion, Leman Russ quieted the great hall of his warriors to speak, but then froze in place as his eyes glazed over as if seeing a vision. The assembled Space Wolves looked on in horror as their Primarch fell to his knees and called for his Wolf Guard and closest retainers to attend him, all save the youngest, Bjorn the Fell-Handed. Giving his closest companions his instructions, Russ turned and left the Great Hall with his bodyguard in tow, leaving only Bjorn behind. The tale of his disappearance is retold every thousand years by the Venerable Dreadnought Bjorn the Fell-Handed, the oldest Astartes Dreadnought still in service in the entire Imperium. It is believed by some Astartes amongst the Space Wolves that Russ left Fenris and journeyed into the Eye of Terror to find the fabled Tree of Life, a font of uncorrupted Warp energy hidden somewhere within the Immaterium that bears fruit said to be able to heal the Emperor and restore him to full life.
Every year after his disappearance, Russ' place was laid at the same feast. Every year his drinking horn was filled should he return. For seven long, painful years the Space Wolves waited patiently for their lost Wolf King to return to them, but when he failed to do so, Bjorn was elected the first Great Wolf and led the Chapter on their first Great Hunt to search for Russ. The Great Companies dispersed amongst the stars searching for their lord and Bjorn took his search into the Eye of Terror itself. There Bjorn was mortally wounded and entombed in a Dreadnought as the Space Wolves returned to Fenris.
Over the various Great Hunts in the millennia since, many glorious victories have been won, each hunt beginning when Russ speaks through visions into the minds of the Chapter's Rune Priests, granting his sons his wisdom from time to time and sending them on new quests. None have succeeded in the final goal of recovering their gene-father, but Russ has assured his sons with his final words that he will return to them in time for the final battle of the Imperium against the Forces of Chaos, a period he called the "Wolftime." Bjorn's heroic career as Great Wolf ended during a raid against a fortress within the Eye of Terror in the late 31st Millennium, when he was so severely wounded and crippled that he was beyond the aid of the Chapter's Wolf Priests. To preserve Bjorn's life, his paralyzed body was transplanted within the Adamantium shell of a Dreadnought. Since that time, a new Great Wolf has been selected from amongst the Chapter's Wolf Lords.
The Grand Annulus
When a new Wolf Lord chooses his badge from the ancient legends of Fenris, it is added to the Grand Annulus -- the great round, stone table where the 12 Wolf Lords gather at the centre of the Hall of the Great Wolf at the top of The Aett. It is a representation of the current organisation of the Space Wolves Chapter. Each outer segment is a separately carved stone slab which is as wide as a battle tank, taking a dozen of the strongest Space Wolves to lift just one. These carved stone slabs are inscribed with the sigil and runes of the Wolf Lord it represents. During great feasts in the hall, it is customary for the Wolf Lords and their Wolf Guard to be seated within the area of the hall thus indicated by their "name-stone." The central device, bearing the sign of the Wolf That Stalks Between the Stars, indicates the position of the current Great Wolf, rotated to show which of the Wolf Lords currently holds that honoured rank. As Wolf Lords die, their name-stones are removed from the Hall of the Great Wolf and taken to the Grove of Heroes, where they circle the oldest name-stone of all, that of Leman Russ himself. Here they lie for eternity in huge concentric rings, a reminder of the heroic leaders of the Space Wolves across the ages. Amongst these name-stones, there is a foreboding blank obsidian name-stone sent into the Grand Annulus that represents the lost 13th Great Company, known as the Wulfenkind. This name-stone has come to represent all of the Great Companies in the history of the Space Wolves who have been destroyed in battle, lost on campaign or recanted their oaths of fealty to the Emperor, and hence is the subject of many veiled comments and superstitions. Only a handful of outsiders have ever seen the stone or heard of its existence, and to suggest that a Great Company "walks the 13th Stone" is a grave accusation indeed.
Notable Great Wolfs
Current Great Wolf
- Logan Grimnar - Logan Grimnar has been the Great Wolf of the Space Wolves for the better part of the 41st Millennium and he is over 800 standard years old, displaying the typical longevity of the Scions of Russ. Logan Grimnar remains one of the most highly respected and best-loved warriors in the entire galaxy. He is one of the most successful of all humanity's commanders, a true champion of the Imperium and an inspiration to man and Astartes alike.
Past Great Wolves
- Great Wolf Sigvald Grimhammer - Sigvald Grimhammer was Logan Grimnar's direct predecessor as the Great Wolf of the Chapter. The reigning Great Wolf was murdered upon the battlefields of Xor by a Dark Eldar Succubus. Wolf Priest Ulrik puts Logan Grimnar's name forward as his successor. Despite many of his fellow Wolf Lords being centuries older than him, amazingly there is no resistance to Logan's ascension, and when the runestones are counted every vote has been cast in Grimnar's favour.
- Great Wolf Anakron Silvermane - Anakron Silvermane was the reigning Great Wolf of the Space Wolves Chapter four centuries earlier (during the 500's-M41). His final stand took place nearly four Terran centuries ago on the world of Melkior where his command post came under a surprise assault by an Eldar warhost. Logan Grimnar and Wolf Guard Pack Leader Hakon both participated in the battle.
- Great Wolf Ulrik Grimfang - Ulrik Grimfang was the reigning Great Wolf during the Macharian Crusade era (392-399.M41). During this time, he was approached through his Chapter's connections to the Navigator House Belisarius to form an alliance with Lord Solar Macharius to lend their military and political support to the great Imperial commander's ongoing crusade. Wishing to cement his alliance with the Space Wolves, Macharius gifted the Chapter with an ancient artefact he believed to be the Fist of Russ. Unfortunately, the relic had been stolen by the insidious Dark Eldar. Once the Great Wolf learned this, he agreed to take part in the liberation of a beleaguered Imperial world in the Procrastes System that the Dark Eldar were currently ravaging. A Great Company of Space Wolves, under the command of Wolf Lord Logan Grimnar, were sent to Macharius to take part in the campaign. Ironically, the Space Wolves would have been more than willing to join Macharius' cause with the promise of glory and conquest and the reaping of souls for the Allfather, rather than extravagant gifts or backroom dealings, which were unnecessary to win their support. Ultimately, the so-called Fist was not the actual relic.
- Great Wolf Fenrik Grimheart - Great Wolf Grimheart led the Space Wolves to victory in the Battle of Balinor, one of the Chapter's most renowned battles of the 38th Millennium.
- Great Wolf Harald Stormwolf - Harald Stormwolf was the reigning Great Wolf during the Second Battle for The Fang in the 36th Millennium. He famously defended the Space Wolves' home world of Fenris from the invading forces of the Apostate Cardinal Bucharis during the bleak era known as the Plague of Unbelief. For three standard years the fanatical armies of Bucharis pounded upon the gates of The Fang. When they faced the final assault by Bucharis' forces, they were saved from certain death by the timely arrival of Wolf Lord Kyrl Grimblood and his Great Company, who smashed into the flanks of the enemy forces and decimated the invaders.
- Great Wolf Oberik Kelman - The 23rd Great Wolf of the Space Wolves Chapter, Oberik Kelman was a famously temperamental man, given to terrifying rages when frustrated. A statue of him resides within The Fang's great Hall of Battles.
- Great Wolf Arvek Hren Kjarlkskar - Great Wolf successor of Harek Ironhelm following his death during the First Battle of The Fang in the 32nd Millennium.
- Great Wolf Harek Eireik "Ironhelm" Eireksson - Harek Eireik Eireksson was a Great Wolf of the Chapter during the 32nd Millennium. He was also known as "Ironhelm" due to the cybernetic implants he received within his skull. Throughout his years as Great Wolf, Harek became obsessed with hunting down Magnus the Red, for Magnus was able to escape him time and time again. Ultimately, Eireksson fell in battle against that Daemon Primarch during the final day of the First Battle of The Fang.
- Great Wolf Bjorn the Fell-Handed - Bjorn the Fell-Handed is the oldest Venerable Dreadnought in the Imperium. Bjorn fought alongside Leman Russ during the Horus Heresy and was the only member of Russ' retinue left behind by the Primarch when he disappeared. He became the first Great Wolf of the Chapter after Russ disappeared and led the Space Wolves on the first Great Hunt, the Chapter's epic but fruitless quest to find its lost Primarch, and it was he who reluctantly gave the order to cease the hunt after he was mortally wounded within the Eye of Terror. He believes that Russ will one day return to their Chapter, and he plans on being there to meet the Primarch in person.
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 14, 49, 56, 72, 82
- Codex: Space Wolves (3rd Edition), pp. 26-27
- Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition)
- White Dwarf 280 (US), "Heroes & Villains of the 41st Millennium: Great Wolf Logan Grimnar
- White Dwarf 258 (US), "Wolves of Fenris: The Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter"
- White Dwarf 247 (US), "The Great Wolf: Wolf Lord Logan Grimnar", pp. 34-35
- Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight