The Wulfen are Space Marines of the Space Wolves Chapter who have succumbed to the Curse of the Wulfen and transformed into savage, malformed lupine mutants. Within every Space Wolf's gene-seed is the specific genetic sequence known as the Canis Helix which invests the Space Wolves with the acute predatory senses of the Fenrisian Wolves native to their homeworld of Fenris.
When Aspirants undergo the beginning of the physical changes that will transform them into superhuman Astartes during the brutal trial known as The Blooding, not every candidate is able to overcome the feral Curse that the activation of the Canis Helix unleashes within them, and they suffer the horrible fate of transforming into one of these fell creatures.
Many Space Wolves warriors do not succumb to the Curse for many Terran centuries. But once he drinks from the Cup of Wulfen the warrior must continuously fight against the beast that rages within him for the remainder of his days. Some Space Wolves eventually surrender, unable to contain the ferocity of the Wolf Within during the heat of battle.
When a Space Wolves Aspirant is deemed worthy to join the Chapter, he partakes in a sacred ceremony where he imbibes the Canis Helix, the Spirit of the Wolf. In actuality, this is a genetic cocktail drawn from the genome of their Primarch Leman Russ and used as a catalyst to activate the genetically-engineered viral machinery of the Aspirant's gene-seed implants, similar to Blood Angels Aspirants who drink the sacred blood of their Primarch Sanguinius from the Red Grail to begin their transformation into Space Marines. This mixture is drunk from an ancient relic of the Space Wolves known as the Cup of Wulfen.
Ancient legends speak of the coming of the Emperor of Mankind to the world of Fenris during the Great Crusade, seeking His long-lost genetic progeny. Many of those that were to become the first Space Wolves were all old men by the standards of the Astartes, having been reavers and sword-brothers to Leman, King of the Rus, for many years before the Allfather had come to Fenris. When the truth of Leman's heritage was finally revealed, every warrior in the king's mead-hall had drawn their iron blades and clamoured to fight at his side, as sword-brothers ought.
But they were all too old, the Allfather told them; not a man amongst them was younger than twenty Terran years. The trials they would have to endure would very likely kill them, no matter how courageous and strong-willed they were. Yet the men of Leman's mead-hall were mighty warriors, each man a hero in his own right, and they would not be dissuaded by thoughts of suffering or death. Leman, the king, was moved by their devotion, and could not find it in his heart to refuse them.
It is said that Leman Russ possessed the Cup of Wulfen, giving this vessel to his original followers, the first men from Fenris to join the ranks of the VI Legion, and told them to drink from the Cup. Amongst the chosen was a jarl named Wulfen. He was a mighty man, fell and strong, proud in his power. He was a man gifted beyond all others in the art of war and he was bested only once in his life, and that was by Russ, who humbled him before all his people but seeing a worthy warrior had spared him, and offered him a place amongst his warriors.
Russ spoke to the assembled men of Fenris and told them of his plan. He offered them power and a vast span of years if they followed him to make war amongst the stars. They roared their acceptance, and hailed Russ as their chief. He told them that they must drink a potent brew from the great cup and thus would their transformation begin. Wulfen was the first to step forward and he swigged the glorious mead of Russ from the chalice.
But evil lurked still in Wulfen. He was consumed by a secret, gnawing hatred of Leman Russ and he planned to take treacherous revenge upon the man-god. The guardian spirit within the cup saw this the moment Wulfen put it to his lips, and it worked a spell on him, making his outer self match his inner evil. To the horror of those who looked on, the great chieftain changed. He turned into a dreadful thing, half-man, half-wolf and he sprang on Russ with a howl of hatred.
But Russ was not dismayed. With one blow, he crushed Wulfen's skull and slew the beast that had been revealed. He looked upon his followers and told them that Wulfen was unworthy, and that this would be the fate of all those who drank from the chalice with evil in their hearts. He told them that those who wished could now depart without drinking. To the Space Wolves' ancestors' credit, no man departed, and all drank and all gained the power that Russ had made their due. And thus began the true Founding of the VI Legion.
Those men strode forth to write their names in the history of all the worlds of men, becoming the first Space Wolves to be recruited from Fenris. Out of the hundreds that imbibed from the Cup of Wulfen, almost two score survived, a number that amazed even the Allfather himself. In honour of their courage, Leman -- no longer the Wolf King, but Primarch of the VI Legion -- formed a new company around the survivors. Ever after, the other warriors of the Legion referred to the 13th Company as the "Greybeards." The members of the company, however, called themselves the "Wolf Brothers."
In reality, and with all ancient legends put aside, those Aspirants who are likely to fall prey to the Wulfen mutation inherent within the gene-seed of Leman Russ do not do so after immediately imbibing the Canis Helix mixture, but usually over the solar weeks and months of training that follow afterwards. After drinking from the Cup of Wulfen, the Aspirants are taken through the Gate of Morkai, a mystic portal deep within The Aett (The Fang), the Space Wolves' massive fortress-monastery, where every Aspirant's mind is picked and probed by the Chapter's psychic Rune Priests (Librarians) for signs of corruption or mental weakness that will make them easy prey for the blandishments of Chaos.
One of the most important aspects of this test is that the Aspirant show himself able to keep this bestial side under control, even while making his way through the Fenrisian wilderness in harsh conditions. Those that fail to do so will transform into Wulfen, and remain in the wild. If the Aspirant returns to The Fang from this Test of Morkai, he is implanted with the remaining components of the Space Wolves' gene-seed, which stabilise the mutational effects of the Helix. Although this procedure is extremely hazardous, the remaining components of the Space Wolves' gene-seed will prove ineffective at initiating the metamorphosis into an Astartes unless the Canis Helix is implanted first to serve as a catalyst for the transformation.
The next phase of the Neophytes' transformation into a full-fledged Space Wolf is a trial period of training in which the physical transformations initiated by the genetic catalyst within the Canis Helix begin to manifest themselves. Amongst the most common changes are that the Neophyte's senses will become vastly superior to that of other Space Marines, his teeth will lengthen into fangs capable of tearing through Plasteel, and his skin will toughen to the texture of leather.
His body mass grows by up to eighty percent and many of his bones fuse. Many of the Aspirants will continue to grow into their newly-received genetic implants whilst others succumb completely to the Curse of the Wolf at this time and devolve into one of the giant, feral and bloodthirsty mutants known as the Wulfen. To become one of these fell creatures is to fall from grace, and to roam the Fenrisian wilderness forevermore as a creature of the darkest night.
The Space Wolves' harsh induction regime generally ensures that these individuals perish at an early stage in the process. However, at the time of the Great Crusade, when the Emperor and his Astartes Legions were conquering vast swathes of the galaxy in the name of Mankind, those brothers touched by the Curse were banded together into the 13th Great Company, where their feral ferocity could be brought to bear en masse, as well as contained for the safety of the whole Legion. But eventually the 13th Company disappeared, their loss the subject of numerous myths.
Even once the Canis Helix gene sequence has been stabilised within the body of a Neophyte, it still has the power to affect the warrior throughout his life, particularly when the ferocity of the Space Wolf, barely contained at the best of times, is roused in battle. Then the warrior may finally succumb to the Curse of the Wulfen, and he will be transformed once again into the beast he has fought for so many standard centuries to subdue.
It falls to the Wolf Priests, the cult leaders and spiritual guides of the Chapter, to keep the Curse of the Wulfen from overtaking the Space Wolves, and they take full responsibility for the development of their charges, be it martially, spiritually or mentally. Those that are "Wolf Bitten" (suffering from the Curse of the Wulfen) are given over to the care of the Wolf Priests.
Currently, there is one group of warriors under the shadow of this Curse more than any other. These are the Astartes of Wolf Lord Bran Redmaw's Great Company. It is renowned for its savagery in battle, and the Inquisition has accounts of terrifying feral creatures shadowing the deployment of the Great Company. These reports have yet to be proved true, and the Space Wolves themselves ignore all demands to account for these allegations.
The Wolf Lord Bran Redmaw also does little to dispel these rumours, and the fact that he has recently begun to take to the battlefield alone rather than lead his Battle-Brothers only serves to court the growing attention of the Inquisition and the Ecclesiarchy. None have yet dared to question their loyalty to the Imperium, and the Great Company's proven record combating Mankind's enemies has forced the Inquisition to so far stay its hand.
The Wolf Brothers
During the Second Founding in the late 31st Millennium, the Wolf Brothers Chapter was raised from the gene-seed of the Space Wolves Legion. Led by its first Chapter Master, Beor Arjac Grimmaesson, the Wolf Brothers were intended to be as numerous as their genetic forebears, and as powerful.
They were gifted a homeworld, Kaeriol, a planet of ice and fire, just as Fenris is. They were given half of the VI Legion's fleet, half their armouries and half their Wolf Priests. They were to have been the first of many Successor Chapters, a whole line of descendant Fenrisian Chapters -- the "Sons of Russ", capable of carving out a star empire the size of Ultramar. That was the vision: to be powerful enough to encircle the Eye of Terror completely, to prevent the Traitor Legions from daring to ever leave it again. It was hoped that the Wolf Brothers and other Space Wolves Successors would fulfill their destiny and find a new purpose in the Age of the Imperium.
But something went terribly wrong and the Wolf Brothers were disbanded, scattered to the six points of the compass. They were disbanded for the same reason there could be no further Successors to the Space Wolves -- the existence of the Wolf Within. The genetic code of the Space Wolves Astartes known as the Canis Helix was far too dangerous to be copied. The heritage that made the Space Wolves powerful also made their genomes unstable and prone to rapid mutation. The Wolf Brothers, located far from Fenris, fell quickly into the state of beasts. So it would prove again and again with any attempt to splice new sets of gene-seed from the genetic legacy of Leman Russ.
This instability may have been the result of the Curse of the Wulfen that manifests itself at times in the Space Wolves themselves, most obviously amongst the Space Marines of the Space Wolves 13th Company. Some Wolf Brothers, however, chose to go Renegade rather than be liquidated and eventually became Chaos Space Marines in service to the Space Wolves' greatest enemies, the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion, and later to other Heretic Astartes warbands such as the Red Corsairs. Some of these Renegades remain at large in the late 41st Millennium, though the vast majority of the Chapter was liquidated millennia ago.
- Space Wolves 13th Company - Tales of this Great Company are vague and often contradictory, but one fact is known: the men of the 13th Great Company were marked apart from the rest of their Legion, for every one of them bore the Curse of the Wulfen. The origins of the 13th Great Company lie in the dawn of the Age of the Imperium, when the Primarchs were reunited with the Emperor and their Space Marine Legions. Those Space Wolves Astartes touched by the Curse were banded together into the 13th Company, where their feral ferocity could be brought to bear en masse, as well as contained for the safety of the whole Legion. That the 13th Company accompanied Russ on the Great Crusade is known, although the details of the campaigns in which they fought are lost to antiquity. Eventually, the 13th Company vanished into the mists of legend, their disappearance the subject of numerous myths. But in 999.M41, as Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade reached a bloody climax, small warbands of elite warriors were sighted, falling upon the servants of Chaos with a feral savagery matched only by their bestial appearance. Every attempt to contact them has resulted in the threat of further bloodshed. It has been observed that the 13th Company contain Wulfen Packs that are often led into battle by Wolf Priests. Whether the Wulfen Packs are standing formations, or are formed on a temporary basis as men succumb to the Curse of the Wulfen is currently unknown. It is theorised that these Wolf Priests play a vital rote in controlling the excesses of the Wulfens' curse. Wolf Priests of the Space Wolves are the keepers of the genetic lore passed down to them in a direct line from Russ, and appear to be the only men able to control a Space Wolf when the Curse is upon him. The Wolf Priests are obviously acting as guardians, leading Packs of Wulfen in combat, and ministering to their charges between conflicts.
- Bran Redmaw - Known as the Curs'd Lord, Wulfen-Kin and The Bloodied Hunter, Bran Redmaw serves as the current Wolf Lord of one of the Chapter's Great Companies. He and his Great Company are looked upon with suspicion by the other 11 Wolf Lords, for they are regarded as tainted. More Space Wolves bearing the Curse of the Wulfen serve in Redmaw's company than in any other. The unspoken truth is that Redmaw has risen to become a Wolf Lord despite himself being afflicted with the Curse.
- Bulveye, Axeman of Russ - Bulveye is the Wolf Lord of the lost Space Wolves 13th Company. Bulveye is 10,000 standard years old and fought at the side of Leman Russ during the Great Crusade. Reemerging from the Eye of Terror in the late 41st Millennium, Bulveye and a warband of the 13th Company aided a young Ragnar Blackmane, who was serving as a member of the Wolfblade, in the recovery of the Spear of Russ from the Thousand Sons Chaos Sorcerer Madox, staging a distraction to allow Ragnar and his companions to reach the stronghold of the Thousand Sons while most of the Traitor forces were engaged with the 13th Company. Bulveye spoke of Russ, as only one who knew him in life could, and together with his warriors spoke of ten thousand years of struggle within the Eye of Terror, fighting the Forces of Chaos and the daemonic beasts within as they searched for Magnus the Red.
Bulveye may not be the actual ranking Wolf Lord of the 13th Great Company, as he only appears in William King's novels, which are not fully accepted as canon (and clash with the current depiction of the Vlka Fenryka in recent Black Library novels).
It may be the case, however, that due to their extended great hunt in the Eye of Terror the 13th Great Company became fragmented to the degree that it was forced to promote several of its remaining Wolf Guard to the position of Jarl (Wolf Lord) in order to maintain several independent task forces. In this case, Bulveye may well be a Wolf Lord of the 13th Great Company, but probably not the Wolf Lord.
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 10, 35
- Codex: Space Wolves (3rd Edition), pg. 15
- Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition), pp. 6, 38, 40
- Imperial Armour Volume Eleven - The Doom of Mymera, pp. 109-110, 126-127
- Index Astartes II, "Wolves of Fenris - The Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter"
- White Dwarf 283 (AUS), "Index Astartes – 13th Company"
- White Dwarf 282 (US), "Mark of the Wulfen: Matt Hutson's Wulfen force"
- White Dwarf 281 (US), "Mark of the Wulfen"
- White Dwarf 259 (AUS), "Index Astartes – The Space Wolves"
- White Dwarf 258 (US), "Index Astartes First Founding: Wolves of Fenris"
- White Dwarf 251 (US), "The Final Days of Armageddon", pp. 6-27
- White Dwarf 245 (US), "Lone Wolves," "A Company of Wolves", pp. 32-35, 37-39
- Space Wolf (Novel) by William King
- Wolf's Honour (Novel) by Geoff Taylor
- Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill