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40K Lore: There Are No Wolves On Fenris…

4 Minute Read
Oct 20 2011
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This phrase has, for some inexplicable reason, always struck me as one of the most eerie and haunting statements in the 40k universe ever since Magnus first uttered it.

Perhaps because on the surface it is just so patently untrue, clearly there ARE wolves on Fenris.  Yet somehow if we take the statement (since repeated several times) at face value then what are clearly wolves must just as clearly be something else entirely.  The answer has been hinted at in a heavy handed sense. 
The first hints were vague, cryptic references by Magnus to something unique in the qualities of the genetics of life on Fenris and the Canis Helix.  The Canis Helix has been hinted at before as a somehow unique facet of the genetics of the Space Wolves that gives them some of their peculiarly lupine traits.  The Wulfen are another piece of the puzzle, Astartes of the Space Wolves whose physiology has been altered out of control far beyond even the considerable changes that make up the transformation into a Space Marine, and that the Canis Helix is somehow involved.  The logical extrapolation from this point, and indeed what we have been lead to understand is true, is that the “wolves” of Fenris are nothing of the kind.  These “wolves” are in fact Astartes whose genetic alteration has spiraled out of control, reshaping them into bestial new forms.  This explains much of how and why “wolves” fight alongside the Space Wolves in battle and obey their Astartes masters even in the thick of combat.  If they were originally men perhaps they retain some dim memory of fragment of their minds and sense of duty.
There is a notable flaw in this explanation however; “wolves” have existed on Fenris since before the first Astartes came to Fenris.  If the “wolves” of Fenris are in fact Astartes whose transformation ran rampantly out of control then how could they have existed before the 6th legion Astartes made it their home?  The possible answer is equally as bizarre.  If there are no wolves on Fenris because the “wolves” are in fact transformed Astartes because of the poorly defined “Canis Helix,” but “wolves” have existed on Fenris before Astartes then these original “wolves” must be from something that also predates the Astartes on Fenris.  The obvious answer is the human settlers of Fenris.  This also gives a clue about the Canis Helix, something that has never really been defined.  The Canis Helix must be a piece of genetic tailoring, perhaps using the DNA of actual Terran wolves, done to or by the original settlers of the inhospitable icy Death World that is Fenris to give them a fighting chance at surviving this hellish environment.  In some cases this manipulation must have had… unforeseen consequences. 

Perhaps the first generation of Fenrisian “wolves” came from among the original gene-tailored colonists before their genetic alterations stabilized and this offshoot population did what they had been designed to do and thrived in the otherwise fatal world.  When the Astartes began to recruit from among this population the result was occasional destabilization of the delicate balance of competing genetic conditioning to produce a new more potent line of “wolves.”  Perhaps only the legendary Thunderwolves are the result of Astartes transformation while the lesser breeds are descended from the human population.  If this is the case of course it would suggest that either ALL thunderwolves began life as humans in the process of becoming Astartes, or that this necessarily all male population group could interbreed with the lesser “wolves” to produce a viable breeding population. 

An interesting side note brought up by this explanation this is the question, assuming they were not sterile, of whether these transformed former humans could breed true as “wolves” or would perhaps produce human offspring.  If they bred true as “wolves” then perhaps they could occasionally produce throwback human offspring, this could well be the origin of the legendary and aloof Space Wolf warrior Canis Wolfborn.
This explanation makes a great deal of sense when we consider that artificial selection and gene-tailoring was once commonplace among humanity; the gene-hanced soldiers of the Geno Chiliad armies, the engineered masters of the Masonic Guilds, and the ubiquitous gene-bulked laborers seen working on the Imperial Palace.  With the apparent ease and widespread use of genetic enhancements it makes a great deal of sense to assume that the would-be settlers might have undergone genetic adjustments to better survive their environment.  While genetic drift and the founder effect offers abundant explanation for some of the more unusual features of human and Astartes groups seen throughout the Imperium ancient genetic tailoring could just as easily account for some; the strikingly violet eyes of the Cadians (which were considered remarkable when they were first encountered before the Heresy) could be a modification to deal with the unusual radiation from the Eye of Terror, the “unique genetics” that react with Nocturn’s radiation to produce the coal black skin exhibited be the Salamanders might well be genetic modifications done in ages past to the human population from whom they draw their recruits.
References:
Codex: Space Wolves
The Horus Heresy novels
Warhammer 40,000 Core Rulebook
If you have a favorite corner of the 40k lore that would like to see featured, or just a lore question you think would interest the community, let me know, you can even PM me on the forum if you like.  New ideas are always welcome.

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