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Top Ten Wolves in Fantasy

Ask people to name a fantasy animal and chances are pretty high that they will say a dragon. But in a deep and intelligent discussion (read: random!) on Twitter recently, three of us (Alex Shepherd, Doug Smith and myself, Dominic Stevens) noticed that it’s the wolf which keeps cropping up again and again, whether in the form of a standard European wolf, a hound, a werewolf, or even the famous one right now, a direwolf. Why this is, we could not say, though I do wonder if the writers of these stories have been wearing The Three Wolves Moon T-Shirt whilst writing!

So for the delight of all our readers, here are our top ten wolves in fantasy!

10. Willie Flambeaux (The Skin Trade by George R.R. Martin)

Before George RR Martin started writing A Song of Ice and Fire he was a rather brilliant writer of short stories and novellas. One of his most famous was a werewolf detective noir story called The Skin Trade, the lead character of which was a rather grizzled P.I. called Willie Flambeaux who solved crimes by transforming into a werewolf and literally following his nose!

9. Maugrim (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S.Lewis)

Maugrim was the head of The Witch’s Police in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and relished the dirty work that had to be done. Seen by many as an agent of the Devil, he is the ugly face of evil in Narnia and makes no bones about it. He is instrumental in the coming of age of Peter who eventually slays him, earning the name Sir Peter Wolfsbane.

8. Hopper (The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan)

Hopper is a large grizzled wolf from The Wheel of Time and somewhat of an oddity on this list, as he dies very early on in the series. He features regularly after this, despite the rather large setback of being dead. He’s a favourite by association as Perrin is one of my favourite characters in The Wheel of Time, and Hopper goes on to tutor Perrin in the Wolf Dream, or Tel’aran’rhiod. Without Hopper, Perrin would have stumbled early and often and more than likely met with a sticky end. Hopper shows his loyalty at the end by dying the ‘final death’ whilst helping Perrin, no longer to be born again into the Wheel of Time.

7. The Alphas (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher)

First introduced in Jim Butcher’s second Dresden Files novel, Fool Moon, the Alphas quickly became a major faction within the world of Harry Dresden. Essentially a street gang of teenage werewolves, the Alphas become one of the few sources of true friendship that Harry Dresden can rely on, and they get more powerful with every novel. The Alphas (and in particular, Billy Borden) become willing to face insurmountable odds to protect Harry, and they are more than worthy of a place on this list.

6. Lupin (The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

Despite being a werewolf, Professor Lupin from the Harry Potter series was probably the only decent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Harry ever had, so he’d get an honourable mention for that if nothing else. A member of the original Order of the Phoenix, he becomes a mentor of sorts for young Harry but goes on to lose his life battling the Death Eaters. I know what you’re thinking, that this is all in his human form, but where does the wolf end and the human begin, eh Moony?

5. Oz (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV Series)

Seth Green is a hero to geeks worldwide, but for many of us our favourite role for him was as the taciturn Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was a traditional, transforming into a werewolf every full moon – a slight misfortunate for his band who could never be booked for gigs during a full moon. He left in the fourth season after breaking poor Willow’s heart, and she never loved another man afterwards.

4. Angua (The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett)

The now Captain Angua of the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork is not only the most beautiful member (by quite a long-shot) of the Watch, but she is also one of the most dangerous. Originally hired as part of an affirmative action plan by the Patrician, Lord Havelock Vetinari; Angua met the requirements in more than one way, by being both a woman, and a werewolf. She is a hard worker, very much in love with Captain Carrot and probably the most deadly member of the Watch. And that’s before she even transforms!

3. White Fang and Buck (In The Call Of The Wild by Jack London)

It would be a mighty injustice to make a list of the top ten wolves in fiction without doffing a cap to the original writer of Shaggy Dog tales, Jack London. White Fang and Buck both undergo the dog versions of a bildungsroman, but their tales are cleverly reversed. In The Call of the Wild Buck goes from being a domesticated dog to a wild wolf, whilst in White Fang our wolf is tamed to become a loyal companion to his master. Most brilliant about Jack London’s writings is that he does not try to anthropomorphise Buck or White Fang but instead creates a template for realistic portrayals of animals of all types in fiction which still influences writers now.

2. Ghost (A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin)

He may not have made the top spot of this list, but I think we can all agree that Ghost can take home the award of Coolest Fantasy Wolf. When the Stark kids find the direwolves in A Game of Thrones, they almost leave behind the little runt of the litter. A red- eyed albino, Ghost is well suited to Jon Snow. As the series progresses, Ghost becomes a dutiful protector to the brothers of the Nightswatch, and he’s more badass with every appearance. Jon Snow may not be everybody’s favourite character, but I reckon we all have a soft spot for Ghost.

1. Nighteyes (The Realm of the Elderlings series, by Robin Hobb)

Anybody who has read Robin Hobb’s Assassins and Tawney Men trilogy will know there was never a real debate who would win the coveted number one spot. Nighteyes is more than just a companion to Fitz, he is half of a whole character. Without Nighteyes, Fitz is simply incomplete, and there is no way Fitz would have had the strength to endure the hell Hobbs puts him through without Nighteyes. And, most telling, no scene involving a human character has ever made me bawl my eyes out in the same manner that some of Nighteye’s scenes made me. Not only the greatest wolf in fantasy, also one of the greatest characters in fantasy full stop.

Article co-written by Alex Shepherd, Doug Smith, and Dominic Stevens.

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23 Comments

  1. Avatar Gregory Lynn says:

    Gin from the Legend of Eli Monpress deserves a nod.

    And has a nice pic on the french cover
    http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-spirit-rebellion-french-coverjadore.html

  2. Avatar Crystal says:

    Blind Seer from the firekeeper series by Jane Lindskold.

  3. Shocked that Blind Seer from Jane Lindskold’s Firekeeper series didn’t make this list.

  4. No mention for Akela from Kipling’s The Jungle Book?

    • I also wanted to say Akela. Maybe some wouldn’t consider The Jungle Book as fantasy, but more anthropomorphic literary fiction, but hey wolves raising a man, that’s fantasy in my book.

      • Avatar Erica says:

        Well, they included Jack London’s wolf dogs, and his work wouldn’t count as fantasy either. I think it’s hard with polls, because it’s going to depend on what the people voting in it have read most recently.

  5. Avatar Dominic Stevens says:

    We were going to do honourable mentions, and Akela would have been part of that. She nearly did make the top 10 – but maybe its been too long since I read The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, and maybe Disney have warped my mind, but Baloo and Baghera have stuck with me for longer.

    Apologies for not including Blind Seer or Gin, too many books out there to read, and just never came across either! But will look out for them, I promise!

  6. Avatar Saladin says:

    +1 for Akela

    Also, WHITHER ELFQUEST? 😛

  7. Avatar Ahimsa says:

    I wanted to mention Elfquest too. AYOOOAH Nightrunner!

  8. Avatar Anthony Addis says:

    Kalix, The Lonely Werewolf Girl, by Martin Millar.

  9. Avatar James V says:

    No love for Aargh/Aragh of Gordy Dickson’s Dragon Knight novels?

  10. Avatar Anne M says:

    Also love Galadan from the Fionavar Tapestry and Brokefang from Tamora Pierce’s Wolfspeaker 🙂

  11. Avatar Mke G says:

    Nailed it on Nighteyes. I’ve reading fantasy for nearly 40 years and he is the first I thought of when I saw the title of your list. Well done.

  12. Avatar Davieboy says:

    The Talisman, Stephen King & Peter Straub – Wolf, right here and now!

    • Avatar Fleura says:

      Oh yes! It’s been so long since I read that, but read what you wrote was like a stab in the heart. So agree! (sorry for necro post, but I had to!)

  13. Avatar Nicola says:

    Great list! Makes you realise how important wolves are in fantasy. And I’d completely forgotten about the wolf in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – not sure how I did that as Maugrim was such a key character. Perhaps because all the animals talk they seem more human in my memory.

  14. Avatar B says:

    Gmork from The Neverending Story (novel and film).

  15. Avatar Erica says:

    I loved Nighteyes, but I also really liked Blind Seer in Jane Lindskold’s Through Wolf’s Eyes and its sequels. Her intelligent wolves had a social system that was closer to that of actual wild wolves than what we see with many fantasy novels. I’m surprised Patricia Brigg’s werewolves didn’t make the list, though, as those books are quite popular on our side of the pond.

  16. Avatar Scott says:

    I was getting a little skeptical when I scrolled down to number 5 and still didn’t see at least Ghost but when I saw him at number two and then my all time favorite, Nighteyes, at #1 then I realized there was some real credibility to this list. Nighteyes… Other than the birth of my son, nothing has stirred so much emotion than that chapter in Fool’s Errand. “Time to change, Changer.” Luckily I was alone as I read that.

  17. Avatar NinjaHyper says:

    It triggers me that u call Ghost an albino… not every white animal is an albino Ghost is either familiar with Tundra Wolf or Arctic Wolf but not an albino…

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