A wolf pup is left to die by his pack because his malformed foot is considered bad luck. A grizzly bear, Thunderheart, whose cubs have been killed, rescues Faolan and nurtures him until her accidental death. As the young wolf continues on alone, he discovers "the Cave Before Time" with wall paintings portraying the history of the wolves and realizes that he must return to his own kind and learn their ways. This anthropomorphic fantasy has a number of the traditional characters found in these tales, such as the young outcast Faolan; the wise and solitary Gwynneth, the owl; and the powerfully maternal Thunderheart. The relationship between the wolf and the bear is particularly touching as they develop a strong and loving bond.