This article is from the X-Men Comic Books FAQ, by Kate the Short (email@example.com) with numerous contributions by others.
In 2001, a new miniseries was created by Joe Quesada, Bill Jemas, and
Paul Jenkins, penciled by Andy Kubert and digitally painted by Richard
Isanove. Creatively named "Origin," the book was set in Alberta and
British Columbia, Canada, and was supposed to tie up a lot of loose ends
about Wolverine's origins. We'll summarize the important parts for you,
so you don't have to spend dozens of dollars trying to buy the darned
Issue #1 used misdirection, and convinced many readers that Dog, the
beaten and abused son of lowlife groundskeeper Thomas Logan, was
Wolverine. Origin #2, however, revealed that Wolverine was James Howlett,
the weak child of an aristocrat, James Howlett, who was a gentle and soft
man, and his wife Elizabeth, who has been sequestered in the mansion ever
since the death of her first son, John. It's likely that Elizabeth
Howlett had an affair with Thomas Logan, and that James is actually their
son, since Thomas sneaks into the mansion in issue #2 to take Elizabeth
away with him, and she doesn't protest too much. Either way, Thomas Logan
ends up dead when James pops his claws. Something odd happened with his
dead older brother, though--John Logan died at age twelve, apparently
after an illness, and Mrs. Howlett says something to the effect of "ohh
... Not *again*. Not *you*, James" in Origin #3. Apparently she's seen
*somebody* pop claws before. It's too much for her, so she kills herself
with a rifle. When the news is brought to Grandpa Howlett, he asks Dog
what happened... and Dog lies and says that Rose had a gun.
After Grandpa Howlett forces Rose and James to leave the Howlett home,
Rose takes James by train to British Columbia to work in a quarry. Since
James is in a daze from the appearance of his claws, and they need to
hide their identities due to James' killing of Thomas Logan, Rose gives
the foreman the name of "Logan" for James. (The foreman, Smitty, is
where Logan picks up his characteristic use of "bub.") After working
lower-class jobs for a long while, Logan becomes stronger, following an
internal "urge" to learn how to track animals. As of issue #4, he
prefers the name "Logan" instead of James. He doesn't know what happened
in Alberta (apparently his mind is blocking the memories), and though
Rose wants to talk with him about it, he won't listen. She writes an
account of it in her narrative diary, hoping that he'll learn the truth
from the diary someday. Logan still seems to remember his claws, though,
and after two years at the camp, he pops them out again.
In Origin #5, Rose becomes interested in Smitty. Smitty ends up giving
Logan a book about Japanese Samurai fighters, presumably leading to his
interest in that culture. At the end of the issue, Grandpa Howlett talks
of letting "the fear of what happened to his brother" cloud his
judgement, and sends a messenger to find James and Rose--except that the
messenger is Dog, Thomas Logan's son from issue #1. In issue #6, there's
a cage match in which Logan is called "the Wolverine." He throws a fight
against Smitty, who was in the cage matches to earn money so that he and
fiancee Rose could leave the quarry. When Dog appears and fights Logan,
Logan remembers that Dog is actually the one who killed his father, not
him. Rose tries to stop them; popping his claws, Logan accidentally
kills Rose. He then runs off into the Canadian wilderness, leaving Dog
and Smitty behind.
Apparently it's all true, because Xavier's freaky sister Cassandra Nova
called Wolverine both "Mr. Logan" and "James" in NXM #126.
At the WizardWorld 2002 Comicon Quesada spoke for a while about Origin.
The story didn't tell much about Wolverine's origin, they said, because
the people at Marvel have planned a sequel. "Bill [Jemas] wants to do it
tomorrow," said Quesada, "but I want to let 'Origin' sit a while." So
who knows when we'll find out the details of how Wolverine went from
teenage quarry worker to Weapon X agent.
And, just to clear things up: Dog is not Sabretooth. Really.