"There is a wolf over there."
Translation:Det står en varg där borta.
A 'place' isn't necessarily just one word. It can be much longer, even a whole clause can be a place. Think of it this way: a place in the sentence is an expression that could be replaced by one word. For instance we say Där borta står en varg, but we could just have said just Där står en varg. This means that där borta fulfills the same syntactic function as där could have taken up. We could also have said Där borta i den täta mörka skogen står en varg 'Over there in the dark dense forest there stands a wolf' and the verb would still be in second place, since everything before står has the same function that you could express with just one word.
Why is står used here instead of finns? I know it's more idiomatic in Swedish to describe the placement of things literally, as in "Boken ligger bredvid äpplet" (not sure if I chose the right verb, but you get the idea), but isn't the verb "there is" describing the existence of something, not it's location/placement?
And I understand that det finns is a phrase that means "there is," but what exactly is the role of the det in this sentence? Similarly, which is the subject of the sentence- det or en varg?
Not a native speaker, but Swedish tends to use verbs like “sit,” “stand,” and “lay” to describe locations. For example, to say “the cup is on the table” you would say “koppen står på bordet,” but to say “the book is on the table” you would say “bocken ligger på bordet.” (Not sure if those examples are 100% correct, but you get the idea). You could also use “det finns” in these cases as well, but I believe it’s less idiomatic.
Also, “there is” would never be “det är.” That is “det finns” which more literally means “there exists.”