In 1965, Frank Herbert introduced the world of Dune and opened up a whole new style of science fiction writing. This is the kind of book that contributed to Star Wars and other space fantasy books. He developed an entire solar system. Arrakis is a spice world. The spice, known as melange, is highly addictive and important for space travel, navigators use it. Although in small doses, the spice is not as addictive, it works to prolong life. The only source for the melange is Arrakis.
At the beginning of “Dune”, the House Atreides has been given the rule of the planet. Before it was under the control of the House Harkonnen, but they had begun stockpiling the spice in order to curtail production down the road and raise the prices of their supply. When the other Houses discovered this, they petitioned the emperor to take the planet away from the Harkonnen’s and give it to the Atreides.
But, we discover, that the Baron Harkonnen had planned on this so he could lure his nemesis, Duke Atreides, and his family, into a place where his spies and men could wipe out the whole family. Although the Duke is murdered, his wife, Jessica, a Bene Gesserit, and their son, Paul escape. The two are absorbed into the native Fremen and later lead a revolt against the Harkonnen’s, and the emperor. But, first, Jessica becomes the Reverend Mother for the Fremen and gives birth to a little girl with full memory of all the Bene Gesserit that have come before her. And, Paul becomes the Muad’Dib, with the power to see the past and future at all times.
In the end of the book is a complete appendix explaining the ecology and religion of Dune. Herbert continues his replete world building with a report on the Bene Gesserit, and the Noble Houses. He also includes a dictionary of terms used.
The book opens with a young boy laying in a bed. His beautiful mother, Jessica and the imposing Reverend Mother Mohiam are standing over him. He must take a test to see if he is human. He must put his hand in a box. If you pulls it out, the Reverend Mother will use her gom jabber, a weapon that poisons and kills instantly, on him. Even though, the box is painful, Paul, the young boy, keeps his hand still. He fears the gom jabber too much too remove his hand. The woman mutters that he may by the Kwisatz Haderach, and will bring important changes to the universe. Paul learns that his mother also took the test and that the Reverend Mother was her teacher at the Bene Gesserit School. They also tell him that his father, Duke Leto of the House Atreides will be dying soon after the family relocates from the planet Caladen, ruled by Duke Leto, to the planet Arrakis. It is a dessert planet, that is now ruled by the Harkonnens, who are enemies of the Atreides.
Cut to the Baron Harkonnen. He is amazingly obese to the point he can’t walk. But, his mind is cunning and cruel. He tells his equally cruel nephew, Feyd-Rautha, and Piter, his minion and a mental (no emotions, only logic) of his plan to arrange for Duke Leto to trade his lush planet, Caladen for the planet Arrakis. Although, it may look like a bad trade, Arrakis is the main supplier of the spice Melange, a highly addictive drug. The Baron wants the House Atreides on the planet, so he can use his men to kill the whole family.
Back to the planet Caladen. The Reverend Mother asks Jessica why she had a son when the Bene Gesserit wanted her to have a daughter. She replies that her husband wanted a son and heir. The Reverend Mother reminds her that she was supposed to have a daughter to marry into the Harkonnen’s and end the battles between the two rival families. When the two women get back to the sleeping Paul, he tells them about his dream of a girl who called him, Usul.
Paul meets with Thufir Hawat. Although, he is the Duke’s main strategist, he is also one of Paul’s tutors. He informs Paul of the Fremen. He says they are resilient and must be dealt with. Then Gurney Halleck arrives. He is the Duke’s War Master, and also Paul’s arms trainer. He puts Paul through the paces in sword play and is tougher than usual because he feels that Paul will soon have to fight for his life. After the intense training, Paul meets with Dr. Yueh, the doctor for the House Atreides. He educates the boy on the indigenous life on the desert planet. The natives are called Fremen. They have blue eyes, without whites, because of the spice. They are desert people and only marry other desert people. “They have a saying: ‘Polish comes from the cities; wisdom from the desert.'” Then, Paul asks about the sandworms. Dr. Yueh tells him they can grow up to four hundred meters long. Through the doctor’s thoughts the reader learns that he has been sent by the Harkonnens to betray the Atreides.
Soon, Duke Leto, Paul’s father, comes to talk to him. He tells his son that they will be walking into a trap, but, the House Atreides should be able to handle it. The Duke also tells him that the Harkonnens have been stockpiling the spice, or melange. They plan to damage the planet, so that they can drive the price of the spice they have up. But, the CHOAM company, (Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles) knows of this, and therefore, has given the planet to Duke Leto. The Houses depend on the spice trade, and don’t want the Harkonnens to be in control of it.
The House Atreides arrive on Arrakis. They settle into the Arrakeen. It used to be a government mansion during the time of the “Old Empire.” The grandiosity of the palace shows the wealth of the former government. The displaced Harkonnens have “their new megalopolis of Carthag—a cheap and brassy place some two hundred kilometers northeast across the Broken Land.” Jessica meets her new servant, Shadout Mapes, a Fremen, who gives her a test, that she passes, since she is a Bene Gesserit. She identifies a knife that Mapes shows her. It is a ‘maker’ or crysknife. Because of this, Mapes thinks Jessica is “The One.”
When Jessica tries to find her son, she is stopped by the doctor, who tells her Paul is in bed. The two discuss the Fremen. Some of the people are glad to see the Atreides replace the Harkonnen, but some think the Atreides will be just as wasteful with water as the Harkonnen are. While Jessica is studying the elaborate greenhouse that is watered daily, Paul is fighting a would-be assassin robotic probe. Jessica is given a message from a Bene Gesserit sister, Lady Fenring. The warning is about the attempt on Paul’s life, though too late. It also says there is a traitor among them. She had already found out from the doctor that his wife, also a Bene Gesserit, was either dead or held captive by the Harkonnens.
After the attempt on his son’s life, the Duke decides to step things up. He sends his war master, Halleck to convince the Fremen miners to continue to work for the Duke. Leto also plans to get inside the spice smuggler’s network and gain their support, since there is a Harkonnen trap coming. He also plans on raiding the spice storehouses of the Harkonnen’s, on other planets. Then, he wants to recruit the Fremen to fight on their side. Duncan Idaho returns with a leader of the Fremen, Stilgar. Leto makes a good impression by showing respect and not insisting on seeing the ‘crysknife’ a weapon that is rare and is not supposed to leave the planet. Stilgar spits on the table to show his respect. Since water is so precious on Arrakis, this is a great personal gift. The Fremen ask Duncan to return with him to his seitch, or protective cave. Leto agrees to allow it, for better relations between his House and the Fremen.
When the trap is finally sprung, it is with a note that is intercepted by Hawat. It is supposedly sent from the Baron Harkonnen to Jessica. It looks like the two are planning to assassinate the Duke. The Duke, of course, knows it’s fake, but he allows his men to believe it’s true in order to catch the traitor. The only person he shares his plans with is Paul. The Fremen begin to call Paul the Madhi, “the one who will lead us to paradise.” They have a prophecy that a savior will come as the child of a Bene Gesserit. His father wants him to use this status to gain the Fremen on his side, if anything goes wrong.
Leto and Paul meet Dr. Kynes. He is an ecologist on Arrakis. He teaches them how to use stillsuits. These are the suits the people wear that recycles the bodies waters so they can keep using it. On the desert planet water is the highest commodity. A clan owns the water of all their people, and when someone dies, the body fluids are given to them. Kynes is surprised to discover that Paul seems to match the myth of the Madhi. He becomes even more intrigued by the Atreides when Leto chooses to save the lives of the miners in a mine they visit, instead of the spice. During this visit, the mine is attacked by a sandworm. Then, during a dinner party thrown by Leto, Kynes spends time talking to Jessica. She says how they would like to return the planet to its former lush landscape. He asks her is she has provided the ‘shortening of the way,’ or the Kwisatz Haderach. She doesn’t answer.
Jessica and Paul, see a spy. A banker for the Guild Bank. His behavior is suspect, especially since he seems to be terrified of Kynes. When Leto spends time talking with Kynes. He is surprised to learn that the planet already has enough water to start to grow more vegetation on the planet. Jessica is confronted by a drunk Duncan Idaho and Hawat, who both suspect of her of betraying the Duke. She uses her Gesserit ‘voice’ that convinces them she is innocent, but also makes Hawat worry about how dangerous she is.
Later that night, Leto is lured into the final trap. Dr. Yueh subdues him and plants a poisonous tooth in his mouth. He tells him that he is sorry, but, he must do this to save his wife. Leto is supposed to bite down on it when he gets close to the Baron and it will emit a gas that will kill him. Then he turns him over to the Baron’s men. Meanwhile, Jessica and Paul are captured and taken away on an ornithopter, or small flying ship. Jessica uses her voice to set the two kidnappers against each other. After they kill each other, she and Paul find a bundle with stillsuits, provisions, and the Duke’s ring that Dr. Yueh removed after planting the tooth, in order to ensure Paul got it. They run for cover when more ornithopters appear.
At the Baron’s ostentatious home, Dr. Yueh is demanding to see his wife but is not surprised to discover the Baron has already killed her. Then he orders Piter, his assassin to kill the doctor. When his men bring Leto in, the Baron demands to know where Jessica and Paul have fled. The Duke refuses to tell, then tries to poison him when he thinks the Baron is close enough. Instead, Piter and the men around him are poisoned when he bites down on the tooth, but, the Baron escapes on his suspensors through a secret door. While the Baron is regrouping, the sardaukar, one of the elite troops of the emperor, demands to see the body of the Duke. The emperor demanded that the Duke be eliminated as painlessly as possible. Although, the Baron doesn’t want the emperor to see his missteps, he agrees to allow the man to view the Duke’s body.
Paul and Jessica are hidden by Duncan Idaho. Dr. Yueh helped him escape so he could gather the survivors. While they are hiding out, Paul begins to have visions and change into the Madhi. The spice he has been consuming is working with his mentat training and his Bene Gesserit heritage. His intelligence is growing quickly. He begins to think faster than his mother, and informs her she will be having a daughter, although she hasn’t told anyone she is pregnant. He also tells her that the Duke knew she was innocent. Then he tells her that the Baron is her unknown father, and she is a Harkonnen, as is he. When she wonders if he is the Kwisatz Haderach that was prophesied by the Bene Gesserit, he reads her mind and tells her that he is something new, not the Kwisatz Haderach. He can see all the pathways he could take, and where they all end up. He will become the Muad’Dib, ‘The one who points the way.’ He refuses to take the path the Bene Gesserit witches chose for him when they were busy breeding their Kwisatz Haderach for a holy war. , Although the Bene Gesserit were breeding towards the Kwisatz Haderach, they didn’t plan on his birth so early.
This part of the book opens with Paul and Jessica in the tent waiting for Duncan Idaho to return. Paul begins to plan recovery of Arrakis and revenge Duke Leto’s death. Now that Paul is the new Duke, the battle with the Harkonnens will begin. Suddenly they hear ornithopters and assume they are sardaukers. Paul drops the tent, and they start to run. Meanwhile, Hawat is with the Fremen. He is impressed with them when they bring down an ornithopter full of sardaukar. Thinking Jessica is responsible for the death of Leto, Hawat vows to make her pay. But, before he and the Fremen can leave, Hawat is captured by Harkonnen’s men.
Jessica and Paul are relieved to discover the ornithopters that are chasing them are piloted by Duncan Idaho and Dr. Kynes. While meeting with Dr. Kynes, Paul finds out that he is the Liet, a supreme leader of the Fremen. Negotiating with the Liet, Paul discusses the plan of blackmailing the emperor to put Paul in charge of Arrakis in his father’s place, since it was the emperor’s troops that killed his father, and planned to destroy the House Atreides. The Landsraad, or ruling families, would rebel against the emperor if it was known that he used his troops to annihilate one of the families. Paul wants to use the skills of the Fremen, but Kynes is at first unsure. Then, when Paul pledges his devotion to Kynes and the Fremen, he relents and is almost instantly loyal to him. Suddenly, the sardauker attack. Although, Kynes manages to get Paul and Jessica off to safety, Duncan Idaho is killed and he is captured.
The scene shifts to the baron. His guard captain is reporting that Paul and Jessica must be dead as no one could survive the sandstorm they lost the two in. Also, he believes Dr. Kynes is a traitor. The baron orders Kyne’s death as well. Then the captain informs him that they captured Hawat. The Baron wants to make Hawat become his mentat since Piter is dead. When his nephew, Rabban, arrives to take control of Arrakis, the Baron tells him to squeeze the Fremen into submission.
While Gurney Halleck, who survived the Harkonnen attack, is joining with the smugglers, Paul and Jessica are making their way across the desert after flying for three hours through a sandstorm and landing the ornithopter, only to have it eaten by a sand worm. The two manage to use a ‘thumper’ which is a device that emits a steady pulse and lures a sand worm away. People must walk in unsteady and shuffling steps, so as to not draw the notice of the sand worms that travel beneath the surface of the desert. Just as a sand worm is about to attack, another thumper can be heard in the distance that lures it away. Then Paul notices that it is Fremen who have lured the sand worm away, and they capture him and his mother.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kynes has been set out in the desert without a stillsuit by the Harkonnen’s. They have left him to die in the desert. Along the way, he hallucinates and is killed when a spice pocket explodes. That happens sporadically because the spice underground reaches for the sunlight above ground.
The Fremen who capture Paul and Jessica are led by Stilgar. He was sent by Kynes to find Paul but is reluctant to take Jessica until she forces him by putting a knife to his throat. He calls her style of fighting the ‘weirding way’ and wants her to teach his men. Paul meets Chani, Kynes’s daughter who he had already seen in a dream at the beginning of the book. Stilgar takes them back to his clan’s stronghold. They ride on the back of sand worms. Jessica agrees to become the Reverend Mother for the group but doesn’t reveal that she is pregnant. Paul prophesies the baby will be called St. Alia.
After killing a man that challenges him to a knife fight, Paul is taken in by the sietch and is given a sietch name. Stilgar calls him Usul, which means Base of a Pillar. But, Paul wants everyone to call him, Muad’Dib, which means little mouse and is thought to be wise by the Fremen.
Later, Chani asks Paul to play a song on a baliset, which is an instrument like a guitar. When Jessica hears him playing a love song, she isn’t happy. She doesn’t want him consorting with peasants. This is when Paul gets the flash of a vision. It tells him that Jessica will be the cause of the holy war to come.
On the home world of the Harkonnen’s, Feyd-Rautha is performing one of his fake gladiator shows. He usually drugs his opponent to make the killing easier, but this time he wants to impress the beautiful Lady Fenring, who is visiting there with her husband. Feyd-Rautha has Hawat hypnotize a former soldier of the Atreides, and plant a command so that when Feyd-Rautha says a specific word, the man will become frozen. Although the soldier almost hurts Feyd-Rautha anyway, he kills him. Lady Fenring and her husband, the Count, make plans for her to seduce Feyd-Rautha and become pregnant so she can continue the genetic program of the Bene Gesserit.
At the Sietch Tabr, the Fremen conduct a ceremony that will transform Jessica into their new Reverend Mother, since the old one is dying. She is given a liquid to drink. She uses her Bene Gesserit powers to make it safe to drink. But, it gives her visions. When the old Reverend Mother embraces her, all the memories of the Bene Gesserit are transferred into Jessica. Unfortunately, they are also given to her unborn daughter. She protects the baby with her love to keep it from being born insane. Afterwards, she shares the drink with the rest of the tribe, telling them it is safe and will make them more aware. Paul and Chani sneak off together.
Two years in the future. The baron has just survived an assassination attempt and blames Feyd-Rautha for placing the assassin. He also finds other members of the guard that have the same plans. Then he reminds Feyd-Rautha that he will be succeeding him someday. The baron also tells him that Hawat will be assigned to watch him. That is when Feyd-Rautha determines that Hawat has been playing them against each other. Later, when the baron meets with Hawat, he is persuaded to have Rabban be even harsher on the Fremen in order to toughen them into a better fighting force. This is what the emperor does to train his sardaukers in an equally harsh environment.
On Arrakis, Paul has become a religious and political leader for the Fremen. He learns to ride a sand worm and has a son by Chani. They name the boy, Leto, after his father. Jessica is living in the caves with her two-year-old daughter, Alia. Since Alia was exposed to the drug that turned her mother into a Reverend Mother, she was born aware. At two, she walks and talks like an adult. This makes the other women in the group nervous. They think she is a witch.
Paul and Stilgar lead a group to capture a band of smugglers flying overhead. Gurney Halleck is with the smugglers and is happy to be reunited with Paul. He pledges his allegiance to the young Duke. When they take the smugglers back to their camp, some of them attack the Fremen. Paul learns that they were Harkonnen spies. He leaves some of them alive and allows them to escape, so they can tell the Harkonnen’s how powerful the Fremen are.
Since Halleck still thinks Jessica betrayed her husband, he tries to kill her when he sees her. But, Paul convinces him other wise. The Fremen want Paul to challenge Stilgar and become their leader. But, he doesn’t want that, so he finally manages to convince them that he wants to be their Muad’Dib and Duke with Stilgar as his ally. Paul drinks some of the drug that his mother used to become a Reverend Mother, but he didn’t transform it, so he is in a coma for three weeks. At the end of that time, he transforms the drug himself and relays a vision he had that there is a fleet of ships around the planet. Harkonnen, the emperor, and other houses plan on looting Arrakis.
The battle begins. Paul and his Fremen use nuclear weapons to bring down the shield walls and then damage the ships so the troops cannot retreat. While he is fighting the sardauker, Sietch Tabr is attacked. His son is killed and Alia is taken captive. Chani and Jessica are not there. Alia is taken before the emperor. He is furious because his elite soldiers are being beaten. Then Alia is shown to his own Bene Gesserit, the Reverend Mother Mohiam. But, since Alia has all the memories of the Bene Gesserit, she can read the woman’s mind. While the emperor is throwing threats at Paul, the shield wall is destroyed. Then Alia stabs the baron with her gom jabbar, killing him, and escapes. Paul and his troops ride in on sand worms. He takes his place on the throne his father had and sends captured sardauker to demand the emperor’s surrender. Unfortunately, he still sees the holy war ahead of him, in his visions. He must accept that he is the Kwisatz Haderach.
After Chani and Jessica arrive, the emperor and his entourage do, too. When Paul calls Hawat forward, he sees that the man is dying. The baron gave him a poison to use on Paul, but he refuses and dies in Paul’s arms. When the emperor threatens to use the Landsraad to destroy Paul, he replies that unless the Spacing Guild agrees to force all the ships to leave, he will destroy all the spice on Arrakis. The Guild agrees. He then informs the Reverend Mother Mohiam that he will not be the cause of the holy war that the Bene Gesserit want him to be, even though most of the Bene Gesserit did not know that was the ultimate goal.
Then, Feyd-Rautha challenges Paul to a duel, which he accepts, against his people’s protest. Of course, Feyd – Rautha cheats, but he still loses, and Paul kills him. Then the emperor demands that Count Fenring challenge him, but he refuses. That is when Paul realizes that the count is almost a Kwisatz Haderach. Paul then tells the emperor that he will marry his daughter, the princess Irulan. That will get Paul the emperor’s throne. The emperor agrees reluctantly. Chani negotiates the deal, and Paul assures her that although the princess will be his royal consort, she will remain his true wife.
Paul Atreides – the main character in the book. He starts out as a fifteen year old boy, who is being trained to take over his father’s position as leader of the House Atreides. Although, it is obvious he is not a regular fifteen year old, he learns that he is the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach. Knowing that this would make him the one to start a holy war, he refuses to accept his destiny. Throughout the entire story, he is choosing the paths that he hopes will lead him away from that fate.
When his father is murdered, Paul and his mother are absorbed into the native warriors of the planet they have been relocated to, Arrakis. The planet is a desert planet, with an amazingly harsh environment, that produces a spice that is used throughout the universe. The spice can be heavily addictive, but causes the user to see all paths. Whenever Paul takes it, his training and his heritage as a Bene Gesserit, come into play to transform him into an exceedingly powerful person. Not only can he read minds, like all Bene Gesserit, but he can reason quickly and can see the past and future overlaid on the present. He can see the result in the future of every choice he and everyone else makes today.
He becomes many things to different people. He is the Duke Atreides to the empire, and controller of the spice planet, Arrakis. To the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, he is the Muad’Dib, a prophet, and religious leader, the “One” who lead them to freedom from oppression. To the Bene Gesserit, he is the fabled Kwisatz Haderach, the epitome of all their genetic manipulations. But, Paul can see the consequences of so much power, and tries to change his choices to find happiness instead of so much power.
Jessica Atreides – a Bene Gesserit. She, like Paul, fights her fate. Bene Gesserit are women who are taught superhuman reasoning, mental and physical abilities. But, against her training, she falls in love. Although Duke Atreides never officially marries her, they live their life like a married couple. She has all the power of a wife. Then, she goes against her training again by having a son. She was told to have a daughter, but the duke wanted a son. She grows to regret that she is forced to train her son to become a Kwisatz Haderach, therefore robbing him of an innocent childhood, but, she tries to show him love. Although, still beautiful and young, when the duke is murdered, she takes on the role of Reverend Mother for the Fremen. She gives birth to the duke’s daughter after his death. This was also, for the duke. Jessica tries to be a good mother, but, her children are swept away in the wars and fate that is waiting for them.
Baron Harkonnen – the villain of the book. He is ruthless and cruel. So obese that he can’t walk and is transported about on ‘suspenders’. The baron plots the murder of the whole Atreides family and almost succeeds. He also wants to control the spice trade and become supreme ruler of the universe. To add to his villainy, he is also a depraved pedophile with a predilection for young boys and lusts after Paul.
Frank Herbert Biography
Born in Tacoma,Washington in 1920, Frank Patrick Herbert, Jr. left a troubled home at the age of eighteen to live with his aunt and uncle in Salem, Oregon. Although, he graduated high school, he never finished college, preferring instead to only study the subjects that interested him. Lying about his age at nineteen, Herbert took a job as a newspaper reporter.
In 1940, he was hired as a reporter and photographer for the Oregon Statesman. Before being given a medical discharge, he spent six months in the United States Navy as a photographer during World War II. In 1940 he married his first wife and had a daughter, Penny. They divorced in 1945. He married his second wife, Beverly, in 1946. They were both writers studying journalism at the time. The two went on to have two sons, Brian, who later continued the world of Dune, and Bruce, who was a photographer and gay rights activist.
During the 1950’s Herbert became interested in the environment and Zen Buddhism. His beliefs influenced his writing a great deal. When he contrived Dune, Herbert was researching the Oregon Dunes for an article. He gathered so much information, that he decided to write a book instead. Herbert’s method of world building and science fiction with a bent towards environmental change was unheard of at the time. His book was awarded two of the highest awards for writing, the Nebula, and the Hugo. At the time, science fiction covered technology and space travel, but Herbert deliberately left out as much of the technology as she could, and instead, concentrated on ecology and character development.
Although none of his prior and subsequent work reached the notoriety of Dune, most of his books afterward have been on the best sellers list. He continued to tour and lecture on ecology, general studies, and interdisciplinary studies. He also worked as a consultant in Vietnam and Pakistan on social and ecological impact in 1972. Herbert even spent some time in 1973 as a director and photographer for a television show called, The Tillers, a documentary done in Vietnam and Pakistan.
Frank Herbert passed away in 1986, in Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of sixty-five. He was one of the greatest science fiction novelists of all time. He was revolutionary in his ability to build a completed world in his works. His world building of Dune was so complete that his son was able to continue the world after his death by translating his notes. The majority of Herbert’s novels deal with survival, evolution and ecology. His beliefs were translated so well in his novels that cults were formed around his novels. This, of course, was extreme, and made him uncomfortable, but, this does not take from the lessons of Dune and books of that type. The greatest science fiction writers, Herbert included, take a grain of thought and follow it through to its conclusion. The planet Arrakis could easily be Earth in the distant future if we don’t take care of it.