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Arrakis — Dune — Desert Planet.

Dune, in this context, refers to a series of epic Science Fiction novels by Frank Herbert. It continued after his death by son Brian Herbert. Dune was first published in serialized form in the Science Fiction magazine but rejected twenty times by publishers before finally being published in 1965 by Chilton, a publishing house best known for its DIY auto repair guides.

Dune is set around 19000 years in The Future, in a galaxy-spanning empire loosely based on the Holy Roman and Ottoman Empires, ruled by feuding nobles, arcane religious sects, and Byzantine corporate monopolies. Its five sequels by the original author, and further prequels and sequels by his son Brian Herbert, span nearly 20,000 years of galactic history overall.

Much of the action throughout the series takes place on the eponymous planet, Arrakis, commonly called Dune by the native Fremen. Arrakis is a desert planet largely populated by the nomadic, xenophobic Fremen and inhabited by giant sandworms that destroy anything caught out in the open, and would be of little interest to the rest of the galaxy if not for one thing: it is the only known source of "Spice", an all-purpose chemical that triples the human lifespan, makes it possible for females (and some few males) to transfer ancestral memories to one another, unlocks or enhances the capacity of humans for telling the future, and therefore makes Faster-Than-Light Travel possible in a culture where computers have been made illegal by religious fiat—all while being ferociously addictive.

The entire series is steeped in Arabic language and culture; it is implied that, in the future in which the books are set, Western and Eastern culture and religion have blended together into a pseudo-homogeneous whole. Religions such as "Mahayana Christianity" and "Zensunni" are referred to though not explicitly described, and many Arabic words have found their way into the standard language spoken by the people of the Galactic Empire, especially after the Fremen crusade spreads aspects of their culture to thousands of worlds. (An extensive glossary is included in the first novel, without which many readers might find it incomprehensible) The Bene Gesserit sisterhood, an order of philosopher-nuns that considers itself the guardian of human civilization, extensively manipulate various religions over a scale of thousands of years in order to protect their agenda. Paul Atreides and his son Leto II, through their actions in the first four novels, effectively create a religion of their own, with effects that reverberate throughout the millennia.

In the 2000s, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson said they used notes from Herbert found in a safety deposit box to write prequels and two sequels to the Dune series. These books comprise thirteen novels overall—the "Legends of Dune" trilogy which covers the rise of the Empire and the Spacing Guild some 10,000 years prior to the original novel; the "Prelude To Dune" trilogy which follows the conflict between Leto Atreides and Vladimir Harkonnen in the years prior to Paul's birth; Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, two sequels which complete the second trilogy started by the elder Herbert; "The Caladan Trilogy", set after "Prelude To Dune" and before original Dune, and Paul of Dune and The Winds of Dune, a pair of Interquels set between the novels of the original trilogy.

Works in this franchise include:

Frank Herbert:

Prequels and sequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson:

  • Prelude to Dune
    • Dune: House Atreides (1999)
    • Dune: House Harkonnen (2000)
    • Dune: House Corrino (2001)
  • Legends of Dune:
    • Dune: The Butlerian Jihad (2002)
    • Dune: The Machine Crusade (2003)
    • Dune: The Battle of Corrin (2004)
  • Sequels (set post-Chapterhouse: Dune):
    • Hunters of Dune (2006)
    • Sandworms of Dune (2007)
  • Heroes of Dune:
    • Paul of Dune (2008)
    • The Winds of Dune (2009)
  • Great Schools of Dune:
    • Sisterhood of Dune (2012)
    • Mentats of Dune (2014)
    • Navigators of Dune (2016)
  • The Caladan Trilogy
    • Dune: The Duke of Caladan (2020)
    • Dune: The Lady of Caladan (2021)
    • Dune: The Heir of Caladan (2022)
  • Princess of Dune (2023)

Universe guide:

  • The Dune Encyclopedia (1984), edited and largely written by Dr. Willis E. McNelly and approved by Frank Herbert

Comic Book adaptations:

  • Dune: The Official Comic Book (1984), re-released as:
    • Marvel Super Special #36: Dune (1985)
    • Dune (1985)
  • Dune: House Atreides (2020-2021)
    • Dune: House Harkonnen (2023-)
  • Dune: The Graphic Novel (2020)
    • Dune: The Graphic Novel Book 2 Muad'dib (2022)
  • Dune: Blood Of The Sardaukar (2021)
  • Dune: A Whisper of Caladan Seas (2021)
  • Dune: The Waters of Kanly (2022)
  • Dune: The Official Movie Graphic Novel (2022)

Film and television adaptations:

  • Dune (1984 film), directed by David Lynch.
  • Frank Herbert's Dune (2000 miniseries)
  • Jodorowsky's Dune: The first aborted attempt to make a Dune adaptation was covered in this 2013 documentary.
  • Dune (2021 film). The first film in a planned duology adapting the first book, directed by Denis Villeneuve.note 
    • Dune: Part Two (2023 film). The second part of the duology.
    • Dune: The Sisterhood (miniseries) - Tie-in to the 2021 film.

Tabletop game adaptations:

  • Dune (1979, 2019)
  • Dune (1984)
  • Dune CCG (1997), A Collectible Card Game produced by Last Unicorn Games and Five Rings Publishing Group, and later Wizards of the Coast.
  • Dune: Chronicles Of The Imperium (2000), The Role-Playing Game published by Last Unicorn Games using the ICON System.
  • Dune: Imperium (2020)
  • Dune: Adventures In The Imperium (2021), The Role-Playing Game published by Modiphius Entertainment using their 2d20 system.
  • Dune: House Secrets (2021), cooperative story-driven board game based on Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
  • Arrakis: Dawn of the Fremen (2022)
  • Dune: War for Arrakis (2023), a strategy board game from CMON

Video game adaptations:

The Dune Series contains examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Unless you count the Sandworms, and their implied creators. Even then, their sapience was added after the fact, by Leto II.
    • Plenty of non-sentient species are also mentioned in passing. There's a lot of life in the universe, but none of it talks back.
    • The final two books introduce two species, one primitive and questionably sentient (the cat-like Futars), and the other vaguely intelligent (the fish-like Phibians). Both were still created by the Tleilaxu (or some variant thereof) so they are not strictly alien.
    • In one of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's books , an extinct human order, the Muadru, are implied to know the non-Arrakis location that the Sandworms came from. This may mean that even the Sandworms are human creations.
    • In the out of print Encyclopedia of Dune the Natives of Caladan are sentient: morons by human standards and around Stone Age level of technology, but sentient all the same. They are mentioned maybe once in the series proper though. Mind you, the Encyclopedia is not fully Canon.
  • Action Girl: Pretty much all the Fremen women, but Chani especially.
  • Action Initiative: In the Avalon Hill boardgame, on the circular planet border are six evenly spaced marks corresponding to the player factions. Who goes first is determined by who is the closest to the Sandstorm on the counter-clockwise side. Since the storm itself moves counter-clockwise by variable distances as the game goes on, the turn order changes with it.
  • Addiction-Powered:
    • Guild Navigators breathe great quantities of melange/spice, giving them limited powers of prescience, enough to find safe passage when their ship is traveling faster than light. The general population doesn't gain this benefit.
    • The Mentats derive their enhanced mental abilities (said to exceed even the most advanced electronic computers) via consumption of sapho juice; however, a Mentat must endure lifelong training (and probably genetic enhancement as well) before the sapho juice can have its stated effect.
    • Bene Gesserits depend on some drugs and the Spice for some of their abilities, each Reverend Mother is addicted.
  • Aerith and Bob: While the first book introduces many distinctly-European names, such as Paul, Jessica, Gurney, and Duncan (even Baron Harkonnen, whose first name is Vladimir—and whose House name isn't even that unusual if you're familiar with Finnish), the names get far more exotic as the cast fills out throughout the series. Notable examples include Hasimir Fenring, Hwi Noree, many Fremen, and the Latin-European-Greek full names of the Bene Gesserit.
  • Aesoptinum: The Spice. It's one of the few clear-cut allegories in the book — a precious resource absolutely vital to the economy, much like gold in past eras and oil today. To hammer the point home, Herbert even compared the CHOAM company (which oversees the Imperium's commerce, including spice procurement) in one interview to Real Life international trade organizations, including OPEC. As for the Aesop : Humans Are Greedy Bastards and will often do anything in order to collect as much spice as possible, including armed conflicts, espionage, assasinations, and a great variety of immoral acts, all out of blind wilfulness and greed. Thus, Paul (and later Leto II) act against humanity's immediate desires in order to save it from itself.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot
    • In the original books, it was not that the computers were inherently bad, it was that humanity chose to destroy them because they were making humans lazy and limiting humanity's potential, effectively making them dependent on sentient machines for survival. Computer AI was later demonized.
    • In the prequels, Omnius was actually doing what he was programmed to do (the conquest and enslavement of humanity), he just decided to work for himself, and not his Titan masters.
  • Alternative Calendar: The calender used in the book begins from the establishment of the Spacing Guild's monopoly on space travel, with BG standing for "Before Guild" and AG being "After Guild". In addition, it's implied that the (3000-year) reign of the Leto II has in effect become a calendar.
  • Amazon Brigade: Fish Speakers, Honored Matres, and the Bene Gesserit.
  • Ancient Astronauts: A variant in that humans themselves fill this role, with the Bene Gesserit purposely spreading myths based on heroic and religious archetypes throughout fledgling colonies to make use of the people there later.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Although they are more visible than most ancient conspiracies, the Bene Gesserit definitely count: they have manipulated practically all existing religions in the Dune universe to be tools for their purposes, to the point a Bene Gesserit can basically go to any planet and detect different cues and codes within the local religion's tenets to know exactly what to say and do to present herself as a paragon, prophet or even messiah of the local religion. This is how Lady Jessica insinuates herself and Paul into the Fremen culture. Of course, Jessica had no way of knowing Paul would become an actual messiah.
  • Anyone Can Die: Paul, Chani, Alia, Leto, Leto II, Duncan Idaho several times, Teg, Lucilla, Odrade...
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Justified. Personal shields block projectile weapons and lasers trigger nuclear-level explosions when they hit them, but a slow-moving blade can slip through, so melee combat is once again part and parcel of infantry battles.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Probably the only exception is Duke Leto. And even then, only maybe. Averted in the prequels — the Atreides are almost always benevolent, and the Ecazi, Richese, and Vernius families are more or less good. Too bad Being Good Sucks. A few more good ones in the prequels describing the Butlerian Jihad, including some of the Butlers, Tantors, and Porce Bludd (but not his great-uncle Niko Bludd, a complete Jerkass).
    • The Harkonnens (before Abulurd's exile to Lankiveil) also qualify as exceptions. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's half-brother Abulurd II is also unusually docile for a Harkonnen.
    • Leto II's thoughts:
    The surest sign that an aristocracy exists is the discovery of barriers against change, curtains of iron or steel or stone or of any substance which excludes the new, the different.
  • Artificial Human: Any Tleilaxu-creation, including the Face Dancers, Gholas, clones, some Mentats, and human-animal hybrids.
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer: The original board game Dune features six factions, and all of them are wildly different with their own Game-Breaker abilities. invoked
  • As You Know: Literally entire chapters of it. One chapter begins with the villain introducing himself by name to his henchmen — "Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, do?" — and continues with him explaining his plan to the henchman who helped him to devise it. Justified in that (a) they were recapitulating their plan for the benefit of Feyd-Rautha, whose patience and attention span were equally short; and (b) the Baron himself is a gloriously Large Ham, and arrogant to boot (and one of the few times when he actually admits to having done a mistake solely by his own fault, it's about being overly fond of describing plans when he shouldn't). This trope is also extensively employed in the Anderson/Brian Herbert novels.
  • Badass Army: The Sardaukar at first, then they are joined in this category by the Fremen under Paul Atreides. Also, the Fish Speakers under Leto II, and then Miles Teg's Bene Gesserit troops in Heretics and Chapterhouse.
  • Badass Bookworm: Pretty much everyone that isn't a Genius Bruiser.
  • Because Destiny Says So: How much of Dune and its sequels are The Chosen One acting out a preordained destiny, and how much is actually the Messianic Archetype choosing his own destiny and then being forced to live it out unto the bitter end? Frank Herbert would like you to think about it.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Inverted, Subverted, Justified, and Invoked. All depends on your personal interpretation, and which characters you examine. Frank himself said one of the main themes of the series was putting all your faith into one person and following them blindly. You can follow someone, but to utterly submit to them leads to total destruction.
  • Beware the Superman: Main theme of the series.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Cielago, the Fremen term used for bats, is based off of the Spanish word for 'bat': 'murcielago '.
    • Also true for the general Fremen language, which is largely based on actual Arabic terms and phrases. And the Teilaxu secret language as well.
    • "Bene Gesserit" is Latin for either "she will bear well" or "she will govern well," pretty fitting for an order dedicated to bearing a genetic superman and to wielding political power.
    • Paul becomes the Kwisatz Haderach, a term the Bene Gesserit describe as meaning "Shortening of the Way". This is in fact derived from the Hebrew "k'fitzat haderech", which translates literally to "shortcut". He is also the Mahdi for the Fremen, which is the same word Muslims give their awaited messiah.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The novels are consistently and deliberately ambiguous about the relative morality of each of the various factions. House Atreides, the most conventionally moral of the Great Houses depicted in the story, is made to pay heavily for its idealism, and even that is called into question by the prequels. Paul slaughters billions under the godhead of the Madhinate, and his son Leto II is the greatest tyrant in history; yet both claimed their actions were necessary to avoid an even greater catastrophe — the complete and total extinction of humanity. (And considering that Paul and Leto both share an ability to see into the future, they are probably right.) The Bene Gesserit are similarly portrayed as scheming witches, yet by the time of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, they have inherited the responsibility of safeguarding humanity's future. Truly innocent characters are few and far between in this universe. Even the "heroic" characters (Leto I, Paul) are monstrous; it's just that their enemies are generally even worse.
  • Blessed with Suck: The pre-born (Alia, Leto II, Ghanima) can draw on all the memories of their ancestors— and can be overwhelmed by them if they're not careful.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Particularly in Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune. The Bene Gesserit, the supposed heroes, deliberately suppress love and regard it as a weakness. They have no problem giving up their children at birth, or taking someone else's, and, as Duncan Idaho is painfully aware, are willing to kill at will anyone who even appears to be developing the wrong powers, no matter how innocent the person might be. Miles Teg remarks that Bene Gesserit aren't really human anymore - and he likes them.
  • Body Horror: Leto II in demiworm form, Guild Steersmen mutated by spice, the Axlotl tanks.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie:
    • Mentats. In the books, the Bene Gesserit are also explicitly said to be incapable of outright lying, due to their training and method of consciousness expansion. Because of this, they have become masters of evasion and misdirection. "A Bene Gesserit will always tell the truth, but rarely the whole truth." (paraphrased)
    • Averted in the prequels, where the first mentat Gilbertus Albans lies constantly in order to protect himself and Erasmus.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower:
    • The Bene Gesserit train themselves to alter their blood composition, manipulate others by voice alone, being able to hold their breath for long periods of time, delay aging, neutralize any poison or drug, possibly see the future, and intense martial arts. They only get the future-vision and molecular control from the Spice. Everything else is pure Charles Atlas, with a few hints of selective breeding.
    • The Honored Matres are revealed to be even more intense in their results in certain areas, but lack in others. The two groups eventually unify into one, combining the strengths of each.
    • Mentats as well are "human computers". They are trained to possess photographic memories and deduce perfectly logical conclusions from the barest minimum of information. A Mentat Advisor is one of the most valuable assets that a noble house can have; when he first landed on Arrakis, Paul had just found that he had potential Mentat capabilities himselfnote  — to quote Duke Leto, "a Mentat Duke would be formidable indeed". And, later, a Mentat Kwisatz Haderach. Miles Teg in the later novels is a mentat generalissimo. But just try using one as an iPod.
  • The Chessmaster: Practically every named character originating from the Imperium and not from Arrakis, to varying degrees. Every single one of whom is Out-Gambitted by Paul, and later Leto II. In the final two novels Erasmus is proven to be rather adept at it as well. He insinuates that he was behind most of the schemes and subtly manipulated half the events of the final few novels.
  • The Chosen One: Paul as the Kwisatz Haderach, Leto II as his successor, Sheeana in the final two books, though she doesn't get to fulfill that role, being instead set up for it as a decoy to get the Honored Matres to destroy Arrakis. Her ability to command sandworms is still useful, though. The series as a whole shows just how disastrous these tropes would be in a realistic setting.
  • The Clan: Feuding Houses of noble families play a large part in the first book, though the Atreides name carries down through the millennia.
  • Cloning Blues: Gholas (clones of the dead), especially the multiple incarnations of Duncan Idaho.
  • Coca-Pepsi, Inc./Interfaith Smoothie: Perhaps the most famous example in science fiction. Due to thousands of years of space migration, various religions and cultures have merged, split, then re-merged again and again. The Fremen are Zensunni, a combination of Sunni Islam and Zen Buddhism. Though most of this occurred naturally, it eventually was pushed this way by an ecumenical council that produced the "Orange Catholic Bible". The title suggests a reunification of Catholicism and Protestantism (the militant, anti-Catholic Protestant Irish Orangists), although it is actually far more ecumenical, incorporating "Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions".
  • Colour-Coded Characters: The novels have the Harkonnens in blue, the Atreides in green (presumably referencing Islam), Reverend Mothers in black aba robes, and Spacing Guild representatives in grey, denoting their neutral status.
  • Combat Clairvoyance:
    • The Kwisatz Haderach has the ability to (among other things) see into the future. Mentats can also see the future by way of "projecting" the possible outcomes of a given choice, but their role is not usually that of a military strategist.
    • After his transformation under the T-probe in Heretics, Miles Teg gains this, to the point where he can see the positions of the normally undetectable no-ships.
  • Conlang: Many of the phrases and terms used throughout the book have some basis in real-world languages. The Fremen speak a clear development of Arabic. Galach, the official language of the Imperium, is described as an Anglo-Slavic hybrid with some other tongues mixed in for good measure — and it shows... in the rare instances when we get to read some actual untranslated phrases from it.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: A lot of the tech, justifying the Feudal Future / Punk Punk feel of The 'Verse. Much of this is deliberate due to prohibitions against thinking machines and the dominance of shields in warfare.
  • Crapsack World: Dune is a universe of tyrannical regimes, war and constant backstabbing. And even the most moral factions aren't that moral either — see Black-and-Gray Morality.
  • Culture Chop Suey: A classic example. Millennia of galactic colonization have created completely new unrecognizable ethnicities and modified versions of current Earth religions.
  • Days of Future Past: Set cca 10,000-12,000 years in the future, the Empire is based off the Holy Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire — with feuding noble houses, an emperor, mercantile trading, monastic church-like organizations...
  • Deadly Scratch: In general, the Dune universe loves this trope. Poisoned blades and poisoned needles abound, so it's practically guaranteed that any given scratch, cut, stab, or pinprick worth mentioning is more dangerous than it initially seems. Possibly the most iconic example is the gom jabbar, a needle tipped with meta-cyanide from which the slightest wound is fatal; it's used by the Bene Gesserit as part of a "test of humanity" and by the various noble houses to just straight up murder people.
  • Death Is Cheap: The dead can be resurrected as clones reffered to as "gholas." The memories of their past lives are restored through a combination of mental conditioning and Genetic Memory. Duncan Idaho is a perfect example.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: The franchise deconstructs many hero tropes within the first book, starting with Paul Atreides as an example of what happens when the Chosen One comes about too early and plays up the Messianic Archetype card (largely through Becoming the Mask) to achieve his goals for revenge. That being a Chosen One also gifts him with an ability that completely destroys his life through clairvoyance. The rest of the characters in the story are often used to pick apart the very characteristics that would be necessary for a person to embody the tropes, and just how self-destructive they can be.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • None of the characters bat an eyelash at practices such as slavery, concubinage, gladiatorial fights, and institutionalized child abuse (specifically, the Bene Geserit gom jabbar test used on would-be initiates).
    • Fremen cultural practices, such as succession through killing, settling disputes through duels, and duel victors' inheritance of opponents' wives as spoils, contrast sharply to 21st century western values.
    • In Dune Messiah, Stilgar thinks that Alia should marry so that she'll have an outlet for her budding sexuality. Alia is in her early teens in the book. Later, Alia marries Duncan Idaho when she is only fifteen (his age is a little murky because he died in the first book and was resurrected, but he was definitely an adult before Alia was born). This marriage serves to reinforce the idea that Alia's flesh is only fifteen, but her experience is ancient.
    • Alia apparently rather enjoys this trope, as Jessica comments upon seeing her after nine years that "she hasn't aged a day," meaning that, despite being in her mid-twenties, Alia still looks like a fifteen-year-old.
  • Demoted to Extra: Happens quite a fair bit over the course of the series, with Jessica, Gurney, Stilgar, Harah, and Irulan as a few examples (although some of them, like Jessica, are only temporarily demoted).
  • Desert Punk: A Trope Codifier here.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: The Bene Gesserit stress emotional control at all times as both proof of humanity and a basic survival tool with the Litany Against Fear. Unlike Vulcans, they're more than happy to use emotion as a tool to manipulate others — their emphasis is control, not denial. And it later turns out to be a weakness that Odrade (and Murbella) must reverse.
  • Emperor Scientist:
    • Leto II actually becomes the God-Emperor of the Universe to continue a gigantic human breeding program personally.
    • Dr. Kynes became leader of the Fremen because of his attempts to terraform the planet.
    • The cymek titans from the prequels, who were philosopher kings and scientists, particularly ones that dealt with robotics, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence.
    • Though not canon, the prequels state that one former Padishah Emperor, working under a false name, was an accomplished chemist that discovered the properties that made Spice so important. The original books state it was a chemist working for that emperor, so it all depends what you want to believe.
  • Energy Weapon: Only useful without Deflector Shields, which are ubiquitous, so almost a subversion/aversion. (A lasgun shot hitting a shield is highly unpredictable, and can cause either a nuclear-level explosion or only destroy both shooter and shootee). Also, lasguns are presented unusually realistically for sci-fi (except for the universe-physics-specific shield bit). In Leto II's future, lasguns have come back into general use after he banned shields, leading to a massive arms race after his death.
  • Fantastic Medicinal Bodily Product: The Spice, which is a product of the life cycle of the sandworms of Arrakis and is the most valuable substance in the Known Universe because it can greatly extend human lifespan, provide enhanced mental and physical abilities and even enable the power to see through time and space. Its value is even greater because of prohibitions on artificial intelligence in this setting, which requires that human potential be maximized.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Firearms exist in large numbers but they have been rendered as secondary weapons due to the prevalence of personal force shields. Force shields can, however, be penetrated by close combat techniques, so those are the dominant means of warfare. Laser weapons are also highly limited since a laser beam hitting a force shield cause both the gun and the shield generator to explode with enormous power. Which means that some uses of shields are only practical because shooting them with lasers is physically equivalent to using nukes.

    Subverted, however, when it turns out that using personal force shields on Arrakis attracts sandworms. One of the common Fremen weapons is the "maula pistol", essentially a spring-loaded slugthrower. And also when Baron Harkonnen uses old-fashioned artillery to trap the retreating Atreides soldiers in caves.
  • Feuding Families: Feuding families are so prevalent in the Dune universe that it has evolved into an art form. There's "Kanly", which is an officially sanctioned House-to-House vendetta, and the all-out War of Assassins, which is just what it sounds like. The rules are codified in the Great Convention, which sets out exactly who are the acceptable targets and what weapons or poisons are permitted. Noble families in the Dune universe accept the fact that you can be knifed in the back at any time as just another hazard of the job.
    • There are even separate words for poison in food ("Chaumas/Aumas") and poison in a drink ("Chaumurky/Musky.")
    • It says at one point during the first novel and again in the appendix that assassination is actually the preferred method of war, as it involves only a few people and therefore spares the lives of millions of possible conscripts.
      • The feud between the Atreides and the Harkonnens involves the leader of House Atreides branding the leader of House Harkonnen a coward and exiled. Ten thousand years ago.
  • Feudal Future: The Empire is intentionally set up this way. The novels themselves are considered to be the Trope Codifier.
  • Future Imperfect: According to the pseudo-canon encyclopedia, House Atreides claims to have been founded by Atreus, the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus from The Iliad, House Harkonnen claims descent from the Romanovs of tsarist Russia, Alexander the Great is considered to have been the first Galactic Emperor, and members of the "House Of Washington" (i.e., America) were the first historical users of atomic weapons. Averted in some cases, as the Bene Gesserit (and some Atreides) possess Genetic Memory telling them exactly who their ancestors were and covering the entire scope of human history. It's also mentioned that the origin of the planet Ix's name is obscure. Turns out it means "nine", from its position in its own solar system. Somewhat inconsistent in the books themselves. In Dune Messiah Paul has to tell people who Hitler and Genghis Khan were, and clearly has an imperfect understanding himself, while in the Prelude to Dune prequel series, Duncan Idaho and others who study warrior traditions on Ginaz seem to have far more detailed knowledge of old history.
  • Gender Incompetence: In Dune, it seems to be something of a theme to have an all-female society with strange and terrible powers suddenly have to deal with a man with those exact same powers, only several jillion times stronger. According to certain throwaway lines regarding Norma Cenva in God-Emperor Of Dune, there have been genderswapped variants of this in the past as well.

    It's stated that the limit of the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers was that their training to particularly feminine/maternal instincts meant that they couldn't access their male ancestry in their Other Memory. The Kwisatz Haderach was intended to overcome this weakness (as well as having other capabilities), which would require a male trained in Bene Gesserit ways. Note the fact that the Gesserit wanted to have a Kwisatz Haderach, but he ended up coming a generation too early for their plans — and then refusing to go along with them.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Only women could be Bene Gesserit. They had a long standing breeding program to try and create a male Bene Gesserit. They succeeded.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: The appendix to Dune lists several "awareness-spectrum narcotics" that increased the user's understanding and mental abilities, including melange (by Guild Navigators), the Fremen "Water of Life" (which affected Paul Atreides and his sister Alia), and the drugs used by Bene Gesserit Truthsayers (who were Living Lie Detectors).
  • Industrial World: Giedi Prime is a volcanic world mostly dominated by industrial complexes where most of its population works, although it does maintain tracts of preserved forest — albeit, granted, ones kept chiefly to be farmed for logging.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Both subverted and played straight. Deliberate breeding programs are used to create humans with intelligence, reflexes, lifespan, capacity higher consciousness and physical capabilities far beyond those of current-day humans, but a religious taboo is kept in place on genetically engineering anything recognizably inhuman or unable to interbreed back into the larger human population. Thus, the characters and societies remain human while simultaneously having greater advancements over modern man than modern man has over homo erectus. The Tleilaxu, however, have no religious taboo on inhumanity and gleefully make a living selling inhuman humans genetically-engineered for specific purposes.
  • No Woman's Land: In general, the Dune universe is patriarchal outside of the Bene Geserit sisterhood, with women exposed to socially sanctioned subordination and violence.
    • Fremen society is patriarchal, and even though Fremen women are strong and fearless, they're still treated like subordinates. For example, a man dying at the hands of a woman is considered embarassing, as Chani notes when she kills a man who wanted to duel with Paul in the first novel. Sietch leaders are always male. In Dune Messiah, Farok tells Scytale that Fremen sacrificed virgins to Shai-Hulud (a practive Farok wants to see return) before Liet-Kynes abolished the practice. Finally, male duel victors inherit the wives of their defeated foes as spoils of war, with the wives having no say in the matter. Jamis killed Harah's first husband in a duel for the stated purpose of taking Harah for his wife.
    • Some Fremen men have no qualms about rape through force or deception. In Dune Messiah, Farok's son gives semuta to Otheym's daughter "in the hope of winning a woman of the [Fremen] for himself despite his blindness." Farok speaks casually about the conquest of Naraj and his son's forced impregnantion of Naraj women.
    Farok: I find it curious, though, to know I have grandchildren on Naraj that I may never see.
    • Slavery, sexual or otherwise, is an accepted practice in the Dune universe. Irulan recounts the story of secretly seeing Fenring offer Emperor Shaddam a female sex slave, only for Shaddam to politely refuse. Feyd also has several female sex slaves (but, to be fair, the Baron has male sex slaves as well).
    • The noble houses of Dune are rigidly patriarchal, headed only by men. Female nobles and concubines do find ways to manipulate events, but it is always behind the scenes. The noble houses also practice arranged marriage, or in Irulan's case, forced marriage.
    • Even the all-female Bene Geserit sisterhood doesn't fully escape this trope. Granted, Reverend Mothers wield a great deal of power, and the sisterhood provides women with elite training and avenues for getting ahead. However, the sisterhood also exerts rigid control over initiates' sexual and reproductive lives for the sake of its selective breeding program, deciding who they will marry, who they will have sex with, and when and if they will bear children. The idea that initiates might have other plans is never considered.
    • Perhaps the most horrific example of this trope is the story behind the Tleilaxu's axlotl tanks.
  • One-Product Planet: Perhaps the Trope Codifier, with the major worlds known for producing a major product. Dune itself is the only source of Spice, Giedi Prime a Factory world, Ix and Richese are Science worlds, Tleilax is an Underworld (selling taboo technology), Caladan is a Farm world, Kaitain is the Capital, Salusa Secundus is ostensibly a Penal colony but really a Military world. Tupile is a Service world, providing protection for exiled families.
  • Prescience Is Predictable: One of the core themes of the main series. Indeed, this could be the Trope Codifier for all modern uses.
    Leto II: It has occurred to me more than once that holy boredom is good and sufficient reason for the invention of free will.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Heavy use of spice can extend lifespans by a factor of three or more. The Emperor Shaddam is described by his daughter Princess Irulan as looking around 50, though being in his late 80s. He dies due to work-related stress rather than old age.
    • The Bene Gesserit take this to the extremes. With complete control over their biochemical makeup, they can slow down or speed up the aging process at will or choose to look younger or older while chemically being another age. They rarely take advantage of this, however, because such power can be intoxicating and dangerous. If someone outside the inner-Bene Gesserit organization were to notice the true extent of their powers it could lead to their destruction from superstitious outsiders as well as loss of influence over the Empire. Leto II ends up doing this, living up to 3,500 years before being (willingly) assassinated.
    • The pre-born count in a different way. While chemically and physically true to their age, exposure to the Water of Life in the womb awakens their Genetic Memory. This leads to a personality being composed solely of their complete lineage of ego memories, upwards of hundreds of thousands of generations. Leto II and his sister Ghanima are both nine when they begin wresting control of the empire from their similarly-affected aunt, and must constantly chastise anyone that presumes them to be mere "children." They never had a childhood, nor a life of their own. Only the memories of billions.
  • Really Gets Around: Arguably subverted by the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres, who really do have many sex partners, but only because the Bene Gesserit are engaged in a subtle breeding program (and also are forbidden from using artificial insemination, meaning all 'samples' and bloodlines have to be collected and gestated physically) and the Honored Matres use their sexuality as a form of conditioning. Both only do it professionally.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • When the first book was written, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East were undergoing decolonization; the patron states set up friendly local governments in those regions to ensure access to the natural resources their former colonies had provided, a process that had profound economic and geopolitical consequences (especially vis a vis the Cold War). In particular, the OPEC cartel was formed during this period.
    • Herbert wrote in 1964-1965, when superweapons were all the rage in the shadow of the Cold War. First laser was patented in 1959-1960, first functioning examples fired in 1960-1962, Goldfinger was released in 1964.
  • Space Age Stasis: Society is partially stagnant due to the religious proscriptions against thinking machines, robotics, and computers set up after the Butlerian Jihad, which keeps things from advancing too much. Spice does this as well, since its properties allow for expanded lifetimes and space folding, so there was no desire to experiment and find alternatives. Finally, the Bene Gesserit and Guild collaborated to set up a feudalistic government with full knowledge that it would be easier to control.
  • Spice of Life: The Spice itself, which is the most valued commodity in the entire universe. To a lesser extent, water on Arrakis (the planet where spice is harvested). Frank wrote both as a metaphor for water itself and oil.
  • Spiritual Successor: Dune shares various concepts and themes with Frank Herbert's novel The Godmakers. Published as a separate novel in 1970, the four original short stories were all published before Dune was even written. Includes Axlotl-tanks, Plaz, and even what could be considered a young version of the Bene Gesserit.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: This is basically the Modus Operandi of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood — breeding together people with the right genes in order to produce the Kwisatz Haderach... whether that means matchmaking, blackmail, or outright rape is of little concern to them as long as the right children result. (Ironically they're not actually allowed to use test tubes, since artificial insemination is prohibited; when Paul suggests that Irulan can bear his child via this manner if the Bene Gesserit really want to preserve his bloodline, Gaius Helen Mohiam is appalled at the very thought.)
  • Standard Time Units: Years are known as "Standard years", or SY, and are described as being about 20 hours less than the "so-called primitive year".
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: The background history of the Imperium tends to follow this trend. The Buterlian Jihad serves the role of World War III by resetting the political and technological situation. The Corrino-led Imperium serves as the First Empire, and the Paul/Leto II regimes as the Second Empire. It's one of the few examples in which the Second Empire follows up the first without an Interregnum. There is an Interregnum (referred to as "The Scattering"), but it occurs only after the collapse of the Second Empire.
  • Starfish Aliens: The sandworms, which are gigantic (as in up-to-half-kilometer-long) wormlike creatures that live in the desert. They also have a larval form, which begin as microbial "sand plankton" that serve as food to the adults, and grow into a small roughly diamond-shaped form called sandtrout AKA "Little Makers". The sandtrout are later revealed to seal away all the water on the planet, which is highly toxic to the adult form, and secrete the precursors to the addictive and Psychic Powers-granting Spice, which triggers their transformation into the sandworm "Makers".
    • They also inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out fresh oxygen, working as a substitute for the nearly non-existent plant life on Arrakis. This also justifies why such a Single-Biome Planet can have a breathable atmosphere. The byproducts of the worms are suspiciously Terran-friendly indeed. Various characters lampshade this occasionally, even suggesting the idea that sandworms may be in fact Lost Organic Technology for terraforming planets (created a long time ago by humans, presumably).
  • Stealth Pun: One of the spice's effects is to prolong its user's lifespan, and it's called "melange", a French word which can mean "variety". Thus, variety is the spice of life.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: "The weirding way of fighting" (as the Fremen refer to it) is a Bene Gesserit martial art that allows its users to perform feats of superhuman strength and speed.
  • Survival Mantra: The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear —
    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where there fear has gone, there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.
  • Thirsty Desert: Where Arrakis gets its nickname: A planet covered in nothing but dry sand dunes that stretch from one pole to the other without a speck of natural moisture to be found. Water is such a precious resource that people have to wear stillsuits designed to recycle almost every bit of moisture that comes out of them — breath, sweat, bodily waste, the works.
  • Trilogy Creep: An interesting example. Dune was actually conceived as one long book, with the sequels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune fitting directly after the first. Messiah was fleshed out while writing Dune and eventually became its own novel, which due to its expansion then warranted Children to be expanded as well and also became its own book. God Emperor of Dune and the last two in the series, Heretics and Chapterhouse are genuine examples of a trilogy creep, though the fact that the story is now over 10,000 years past in the originals, it's fair to say that they're a trilogy of their own.
    • God Emperor of Dune has an interesting place in the original series in that it serves as a bridging novel between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy that actually begins with Heretics. Frank Herbert's incomplete Dune 7 was intended to serve as the third installment of the second trilogy.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The universe features wheels-within-wheels plots and dense mythology, although the poetic descriptions can make the book enjoyable even to those who fail to understand it.
  • Worldbuilding: One of the most developed examples, right here with Tolkien. Considered to be the very first science fiction novel of its kind to do this. Frank Herbert stated that he had done six years of research before writing the first novel, according to a radio interview he made before his death.
  • Wormsign: The Trope Namer. Given the size of the Sand Worms, they're treated in the same way that one would treat a tornado warning.

The Dune novel contains examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage:
    • Paul, before adapting to Fremen culture, asks Chani to carry his water tokens for him without realizing that only a betrothed does this for a man, making his offer tantamount to a proposal.
    • Paul's defeat of Jamis also counts, since he didn't realize he'd inherit Jamis' widow out of it, though given the choice between accepting Harah as wife or as servant, he chooses the latter. (Having killed her husband, he's required to take responsibility for her either way; on the other hand, there's the succession of House Atreides to consider, as well as the fact that he doesn't particularly want to marry Harah in any case.)
  • Agony Beam/Hand in the Hole/Life-or-Limb Decision: The ritual of the gom jabbar is a test employed by the Bene Gesserit, performed by requiring the examinee to put her hand into a box that causes excruciating pain by nerve induction. A poison-coated needle — the gom jabbar itself — is then held to the "victim's" neck with the threat of instant death should she withdraw her hand without permission. The test is whether the person can master her instinctive desire to flee the pain, thus proving her "humanity". Paul Atreides is one of the few males to be administered the test, and his passing of it is seen as a sign of his future role as the Kwisatz Haderach.
    "He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained."
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Subverted. Early on, Paul earns credibility among the Fremen by reluctantly killing one who challenged him to combat. The Fremen, like the Bedouin culture they loosely parallel, have a culture that values "honor," defended through bloodshed. Also, they expect their leaders to succeed by killing their predecessors. Though the Fremen take him for a Messiah and see his leadership as inevitable, he refuses to take the place of the tribe leader Stilgar by killing him. He takes power instead after an impassioned speech deploring the idea of sacrificing a loyal and talented soldier to such a brutal custom. This compels Stilgar to step down, and the Fremen accept Paul's leadership.
    • He actually manages a clever bit of political maneuvering, side-stepping the issue when others would have forced his hand, by having the Fremen pledge their loyalty to him not as a tribal leader, but as their Duke (claiming his father's title and right to rule the planet by Imperial law).
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Sardaukar are trained to fight in formations of three so that they never have an exposed back.
  • Badass Normal: Leto Atreides for certain. Vladimir and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen as well. Most of the Imperial Sardaukar and Paul's Fremen troops also count.
  • Badass Family: The Atreides surely do qualify.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The "evil barbarians" mindset is inverted with the Fremen. While the rest of the universe definitely see them as barbarians, they have a much more complex, honor-based culture driven to barbarian-horde status only by the harsh world they must survive on.
  • Bastard Understudy: Feyd attempts this role with his uncle, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, but the attempt fails.
  • Bawdy Song: Gurney Halleck, troubador-warrior that he is, provides a song ("Galacian Girls") that focuses mainly on prostitution:
    The Galacian girls do it for pearls,
    And the Arrakeen for water!
    But if you desire dames like consuming flames,
    Try a Caladanin daughter!
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Duke Leto's father was killed in a bullfight. The prequels by Brian Herbert added that the bull that killed him was hopped up on stimulants rather than sedated like it should have been, as a tool of assassination. The original didn't attribute any foul play.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Jessica and Paul Atreides are rescued by Fremen. They then have to jump through religious hoops and trial by personal combat to prove that they're worth saving. Of course, they were deliberately seeking out the Fremen, and the Fremen were primed by the religious mythos seeded by the Missionaria Protectiva to look for a Messiah, which Paul and Jessica were trained to exploit. Otherwise they'd have been killed out of hand. Additionally, many Fremen tribes were warned by their leader, Liet, to watch for Jessica and Paul. The novel lays this out clearly through a scene where Liet-Kynes helps them hide from the Harkonnens.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Paul's grandfather murdered Paul's father and tried to murder Paul and his mother. Paul's little sister subsequently murdered their grandfather. Paul himself killed his first cousin once removed in a duel. Later on, Paul's sister also had their grandmother killed as well, despite Paul's having ordered her not to. Oh, and Paul's marriage was completely loveless and sexless.
  • Bio Data: A distrans is a device for producing a temporary neural imprint on the nervous system of bats or birds. The creature's normal cry then carries the message imprint which can be sorted from that carrier wave by another distrans. In other words, it implants a message into the animal which can be later read in its normal vocalization, sort of like a modern-day telephone/radio scrambler.
  • Blatant Lies: In the first novel, Stilgar tries to put Jessica at ease by assuring her that Fremen men do not take women by force. However, readers have already been introduced to the Fremen custom of male duel victors inheriting the wives of their vanquished opponents (and everything that implies). The Fremen justify this practice by saying that the victor is assuming the responsibility of caring for his vanquished foe's wife, but the wife is still a spoil of war who doesn't get a say in the matter.
    • Stilgar's assurance to Jessica is cruelly subverted in the second novel. The Fremen have brutalized entire planets that resisted Paul's rise to the throne. It is clearly and casually stated that Fremen men have raped women on those planets. Then again, the nature of their crusade has changed their culture by this time, and it's clear even in Messiah that many of them came home damaged by what they saw and/or did.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: The Bene Gesserit arrange marriages for the members of their sisterhood.
    • Paul's marriage to Princess Irulan certainly counts.
  • The Caligula: The Harkonnens are an entire family of Caligulas. Gladiatorial death sports, hunting humans as game, bizarre sexual practices, murdering random servants, obscenely expensive luxuries, drug addiction, torture as entertainment—they did it all.
  • Came Back Strong: Paul Atreides almost dies when he drinks the water of life, and when he wakes up he is the Kwisatz Haderach.
  • The Captain: During the Atreides Dukedom, military leaders of the House (Gurney Halleck, Duncan Idaho and presumably others) bear the title "Captains", despite them leading entire armies. This falls in line to the medieval setting, as Captain General was the rank of a commander-in-chief during The Late Middle Ages.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The Atreides bear a lot on their shoulders.
  • Challenging the Chief: Subverted; Paul refuses to face Stilgar in ritual combat because they both knew Paul would win and Paul wants him to remain chief for his role as a loyal political adviser. As he puts it, killing Stilgar would be like cutting off his own right arm.
  • Character Tics: Hasimir Fenring and his wife annoyingly hum while they speak, read as "Uhhh-hmmmmmmmm" every time. It's actually their private code language, use to share information between themselves secretly while in front of other people.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: "Princess Irulan," the lady who's writing the Encyclopedia Exposita about Paul from which the novel's Epigraphs come. Even though her name has been on every fifth page of the book, she doesn't show up in person until the last 20 or so, and we don't learn until the very last page (or, if you prefer, for another two books) just why she's so interested in chronicling him.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Jessica and her son Paul Atreides are both Harkonnens as well, since Jessica is really Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's daughter. Combining the Atreides and Harkonnen bloodlines is a necessary part of the Reverend Mothers' plan to sire the Kwisatz Haderach.
  • Circling Vultures: After Liet-Kynes is left in the desert to die, he sees hawks (the Dune equivalent of vultures) circling overhead.
  • Clingy Costume: As a matter of survival. The climate of Arrakis is such that the Fremen must wear their stillsuits at all times outside sietches, and sometimes even inside, as they have a deeply ingrained cultural taboo against wasting water. Subverted later, when Stilgar notes in disgust how many Fremen who have achieved high positions within Muad'Dib's Empire never wear stillsuits anymore when they go into the desert, as they can afford to waste water. Anyone who has smelt an old wetsuit might work out why they were keen to stop, and it is outright stated that Fremen stink in closed spaces.
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Dr. Yueh's rationale for betraying the Atreides.
  • Compelling Voice: The Bene Gesserit have the Voice. Jessica uses this to facilitate the escape of her and Paul, by making the guards kill each other. The fear of this prompts various defenses, including stationing deaf-mutes as guards for important people and, later, conditioning people to reflexively kill at the first sign of Voice being used.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Gurney Halleck, the one member of Leto's men who's still alive and on the planet, just so happens to be aboard the smuggling ship that falls for Paul's false spice bed trap.
    • Justified in that Paul and the Fremen were closing down all spice production on Arrakis, and that included the smugglers; it was therefore highly likely their paths would cross.
  • Convenient Cranny: While Paul and Jessica are fleeing a Sand Worm, they find a crack in a cliff and successfully hide from it.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: Handled in a serious manner when Stilgar the Fremen meets with Duke Leto. He spits on the table. As the Duke's men are about to carve Stilgar into lunchmeat, Duncan Idaho tells them to hold, then thanks Stilgar for "the gift of his moisture", spits on the table himself, and explains that doing so is a Fremen gesture of respect (since water is so scarce on Arrakis).
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Bene Gesserit spent generations working their Missionaria Protectiva program on backwater planets with the goal of instilling superstitions into the local populace so that, if everything went south, any stranded member of the Sisterhood could take advantage of those superstitions with signs and prophecies tilted in the favor of the Bene Gesserit. It pays off when Bene Gesserit-trained Paul and Jessica Atreides are forced to flee into the deserts of Arrakis and utilizes Fremen superstition to convince the Fremen to take them under their wing. This turns around to bite the Sisterhood in the ass, however, when Paul totally exploits the Missionaria Protectica and integrates himself into Fremen religion, turning him into a Messianic figure amongst the natives, and uses this as a key point to begin his ascent to Emperorhood.
  • Creepy Child: Alia, who scares everyone who doesn't intimately know her.
  • Creepy Uncle: The Baron, completely obsessed with his young nephew. Somehow worse that he considers him an adopted son.
  • Crystal Weapon: The Fremen wield "crysknives" ground from the crystal teeth of Sandworms. Each is considered a holy weapon that shouldn't be shown to outsiders and mustn't be sheathed without drawing blood — and is an Absurdly Sharp Blade to boot. Curiously, crysknives will disintegrate when separated from a living being's presence unless "fixed" to prevent that.
  • Culture Clash: Played constantly throughout the novels, especially between the Atreides and the Fremen. Specific examples include the meeting between Leto and Stilgar, and Paul's accidental gift of "watercounters" to Chani.
  • Cyanide Pill: Yueh gives Duke Leto a poison-gas tooth so that he can kill the Baron Harkonnen. This makes Leto something of a kamikaze — but an unsuccessful one, as the gas only kills Piter.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Rare literary example; Paul is accustomed to attacking slowly while sword-fighting in order to circumvent the deflector shields that are common in the empire, which have a stopping power proportional to the inertia of the object impacting them (The faster an object is moving the harder it is to penetrate the shield). However, when he finds himself in shield-less combat his attacks are sluggish and too slow to draw blood; this is unintentional, but because his defenses and reactions are so quick in comparison the viewing Fremen believe that he is simply toying with his opponent, and comment with disgust.
  • Darwinist Desire: the Bene Gesserit actually have Darwinist Desire Matchmaking. They've been secretly manipulating the marriages of all the members of the noble houses to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, a being capable of omniscience.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Paul displays his father's skull in a small memorial.
  • Death Faked for You: Dr. Yueh made it easy for Paul and his mother Jessica to escape into the desert and presumed dead.
  • Death World: Both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus are so deadly that simply surviving them develops the two most feared fighting groups in the universe, the Fremen natives and Sardaukar soldiers.
  • Deflector Shields: Subverted, as shields explode when contacted by an Energy Weapon, specifically lasers. Not to mention that they only stop fast things like bullets; according to the glossary, objects moving "6 to 9 centimeters per second" will still get through, and it's a plot point that, for Paul, counterattacking at this slower "shield" speed has become force of habit that he has to overcome. (On the spot.)
    • It's mentioned during Paul's fight with Gurney that the air was becoming stale because it couldn't be exchanged. (A deflector shield which keeps out fast-moving objects would isolate the wearer from things like, well, oxygen — individual molecules of which drift around at several hundred metres a second even at room temperature.)
    • The shields are also useless in the desert of Arrakis. First of all, it cannot stand up to the desert's powerful storms. Second, the rapid oscillations of the shield drive any sandworm into a murderous frenzy.
  • Desert Bandits: The Fremen raid Harkonnen patrols and spice harvesters and extract their water (including that in the personnel). But the real reason for those attacks was to keep them from stumbling across the Fremen's secret terraforming operations.
  • Determinator: Yueh, after getting dead. The poor fellow doesn't stay upright for long, of course, but long enough to go out with some dignity.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: A heroic example, where Thufir Hawat (the Atreides mentat) betrays the Emperor and Harkonnens by refusing to kill Paul:
    "Did you think that I, who have given my life to the service of the Atreides, would give them less now?"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A (nearly) orphaned young man, begins receiving visions, becomes an exile from a desert-based center of commerce and religion, marries a notably older widow, granting him status among his adopted tribe, becomes a powerful religious leader by uniting a nomadic people with a history of in-fighting, and eventually leads an army of the faithful to claim control of the city from which he was exiled by political rivals. After solidifying this base of military and mercantile power, the new religion sweeps across most of the known world (sometimes violently, but with many civil reforms in their wake), eventually playing an essential role in discovering and then preserving caches of precious knowledge through a dark age of human history.
    • For those unfamiliar with early Islamic history, Paul parallels Muhammed in some rather obvious ways (but without being a heavy-handed expy by any means). The prevalence of Arabic phrases, and the similarity between "Muhammed" and "Muad'dib", isn't accidental.
    • Paul is also broadly similar to Lawrence of Arabia during the Mesopotamian campaign. Like Lawrence but unlike Mohammed, Paul is an outsider to the tribal cultures that he unifies against his enemies, and is a respected scholar of sorts.
    • A desert where an essential commodity that is vital to all trade and commerce is found, inhabited by people whose language is clearly derived from Arabic and whose religion is clearly derived from Islam. See Aesoptinum above. There's also the fact that the bad guys, the Harkonnens, are a family where one member, Vladimir, has a Russian first name, another, Feyd-Rautha, has an Arabic first name, and a third, Rabban, has a Hebrew name. Meanwhile, the name Harkonnen is itself Hebrew for "Mountain of Greed." So the story is clearly a metaphor for The Middle East.
  • The Dragon: Subverted with both Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen and Hasimir Fenring. Feyd-Rautha fought Paul Atreides on behalf of the Emperor, but only because he saw killing Paul as a stepping-stone to the throne; and Fenring was such a deadly fighter that the Emperor knew he could kill an exhausted Paul after his previous fight with Feyd — only for Fenring to realize that he and Paul are not so different.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: The Fremen consider re-sheathing a crysknife without drawing blood to be a very grave offense.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Paul has dreams about the future (including later events on Arrakis) before gaining his full prescient ability. So does Leto II.
  • The Emperor: Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, who is overthrown by Paul by the time the novel ends.
  • The Empire: Purposely set up this way by the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild, though noble families had existed before the Butlerian Jihad. There was also an empire prior to the Time of the Titans. The Padishah-Emperors (except for Feykan Corrino) are descendants of the last of the old emperors. This includes Paul and Leto II via their Richese lineage.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Every chapter of the first book is headed by a quote from Princess Irulan's studies of Paul-Muad'Dib. Every chapter of every subsequent book is headed by similar in-universe historic quotes. All of Frank Herbert's Dune novels make use of this, quoting from fictional (auto)biographies, treatises on religion/politics, journals...
  • Environmental Symbolism: Arrakis, Caladan, and Giedi Prime seem to be designed with this in mind. Caladan is a green, soft world to reflect the humanity of the Atreides family; Giedi Prime is portrayed as a mechanical, desolate place to reflect the inhumanity of the Harkonnens. Dune, of course, is a planet-sized Holy Land. It is a theme that planet of origin effects the mindset of the groups that live there, or vise versa. Every planet is a reflection of the ruling house (including the Fremen with Dune).
  • Evil Chancellor: Subverted thoroughly with Dr Wellington Yueh and Thufir Hawat. Dr Yueh looks almost exactly the part of the evil chancellor — tall, blade-thin with a drooping moustache and cold, intellectual manner. He even betrays the Atreides, and the readers find out about it right from the start. He's only doing it because the Harkonnens have probably killed his wife, but he's not sure — and for the chance to get a bit of revenge. Hawat on the other hand looks like the grandfatherly mentor, but is the Duke's ''Master of Assassins'', and employs methods that horrify Jessica.
  • Face Your Fears: The Litany Against Fear promotes doing this whenever possible.
  • False Reassurance: The Baron promises Dr. Yueh that if he betrays the Atreides he would stop torturing his wife and allow him to join her. After Yueh does so, the Baron has him killed, as he had done earlier with his wife, thus carrying out his promise to the letter. Of course, Yueh already knew perfectly well what the Baron would do, he just couldn't bear to live without having it confirmed.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: "na-" is used as a prefix to a rank (for example, na-Baron) to refer to the heir to that rank. It's short for "nascent."
  • Fantastic Plastic: Plasteel is any kind of composite of organic polymer and carbon-iron alloys used in many industries due to both its plasticity and Macroscopic hardness.
  • A Father to His Men: Lampshaded when Duke Leto Atreides risks his life and the priceless Spice to save his men; Liet-Kynes comments that a man such as that would inspire fanatical loyalty. It's implied that this is exactly why the Emperor wants him dead, because he fears Leto will use his popularity to depose him. There are further hints that this may be a mask designed expressly for the purpose, although it's explicitly contradicted by the prequels.
  • Fictional Document : Where... to... begin... Perhaps with the Fictionary.
  • Foregone Conclusion: A major theme of Dune is You Can't Fight Fate, so expect these in spades.
    • Dr. Yueh's wife, Wanna, is revealed by Epistolary to be dead long before she, or he, or the nature of their relationship, is even introduced.
    • We're told how the first of the book's three parts will end in the second chapter, and the book's ending is foretold in the middle of the second part by the protagonist himself.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Harkonnen employ a Batman Gambit by losing Arrakis to the Atreides in order to come down on them like the fist of an angry god with the aid of the Emperor's Sardaukar. The Atreides know this is what the Harkonnens are trying to do, but are gambling on using the Fremen to fight back in a gambit of their own. It does not go well for the Atreides.
    • The Bene Gesserit are manipulating individuals, societies, governments, religions, and bloodlines to produce their Kwisatz Haderach— and then have to start over from scratch when they get one too soon.
  • Genocide Backfire: Baron Harkonnen kills his rival, Duke Atreides, and attempts to do the same with his only son, thus wiping out the Atreides family line and ending the millennia old Atreides/Harkonnen blood feud. At first he thinks he's successful, but they never find the boy's body...
  • Ghost Memory: Bene Gesserit acolytes receive the total line of their predecessors' memories when undergoing the Water of Life. Later books have Bene Gesserit placing their foreheads together to exchange genetic memory in times of extreme danger.
  • Girl of My Dreams: Paul has dreams of the future where he sees the Fremen girl he will eventually meet and fall in love with. Leto II has similar dreams during his spice ordeal, leading him to understand where Paul went wrong, and subvert the trope by rejecting that path.
  • A God Am I: When Paul fully awakens his potential as Kwisatz Haderach he becomes a messiah to peoples of thousands of worlds, only to be elevated to the status of god in the millennia following his death. His son, Leto II, grinds into the people of the universe that he is a god more for the sociological outcome rather than personal lust for power. After Paul's death, his status as a god is less widespread compared to his son's.
  • Gossip Evolution: At one point Paul is with a force of Fremen warriors which is ambushed by several Imperial Sardaukar, which the Fremen decimate. Paul somberly notes that as his reputation as the Fremen's holy savior grows, the stories will say that he singlehandedly killed scores of Sardaukar, even though he didn't even draw his knife.
  • Go Through Me: Played with— after Chani dispatches a would-be challenger to her lover Paul/Muad'Dib, she says that fewer people will try to challenge him if they learn that first they have to go through (and suffer the possible disgrace of being killed by) his woman.
  • Genetic Memory: Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers (and Wild Mothers such as the Fremen's and Rebecca) get genetic memories of all their female ancestors, the Kwisatz Haderach gets them for all his ancestors, as do children of these two. Gholas can gain past life memories this way too, by being manipulated into doing something their original self would never have done.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Bene Gesserit created their own worst nightmare in the form of Paul, when he was what they had been looking for, but came a generation earlier than intended and came into his abilities outside of their control. They got what they wanted, but didn't get it when they wanted it.
  • Green Rocks: The Spice, whose effects include increased cognitive abilities, prescience, physical mutation if directly exposed to it in gas form, and a greatly-elongated life-span. It's also used as seasoning: it evidently tastes of cinnamon.
  • Had to Be Sharp: "God made Arrakis to train the Faithful".
  • Happily Married: Count and Lady Fenring, even though he's an Evil Eunuch. Leto and Jessica are also a happy couple, though politics prevent them from marrying.
  • Heir Club for Men: Duke Leto's concubine Lady Jessica was supposed to have a daughter for the Bene Gesserit, but Leto wanted a son, and she went along with him, although it is not made clear if he wanted a son for reasons of getting an heir or just wanted a son because he wanted a male child. In Jessica's case, it was done for love and ended up saving the universe, so...
  • Horse of a Different Color: Fremen climb onto sandworms and steer them with hooks as a means of desert transport.
  • Hot Consort:
    • Paul ends up marrying Princess Irulan for political reasons, but keeps his true love Chani as royal concubine.
    • Paul's father, the Duke Leto, never marries the Lady Jessica as it provides some leverage with other Houses, who might want to arrange a marriage. He claims this as one of his few regrets.
  • Hufflepuff House: A fictional example that actually has Houses. House Atreides and House Harkonnen take center-stage with every other mentioned House relegated to background mentions. House Corrino would be a true example of this, but their role of filling the position of the Imperial court makes them important.
  • Human Resources: Fremen reclaim water from human waste through their stillsuits, and from the dead by draining them in "death stills". The Tleilaxu really top them, though, by using all their females as artificial wombs for their genetic products.
  • Hyper-Awareness/Sherlock Scan/Spider-Sense: The Bene Gesserit use their hyper awareness as a tool for manipulation. Descriptions of Bene Gesserit thought processes in the novels are often comparable to chess masters watching the world around them like one big chessboard, and calmly noting their accruing advantage. At one point a Bene Gesserit correctly deduces that there is a hidden room on the other side of a large banquet room by noting the subtle geometry of the walls of the room and the objects in it as being specifically designed to produce a slight echo where those in the hidden room can listen in.
    • Even with mental processing as incredible as that, the Bene Gesserit still only learn those abilities as a supplementary skill for their main areas of expertise. The mentats, however, specialize specifically in Hyper-Awareness and so are infinitely more adept then even the best Bene Gesserit. Then you take a Bene Gesserit and train her (or occasionally him) as a Mentat...
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Paul NEVER makes anyone forget that, before being Usul of the Fremen, before being Muad'dib, before being the awaited Mahdi, before being the Kwisatz Haderach, he is Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides. In fact, the closest thing Paul has to a berserk button is someone belittling the memory of his father or the Atreides name.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The very last page notes that Princess Irulan, whose epigraphs appear throughout the first book as chapter breaks, has "pretensions of a literary nature".
  • Kill It with Water: Aside from extreme old age or atomic explosions, the only way to kill a sandworm is by completely drowning them in water. Good luck finding any on a planet called Dune. This, of course, comes full circle in God Emperor of Dune, where Leto II must be killed in water for the sandworm cycle to continue - so he creates a mighty river on the former desert planet and allows himself to be assassinated there to ensure that this happens.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Atreides Mentat Thufir Hawat is captured and enslaved by the Harkonnen during their ouster of the Atreides and is administered a perpetual poison, the antidote to which he receives from the Harkonnen and must take on a regular basis in order to survive. Near the end of Dune, when Paul overthrows the Emperor and confronts the conspirators, the Harkonnen offer Thufir a permanent antidote in exchange for assassinating Paul, who willingly offers his life to Thufir in recognition of his years of loyal service to House Atreides. Unable to bring himself to kill the heir to House Atreides, Thufir instead commits suicide.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better:
    • A general rule on Arrakis, as a ploy for being able to fight someone regardless of whether he's foolhardy enough to carry a working personal shield generator or not. Unlike lasguns, kinetic firearms fire projectiles that can always penetrate a personal shield without fear of causing a miniature nuclear explosion. This makes them ideal for fighting shielded and unshielded infantry alike. It is explicitly mentioned numerous times that Fremen prefer to use spring-loaded dartguns, crossbow-like guns, or just plain old gunpowder firearms.
  • King Bob the Nth: It's the year 10,191 of the Galactic Empire, and the current monarch is Shaddam IV, 81st Padishah Emperor. It's never explained within the original novel who exactly the previous three Shaddams were.
    • The Dune Encyclopedia has a list of every Emperor along with the dates of their reigns. Shaddam IV's immediate predecessors were Fredhrick XIX, Corrin XXV and Elrood IX. Shaddam III reigned 4200 years before Shaddam IV, Shaddam II was some 3000 years before that, and Shaddam I reigned 2400 years before him. Shaddam IV was the 81st "Padishah" Emperor, but the 370th Emperor of the Known Universe. Number 1 was Alexander the Great, so it isn't supposed to be an accurate list.
  • Language Equals Thought: The Fremen culture has dozens of words describing various types of sand, and Liet-Kynes intentionally introduces a language based in the terms of ecology, with the express purpose of making the Fremen into an army of terraformers.
  • Lonely at the Top: Both Paul and his son Leto II at the height of their power have no one to truly understand them. For Paul, his love Chani, dies in childbirth and for Leto II Hwi Noree. Leto and her both die before their wedding.
  • Manchurian Agent: In the first book, the Baron breaks Dr. Yueh of his Suk conditioning, thus allowing him to act as a traitor against his royal charges. The later books elaborate on a barely mentioned act in the first book, where Bene Gesserit condition males through psychosexual techniques (a process called hypno-ligation) to act in a specified way on a given code word. In Heretics and Chapterhouse, the Tleilaxu are capable of delivering gholas custom-programmed to act out any desired behavior on the appropriate trigger.
  • The Man in the Moon: The second moon of Arrakis has markings in the shape of a kangaroo mouse, from which Paul takes his Fremen name: Muad'dib.
  • Master Swordsman: Duncan Idaho is the archetypal example, identified as such by name, but many of the characters in the first book are skilled with the blade. This is also the hat of House Ginaz, the allies of the Atreides.
    • Gurney Halleck is also a master swordsman by any standard except comparison to Duncan Idaho.
      • But when praised for his swordfighting abilities by Paul, Idaho confided that Gurney could best him "six times out of ten."
  • Men of Sherwood: The Fremen, though largely a background force, account for most of Paul's success. Their prowess in battle leads them to conquer the entire universe, despite only numbering in the millions.
  • Mentor: Paul has several, including the elder Mentat Thufir Hawat, and Gurney Halleck.
  • A Million is a Statistic: This is Paul's horror at seeing the future in the first book, which becomes true in the second. There's a scene where he compares himself to Hitler — "He killed more than six million. Pretty good for those days... Statistics: at a conservative estimate, I've killed sixty-one billion, sterilized ninety planets, completely demoralized five hundred others. I've wiped out the followers of forty religions..."
  • Mirror Character: The most obvious example is Paul Atreides and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. A more poignant example occurs at the end of the first book between Paul Atreides and Hasimir Fenring.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Since suspensor fields work inside shields (the Baron uses both), it would be reasonable to have Humongous Mecha (human-piloted) or flying tanks in the setting (though walkers do turn up in some of the spinoffs).
  • Mobile Factory: Harvester factories move across the desert refining spice from sand.
  • Modest Royalty: Emperor Shaddam IV, who prefers spending most of his time in the war room rather than in the court, and wears the military uniform of a Sardaukar instead of any royal pomp. Politics really isn't his thing, and he only flaunts his wealth when he has to.
  • The Mole: Suspicion briefly falls on Jessica as being a mole for the Harkonnens, though the Duke angrily discards such accusations.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Count Fenring, except at the very end, when he refuses to kill Paul.
  • National Weapon: Crysknives, made from the tooth of a sandworm, are sacred to the Fremen.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Frank Herbert stated he based the Harkonnens on the Nazis.
  • Never Found the Body: Baron Harkonnen, upon receiving news that Paul and Jessica Atreides were dead after flying into a sandstorm, asks explicitly, "You've seen the bodies?" He was right to doubt. This series also provides the pagequote for that trope.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: When Paul kills Jamis in a duel, the other Fremen refrain from speaking ill of Jamis, even though he had a history of violence and unethical actions (i.e., killing Harah's first husband so that he could marry her). On the other hand each of the members of the band has at least one good memory of Jamis and Harah praises him as a good provider and a good father to both her sons, including the one by her first husband, and wants to know if Paul means to do as well by them.
  • Noble Savage: The Fremen, backed up by a number of quotes in the Encyclopedia Exposita, are intentionally set up to be perceived this way. Even their essential cruelty is explained as the cold necessity of survival in a harsh environment, combined with a carefully nurtured desire for revenge against their oppressors. This is reinforced by the decline of the Fremen culture in later novels; as they lose touch with the desert and become "civilized", their power and nobility decline.
    • Depending on your perspective, the Fremen could be a deconstruction of the Noble Savage trope. Their society is characterized by senseless internal violence, such as duels, inheretance of women by duel victors, and succession through killing. When Paul assumes the role of Emperor, the Fremen descend on recalcitrant planets, slaughtering and ravaging the inhabitants. This from a people who lamented their own unjust oppression for centuries.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Played straight in Dune. The Fremen use bird calls to communicate with each other: "Jessica heard... the distant bird calls that Stilgar had said were the signals of his watchmen."
  • Nonverbal Miscommunication: Duke Leto makes an offer to Stilgar, and in response Stilgar spits on the table. Leto's men rise to defend his honor, before Duncan Idaho tells them it's a cultural sign of respect due to the importance of water.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Paul and Jessica are able to escape their Harkonnen pursuers by piloting an aircraft into a Coriolis storm, a massive sandstorm with winds over 400 kph. Everyone agrees (with good reason) that they are "certainly dead", which turns out to be a huge mistake.
    • Made more ironic when the Baron chews out his lieutenant for being so Genre Blind while his private thoughts reveal that he fully believes it too.
    Never count a human dead unless you've seen the body. And even then you can make a mistake.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Count Hasimir Fenring definitely counts as one of those. 'Umm-ah-hm-mm-mm', indeed! He completely loses the affect/speech impediment when in private conversation about the Emperor's orders with the Baron. It should be noted that in other books he does this on purpose, both to annoy people around him and to communicate secretly with his wife, who is a Bene Gesserit.
  • Occult Blue Eyes/Monochromatic Eyes/Technicolor Eyes: A result of high-level Spice addiction, when enough ingestion saturates the blood stream and stains the eyes. Described in the books as "blue-on-blue". However Spice also gives psionic abilities to at least some humans which links the two together in people's minds.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: Lady Jessica is able to gain acceptance among the Fremen by using phrases planted in their culture by the Missionaria Protectiva (which manipulates religious beliefs to benefit the Bene Gesserit).
  • Patchwork Story: Dune itself was originally published as two shorter works in Analog magazine before being expanded and reworked as a novel.
  • Penal Colony: Salusa Secundus was one of these, as well as a Death World with the intention of creating Super Soldiers.
  • Pet the Dog: Feyd-Rautha's honorable treatment of the corpse of the Atreides gladiator he fought. Was in part a publicity stunt, but he realises the narrowness of his escape.
  • Planet Baron: The Great Houses of the Landsraad fit this trope—complete with actual barons! Much of the first novel details the simmering conflict between Houses Atreides and Harkonnen (the owners of planets Caladan and Giedi Prime, respectively) over Arrakis and its production of spice.
  • Place Beyond Time: Reverend Mothers are able to enter a spice-enduced trance in which time effectively stops, allowing them to transfer memories, consult with their maternal ancestors, alter their body chemistry, and see through time. When Paul Atreides takes the Water of Life, he gains this ability to such an extent that he experiences the NOW: "The future and the past! All at once. All the same."
  • Planetary Romance : Both a classic example and a Deconstruction.
  • Poisoned Weapons:
    • The gom jabbar, a poisoned needle used by Bene Gesserit Proctors in their death-alternative test of human awareness, is a "specific poison needle tipped with meta-cyanide".
    • Paul facing Feyd Rautha at the end duel. Feyd has a poisoned spring needle in his belt. They both also have poisoned blades, Feyd's with a soporific and Paul's with acid.
    • Alia kills the Baron Harkonnen with a poisoned needle during the confusion.
    • Crysknives often have a groove in them where poison can be applied.
    • When fighting gladiators, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen was allowed to use a short knife with a poisoned blade. During his hundredth bout, he secretly put the poison on his long knife instead, which allowed him to win the match.
    • Poisoning is so widespread and common between (and possibly within) the noble houses that it is considered to be its own science.
  • The Promised Land: The Fremen believe they can turn Arrakis into this with some ecological engineering.
  • Prophecy Twist: The Bene Gesserit's Missionaria Protectiva intentionally seeds Galactic society with messianic prophecies to provide a ready-made belief structure for their planned Kwisatz Haderach. The twist occurs when the real thing comes along and manipulates the prophecy to make himself Emperor of the known universe. Oops. (Hint: when trying to create a prophet, allow for the fact that the prophet will figure out what you're doing and may try to take it away from you.)
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Fremen, deliberately contrasted with the Sardaukar who are more of a Praetorian Guard. Both in turn start out badass but end up succumbing to arrogance and pleasure, allowing them to be overcome by a superior force — Fremen for the Sardukaur, and, well, Leto II for the Fremen.
  • Red Scare: The Harkonnens are apparently of Russian descent. Now remember that the books came out during the Cold War.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Dr. Wellington Yueh betrays the House Atreides for the sake of freeing his wife from Harkonnen tortures. Yueh is an interesting case in that he walks into it with his eyes mostly open — he strongly suspects that Wanna has been Released to Elsewhere and is betraying everyone just to make sure. He knows he'll only be killed for his troubles once he's outlived his usefulness, and he does everything in his power to help House Atreides survive his betrayal. Hell, he even sets up a trap of his own to kill Baron Harkonnen in retaliation, and it almost succeeds.
    "You think... you have defeated me? You think I did not know... what I bought... for my Wanna?"
    • Poor old Wellington kinda gets the short end of the stick in the universe; despite his best-of-intentions betrayal, in subsequent books it is made clear that history remembers him as worse than Judas and for thousands of years his name serves as a byword for unconscionable treachery.
  • Rite of Passage: The gom jabbar stands out, though is only done on Bene Gesserit and Kwisatz Haderach-hopefuls. Better examples exist among the Fremen, such as first hooking a sandworm (at twelve).
  • Sacred Scripture: The "Orange Catholic Bible".
  • Sand Is Water:
    • The sandworms "swim" through sand by literally eating it and passing it through their system, avoiding most of the implausibilities of it. This generates intense heat that triggers some extremely powerful electromagnetic storms from all the friction.
    • Played even straighter with tidal dust basins, basins of dust so deep they have tides, which an unwary traveler can wander into and die.
  • Sand Worm: The shai-hulud are hundreds of feet long and capable of swallowing entire ships whole, and their offspring crap out the substance that keeps the entire cosmos's economy running. They feed on a combination of their plankton-like larval form and on other, smaller worms. Their mass is physically sustained by their semi-crystalline body, and their ability to pass through the sand is because they consume it, as part of getting the aforementioned plankton. They attack anything that vibrates because, since they are blind and have low intelligence, they attack on the off-chance that the vibration is caused by another worm. Their physical attributes are consistently extrapolated from the neccessities of their living-in-sand nature — their bodies are designed to be capable of passing off enormous amounts of heat to deal with the friction in sand, and their strength is quite enormous, as it would have to be to move such a mass through such a dense medium. They have served as the base for almost every other example in modern fiction, although later imitators tend to simply copy the aesthetics (wormlike, burrow, attack people on the surface) without the accompanying biological justifications.
  • Schizo Tech: Many of the apparently anachronistic elements of technology are justified by the book's extremely-detailed backstory.
  • Sea of Sand: Arrakis is covered in an endless expanse of sandy dunes inhabited exclusively by the Fremen and the sandworms.
  • Second-Hand Storytelling: Interesting scenes or important plot points, such as the initial journey to the planet Arrakis in a spaceship of the mysterious Navigators Guild or Paul Atreides drinking the lethal Water of Life, are either touched on only fleetingly or narrated by characters in retrospect, several weeks later. The chapter simply ends and cuts away from the action about to unfold to a different scene in the next chapter, with characters sitting around their camp fire and telling each other what happened.
  • Sexless Marriage: Much to Irulan's consternation, her marriage to Paul turns out to be this; he considers Chani to be his real wife, in everything but name.
  • Significant Monogram: The Emperor's personal guard of fanatically-loyal elite soldiers are trained and raised on a planet called Salusa Secundus. Godwin's Law, anyone?
  • Single-Biome Planet: Justified, as Dune became a desert planet thanks to the sandworms/sandtrout species basically terraforming it.
    • Since Arrakis is a desert planet arenaforming might be a more appropriate term.
  • The Spartan Way/Training from Hell: The Emperor's Sardaukar. To a certain extent the Fremen also — their culture is more survivalist than purely martial, but on a man-for-man level it seems to yield a superior result.
  • Suicide Dare: Back Story. While Pardot Kynes is teaching the Fremen about his dream of making Arrakis a garden, a decision is made to kill him because he's a security risk to the sietch. A Fremen fighter is sent to execute him. When he approaches, Pardot tells him "Remove yourself", and the man deliberately falls on his own crysknife. The other Fremen see this as an omen and decide to do anything he says.
  • Surprise Incest: Paul learns that by the Bene Gesserit's mandate, Jessica was supposed to bear a girl that would have married Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. It's not until later that it's revealed that the Baron is Jessica's father, making Paul (and thus Paul's hypothetical Distaff Counterpart), Feyd's first cousin once removed.
  • Sword Fight: Swords and knives are the main weapons used in ground combat. Justified: shields stop projectile weapons, and explode like nukes when attacked with lasguns. Also shields attract the worms so they can't really be used (at least by ground forces) and Baron Harkonnen successfully uses conventional artillery in his takeover to seal Atreides forces in caves to die. (The Fremen turn this to their own advantage later.)
  • Take Over the World. This is what the hero does, in a universal level. By threatening to destroy civilization, no less. Of course, the alternative is far, far worse.
  • Taking You with Me: Duke Leto tries to kill both himself and Baron Harkonnen with a poison gas-filled tooth. The Baron, however, managed to survive; not only did he have his shield turned on, he was standing right in front of a convenient emergency door. Leto at least took down the Baron's Mentat and several others.
  • Talking through Technique: The Hand Signals. Count Fenring's annoying vocal tics might also qualify, as we later learn that they're a secret language understood only by the Count and his (Bene Gesserit) wife.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Thufir Hawat, captured by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's forces and forced to work for him, plays him off of his nephew, Feyd Rautha. Feyd makes a rash attempt (suggested by Thufir) to assassinate his uncle, and the Baron is forced to consider executing his only legitimate heir. Thufir does this more for vengeance and loyalty to his prior liege than for escape, which the Baron ensured would be a fatal endeavor; the Baron barely manages to work his way out of the dilemma by denying Feyd the governorship of the planet the Harkonnens took from Thufir's old master. Earlier in the book, Paul and Jessica use the Voice to get their Harkonnen guards to kill each other.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Courtesy largely of the Bene Gesserit breeding program. The Lady Jessica is herself Vladimir Harkonnen's flesh-and-blood daughter, and Paul is by extension his grandson.
  • 10,000 Years: The original novel takes place in the year 10,191 AG, after the Spacing Guild was founded and the Imperium established.
  • Terraform/Weather-Control Machine: The sandworms managed to turn the once-lush and verdant Arrakis into a desert-world. Paul promises to transform Arrakis into a paradise through use of weather satellites, and makes good with signs of life and vegetation taking hold of the planet at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, his son Leto II realizes this is taking place much too quickly and will destabilize the universe's political and social infrastructure if the sandworms die out, so destroys the canals. He takes control of the program himself and over the next 3,500 years transforms Arrakis more steadily, only to return it to a desert world once again on his death.
  • They Were Holding You Back: What's done to Thufir Hawat.
  • To the Pain: Feyd-Rautha
  • Tranquillizer Dart: This comes up when Leto finds the Shadout Mapes dying on the floor in the palace and Doctor Yueh shoots him with a dart (at the start of the Harkonnens' raid on Arrakis). Yueh is the family physician, so he knows the duke's body mass, metabolism, and so on. Some reference to the drugging of Jessica and Paul is also made; the Baron stands over Jessica as she comes to and tells her, "The drug was timed." This admission tells her the traitor has detailed and intimate knowledge of her vital statistics, and she deduces his identity seconds later.
  • Transplanted Aliens: The evidence suggests that the sandworms were introduced to Arrakis by unknown parties rather than evolving there. In Chapterhouse Dune the Bene Gesserit have begun releasing sand trout onto their own planet and others after the destruction of Arrakis.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Leto explains to his son that their being given Arrakis is a trap by the Emperor and says, "Knowing there is a trap is the first step in evading it." Where he fails is in anticipating the timing of the trap (he thought he had months to prepare; the Baron attacked within a fortnight), and the magnitude of the forces poised to destroy him.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: House Atreides and the Fremen in the first book.
  • Unobtainium: The Spice.
  • Unusual Euphemism: At least on one occasion, the f-bomb is replaced with "floggin'". Frank was perfectly happy to use other cuss words through the series, but even "flog" isn't used again for the rest of the series.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Poor Irulan. Paul distrusts her and keeps her at arm's length because she is both a Corrino and a tool of the Bene Gesserit but he feels no personal revulsion for her and even indicates he'd might have been willing to consummate their marriage if she weren't a Bene Gesserit.
  • Unwanted False Faith : The misguided Fremen-led state religion and personality cult that forms around Paul. The young Atreides actually does a damned good effort at rejecting and ridiculing it at first, but later accepts it after his spice-induced visions convince him there might be a grain of truth in the myth. All the more tragic when the reader realizes the whole Fremen legend about the Mahdi is just a Bene Gesserit hoax cleverly implanted into actual Fremen mythology. (Of course Paul knows this.)
  • Variant Chess: From the Terminology of the Imperium:
    "CHEOPS: pyramid chess; nine-level chess with the double object of putting your queen at the apex and the opponent's king in check."
    • Apparently it has evolved into an actual variant of chess that is played by some people.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Baron during his POV segments. You so want him dead for his crimes and perversions, but while waiting for his comeuppance, you can't help but admire his brilliant political maneuvering and epic-level Magnificent Bastardy.
  • Warrior Poet: Gurney Halleck. He is a musician and philosopher with seemingly infinite supply of witticisms for any occasion. He is also a remorseless killer, perfectly willing to cut any Harkonnen he comes across (or anyone who gets on the wrong side of Duke Leto for that matter) into pieces.
    Duke Leto: "Someday I'll catch that man without a quotation and he'll look undressed."
    • Paul becomes something like this, if the many quotes attributed to him in the chapter epigraphs were actually from him. Then again, Gurney trained Paul.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: The Emperor is both enraged and terrified when he hears that his Sardaukar only just barely escaped with their lives by doing this against a settlement of women, children, and elderly.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Justified in that after the Butlerian Jihad, complex autonomous machines are forbidden for millennia. Even regular old calculators are replaced by (highly-paid) people known as Mentats.
    • Their justification for slavery in the prequels is flimsy at best. They primarily enslave Zensunnis and Zenshiites, as they claim their ancestors refused to fight the Thinking Machines.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Paul is described as this in the first book, justified due to the intensive training he was given as heir to House Atreides. The pre-born, due to awakened genetic memory in the womb, never develop a personality of their own and are entirely intelligent even before birth.
  • The Worf Effect: The Imperial Sardaukar are the most terrifying and deadly warriors in the known universe, and their only real purpose is to establish how much deadlier the Fremen are by getting their asses handed to them at every encounter. When they attack Paul's sietch, they take devastating losses fighting Fremen who are not even warriors.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Fremen can challenge each other to duels to the death, with the winner being entitled to the loser's water and their wife. This extends to the responsibility for caring for the widow and her children. Also, any Honored Matre who kills the Great Honored Matre becomes Great Honored Matre herself.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen has Yueh's wife kidnapped to coerce him into betraying the house of Atreides, then fulfills his promise to "reunite" the two of them.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: In the original Dune book, Duncan Idaho sacrifices himself to hold off a flood of Imperial Sardaukar elite troopers, while Paul Atreides makes good his escape.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Yueh makes a deal with the Baron for the return of his wife, Wanna, but she was already dead. He saw it coming and prepared accordingly. That he largely fails is a stroke of terribly bad luck.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dune Chronicles Of The Imperium, Hunters Of Dune, Sandworms Of Dune


Holtzman Shields

Paul Atreides and Gurney Halleck demonstrate the Duneverse's "Holtzman shields" in a sparring match. The shields repel fast-moving objects, permit only slow moving ones to pass, and (in the book) cause explosions on the level of a tactical nuke when struck with a laser, which forced ground warfare to revert mostly to melee combat.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeflectorShields

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