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Literature / Children of Dune

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I believe that children are our future...

"I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid. I don't find it strange that all you want to believe is only that which comforts you. How else do humans invent the traps which betray us into mediocrity? How else do we define cowardice?"
The Preacher

Children of Dune is the third book in the original six-part Dune saga, written by Frank Herbert and published in 1976. Children of Dune was the first hard-cover science fiction best-seller and was nominated for a Hugo Award.

Children of Dune spawned its own Sci-Fi Channel miniseries adaptation Frank Herbert's Children of Dune which also covers the events of the previous book Dune Messiah.

Children of Dune skips some time from Dune Messiah and follows what has happened to the Atreides Imperium after Paul Muad'Dib walked off into the desert. Paul's sister Alia rules as Regent in the name of Paul's son Leto II, however her increasing paranoia leads her to continue to consume more and more Spice, exposing her as a pre-born to increased risk of possession and 'abomination'. Alia pressures the similarly pre-born Leto II and his sister Ghanima to do the same in order to use oracular vision to suss out threats to their empire.


The Lady Jessica and Gurney Halleck also returns to Arrakis to assess the condition of her daughter and grandchildren. Meanwhile, a plot is emerging on Selusa Secundas, where the remaining House of Corrino plans a move against the Atreides twins in a scheme to re-take the throne. A mysterious preacher has also emerged to challenge the religious message of Alia's priesthood and her rule.

Will Leto II and Ghanima be able to inherit the future from their lost father and ailing aunt?


Children of Dune contains examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Unless you count the Sandworms, and their implied creators. Even then, the sentience 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.
  • Achey Scars: Gurney Halleck sports a long, red scar along his face that chronically delivers residual pain due to abuse suffered from the poisonous plant inkvine during his time as a Harkonnen slave.
  • Action Girl / Action Mom:
    • Alia
    • Jessica
    • Ghanima
  • 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), the names get far more exotic as the cast fills out throughout the series. Notable examples include Ghanima, Hwi Noree, many Fremen, and the Latin-European-Greek full names of the Bene Gesserit.
  • A God I Am Not: As ‘The Preacher’, Paul actively works to destroy his own godhead. Also a case of Unwanted False Faith.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Amazon Brigade:
    • The Bene Gesserit.
    • Alia's female guards are also explicitly referred to as amazons.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Alia’s continuation of Paul’s jihad.
  • Ancient Astronauts/All Myths Are True: 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.
  • And I Must Scream: Leto II's awareness supposedly exists in each of the sandtrout and sandworms produced from his body. In his words, he is a pearl of awareness locked in an endless dream.
  • Animal Assassin: A daughter of the deposed Emperor develops a plot to assassinate Paul's children Leto II and Ghanima with conditioned Laza Tigers.
  • Anti-Villain: Farradin Corrino is built up as the villain. The ending reveals that he becomes a trusted companion of Leto II, and that he is the one whose quotes have been peppered throughout the novel.
  • Anyone Can Die: Paul, Alia, Duncan Idaho
  • Arc Words: "The Golden Path" defines the entire series after the second book, and only becomes more and more powerful as you fully come to realize what it means.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Corrinos
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Leto II uses this on Stilgar to make him realize the true depths of decadence the Fremen have fallen to as a result of achieving their vision of Paradise. The narrative illustrates this beautifully by treating readers to Stilgar's internal monologue while musing on the reasons Leto chose to phrase it like that.
    Leto: "Have you noticed, Stil, how beautiful the young women are this year?"
  • Ascended Extra: Duncan Idaho, in the first book, actually dies only to become the only character to feature in all six novels of the original series.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Various Houses each have their own, mostly secret languages that are dead to other populations.
  • Author Catchphrase:
    • "Ah-h-h-h-h."
    • "Plans within plans...wheels within wheels..."
    • "He tried to swallow in a dry throat"
  • Badass Bookworm: Pretty much everyone that isn't a Genius Bruiser.
  • Badass Family: Atreides
  • Because Destiny Says So: Paul and Leto II’s battle of visions. Paul locked himself into a terrible path, which necessitated Leto II taking a worse one with even more personal sacrifice.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: The Corrinos and the possessed Alia
  • Black and Gray Morality: 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.)
  • Blessed with Suck: You can see the future. All of it. Every twist, turn, nook, and cranny. There are no surprises. There is no escape. You will never live something that you have not already foreseen. It's even worse for Alia: she has access to the genetic memory of all her ancestors. Unfortunately, this includes her grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
  • Blind Seer: After Paul loses his sight in an assassination attempt he substitutes his prescient memory of the future instead. He literally knows exactly what's going to happen moment to moment and fits his actions seamlessly into that vision. Later, he chooses to "forget" his vision when overcome with grief over Chani's death, and loses it completely when Leto II takes the oracular reins from him in Children of Dune.
  • Brother–Sister Incest/Twincest: Children of Dune, while treating incest as a theme, does not create such feelings Leto II and his sister Ghanima. Ghanima says "I will not bear your children, brother," to which Leto replies, "I love you, my sister, but that is not the way my thought tends." They do end up marrying each other, but it is nonsexual and actually meant to invoke pharaonic-archetypes of ancient Egypt.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Leto II and Ghanima are twins, as well as pre-born. This makes them the only people capable of mutually understanding each other in the entire universe. Paul and Alia to a lesser degree.
  • Came Back Strong: Leto II after his spice trial at Shuloc.
  • Casual High Drop: Leto II demonstrates his new post-transformation abilities by leaping off a cliff and into a canal.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Alia cannot bear their weight.
  • Character Tics: The Baron apparently tapped his fingers during anxiety or boredom, as shown in Children of Dune when Alia becomes possessed with her ego-memories of him.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • The Chessmaster: Leto II
  • The Clan: Feuding Houses of noble families play a large part in the first book, though the Atreides name carries down through the millennia.
  • 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.
  • Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: 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".
    • A few religions manage to survive intact through the millennia, most notably Judaism.
    • There are also Zenshiites in the prequels, a more violent sect than the Zensunnis.
  • 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.
  • Compelling Voice: The Bene Gesserit have the Voice. Jessica uses this in the first novel 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. In the original novel, the Bene Gesserit have to study the target of the Voice in order to adjust their pitch accordingly.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Twins: Leto II and Ghanima, though they come off that way more to the reader who can watch in on their "games."
  • The Creon: The Bene-Geserit play this trope on an organizational scale. They do not believe that assuming direct control of the empire will be beneficial to them, and instead conduct extremely elaborate (millennia-spanning) schemes to remain advisors to the emperor while controlling the empire only from the shadows.
  • Culture Chop Suey: A classic example. Millennia of galactic colonization have created completely new unrecognizable ethnicities and modified versions of current Earth religions.
  • Cultured Badass: Pretty much everyone.
  • 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 Junior: Paul named not just one but both of his sons after their late grandfather, though one (son) had died by the time the other came along. Oddly, they're both named Leto II.
  • Death Faked for You: Leto II’s gambit, which involves hypnotizing Ghanima so even she thinks he’s dead.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Leto II.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: Paul and later Leto II can see possible futures and must choose the best one to carry out.
  • 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
  • The Emperor: Alia as Regent
  • Face Your Fears: The Litany against fear promotes doing this whenever possible.
  • Fake Memories: Ghanima creates false memories to convince herself that Leto had died as part of a prophetic plan.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Foldspace
  • Feuding Families: Atreides vs Corrino
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: The Great Convention, which prohibit certain weapons from being used in warfare. The most important is the use of nuclear weapons on human targets.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: At the finale of Children of Dune, Leto II fights his way through Alia's elite guards before smashing down the door to her chambers, his extreme strength (due to sandworm-based enhancements) allowing him to basically sweep them aside. Since he was dragging his sister along during all of this, it means his Foe-Tossing Charge was one-handed!
  • Foregone Conclusion: A major theme of Dune is You Can't Fight Fate, so expect these in spades.
  • Galactic Superpower: The Empire that reigned from the Butlerian Jihad to Leto II's planned Scattering.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The Dune universe is positively riddled with words seemingly inspired by or derived from Arabic and Farsi (most of the future religions have some Islam in them). Even Hebrew shows up once or twice. Amongst other things, K'fitzat ha'derekh (compare to Dune's Kwisatz Haderach) is a magical ability ascribed to some real-world Chassidic holy men — specifically, the ability to teleport. The twins speak French, because it's a dead language at this time, so nobody else could possibly understand them.
  • 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.
  • Good Stepmother: Irulan is for all intents and purposes Leto and Ghanima's stepmother, being married to their biological father, Paul Atreides, and loves them as if they are her own children.
  • 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).
  • Human Resources: The Tleilaxu 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...
  • Ice-Cream Koan: The phrases of the Zensunni sect from Dune are said to intended to be Ice Cream Koans, similar to Zen as mentioned above. Instead of providing enlightenment though bypassing rational thought and accepting paradox; they're intended to teach the student to recognize nonsense and obfuscation, regardless of how logically-constructed and reasonable it may appear, and to see through to the "true" underlying reality. Zen emphasizes acceptance of the irrational. The Zensunni philosophy underlying most schools of thought in Dune emphasizes the extremes of rationality and mental development (eg. the Mentat human computers, and Bene Gesserit observation techniques).
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Frank Herbert's original Dune novels all contain the word "Dune", and three out of six follow the formula "X of Dune".
  • I Know You Know I Know: Whoooooooooo boy...
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Humanity rules an Empire of a million worlds that stretches across the galaxy. Thing is, not one of those is Earth, the majority of humanity has no idea where their race evolved.
  • Instant Oracle: Just Add Water!: The Guild Navigators adapted to life in a spice-filled environment which granted them precognition and the ability to navigate at FTL speeds. They spend most of their lives inside of zero gravity tubes filled with spice laden air rather than a tub of water, but same concept.
  • Intrinsic Vow: Gholas. ...All of them.
  • Junkie Prophet:
  • King Bob the Nth: Leto II
  • Lady of War: Jessica
  • Living Lie Detector: Bene Gesserit can notice the visual and auditory cues that denote a lying person. Many courts employ Bene Gesserit for this specific purpose, as "Truthsayers". The Kwisatz Haderach takes this power Up to Eleven, as it does all the other BG powers.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: A twofer, actually. Baron Harkonnen is father to Jessica and grandfather to Paul. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun in Children of Dune, when his genetic memory-self possesses Alia.
  • Longevity Treatment: One of many uses for spice, when it is plentiful lifespans of three hundred years aren't uncommon.
  • Mainlining the Monster: Sandworms are the source of the invaluable Spice, without which galactic civilization would collapse. While keeping them captive is unfeasible to say the least, the need to preserve their species runs at odds with the Fremen drive to make Arrakis more liveable for humans, making it a major political issue.
  • Mama Bear: Jessica
  • Master Swordsman: Duncan Idaho is the archetypal example, identified as such by name.
  • Meaningful Name: Ghanima, Leto II's twin sister. Her name means "spoils of war," because despite his seeing-the-future-vision, he'd never realized his wife was having twins. "Ghanima" also comes with added connotations of an object that is no longer being used for its real purpose—or for any meaningful purpose at all, in fact.
  • Mega-Corp: Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles (CHOAM) is a trade organization that deals with all exchanges between planets. The Spacing Guild is a monopoly on space travel and controls the prices. They also have a majority of the stock in CHOAM, which just goes to show how much Spice is entwined in human politics, at least until Paul takes over the whole kit and kaboodle.
  • Memory Gambit: Ghanima hypnotizes herself to believe she witnessed her brother being assassinated by Laza tigers, when in actuality he had escaped.
  • Mobile Factory: Harvester factories move across the desert refining spice from sand.
  • 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".
  • National Weapon: Crysknives, made from the tooth of a sandworm, are sacred to the Fremen. Paul Muad’Dib’s Crysknife plays a part in his continued myth.
  • The Navigator: An entire guild of them, who depend on spice to guide their ships.
  • 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.
  • Not Quite Dead: Leto II.
  • 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.
  • Occult Blue Eyes: The influence of Spice turns people's eyes an unnatural bright blue. The turning blue is implied to be a normal biological reaction of humans exposed to spice. However Spice also gives psionic abilities to at least some humans which links the two together in people's minds.
  • Old Retainer: Gurney Halleck now serves the Lady Jessica
  • Once an Episode: The Litany Against Fear, which is recited in its entirely at least once in every one of the original books (not all the prequels and sequels, though).
  • One-Product Planet / Planet of Hats: 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, Telixau as a 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.
  • Organic Technology: Due to the prohibitions against advanced technology, humans were forced to develop their own talents to fill the void. Mentats act as human-computers and the Spacing Guild navigates space through prescience in the place of computers.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: A Bene Gesserit's "ancestral egos" can become troublesome. Alia finds this out the hard way.
  • Painting the Medium: Some words like "SPICE" and "VOICE" tend to be printed in capital block letters to give them a sort of mystical echo. However, there are no capital letters in the Hebrew language, so the Hebrew translation has these words printed in bold and in a larger typeface than the rest of the sentence. This method makes them even more creepy and resonant than the original, if at all possible.
  • Prescience Is Predictable: One of the core themes of the main series. Indeed, this could be the Trope Codifier for all modern uses.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Justified — prophecy actually controls reality.
  • Psychic Powers: Prescience (precognition), Other Memory and memory transfers, Miles Teg's clairvoyant sensing of No-Ships, most of these are not explained as "psychic" powers, but a natural consequence of Genetic Memory and Charles Atlas Superpower levels of mental training.
  • Psycho Serum/Super Serum: The Spice is both a boon and bane for humanity, politically, culturally, and biologically. Leto II spends his entire (extremely) long life trying to get humanity over its spice addiction. He succeeds — sorta.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Mainly due to the effects of the Spice, many people extend their life far greater than would be possible without. 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.
  • Regent for Life: Alia in Children of Dune (she didn't start out that way, but shit happened).
  • Reinforce Field: The bones of a sandworm are extremely brittle. However, their crystalline structure can be made as tough as diamond with a weak bioelectric field, such as one produced by a living creature, including the sandworm itself. When a sandworm is killed, its skeletal structure collapses and rapidly erodes. The same is true for crysknives, weapons made out of sandworm's teeth.
  • Retcon: In the first novel, the Reverend Mother power of "other memory" was bestowed by a kind of "download" of all the memories of another Reverend Mother — only that Reverend Mother's memories, or the memories of previous Reverend Mothers she'd downloaded, were accessible. By the time of Children of Dune, "other memory" was a genetic phenomenon that allowed its possessor access to the memories of anybody in his or her past, male or female.
    • Some difference was made between "Ancestral Memory" and "Other Memory". AM is awakened genetic memory, while OM is transferred genetic memory. The later books use OM as a catch-all for both.
    • In the first two books, there is no indication at all that Alia possesses Other Memory, either of the type downloaded from the dying Reverend Mother or the ancestral type. She's "Abomination" purely because she was pre-born. By the time of Children, she has complete ancestral memory, and that is what makes her (possibly) "Abomination."
      • Also, in Messiah, she's explicitly oracular, though much less powerful than Paul. In Children, she isn't prescient and apparently never has been.
    • Other changes that might be considered a Retcon within the first 3 books included the appearance of Guild Navigators (at the end of Dune, they were perfectly normal-looking humans except for the blue-within-blue eyes that they hid behind contact lenses), and the factors that make a child "pre-born" ("No no no, Alia wasn't pre-born because she downloaded the dying Reverend Mother's memories while she was still in the womb, she was pre-born because her mom was addicted to the Spice!")
  • Sand Worm: Possibly the Trope Maker.
  • Schizo Tech: Many of the apparently anachronistic elements of technology are justified by the book's extremely-detailed backstory.
  • Screw Destiny: This is the major theme of Children of Dune and God-Emperor of Dune. The main character's goal of the novels is the creation of what he termed, the 'Golden Path' — a future completely free of destiny with unlimited choices. The ironic thing is, to do this, Leto messes with people's futures for the next 3,500 years. This is also a direct subversion of the original novel, where one of the main themes were "you can't fight fate."
  • Seize Them!: Children of Dune. When Leto knocks the door to Alia's room off its hinges and enters her presence along with his sister Ghanima, Alia shouts at her guards to "Seize them!" Leto picks up the 1,000 lb. door he just came through and throws it at the guards.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Dune takes this trope quite literally. "True" prophets (Paul Atreides and his descendants) don't predict the future so much as create it, locking themselves (and everyone else) into an inescapable destiny. It takes Leto II almost four thousand years to break humanity free from the consequences of this.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Spice is formed via the excretions of the sand trout mixed with water.
  • 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.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Alia gets taken over by the memory-construct of her dead grandfather Baron Harkonnen. It doesn't end well.
  • The Spock: Mentats. Although not all of them are by any means moral and logical.
  • 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".
  • 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-existant plantlife 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).
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration
  • Super Soldiers:
    • The Sardaukar, Fremen when organized, the Fish Speakers
  • 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 (as do the lasguns themselves).
  • 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. As part of Leto II's 3,500-year breeding program, a Duncan Idaho ghola was introduced every few generations for the "wild" genes of the distant past.
  • 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.
  • Theme Naming: (Nearly) all the Bene Gesserit have names of the form Something-us (Female Name) (Surname), which is slightly odd considering -us is a male suffix.
  • 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.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Dune was originally conceived as one large masterwork, with the two sequels of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune entwined into the story. Considering the original is 412 pages, the second 222, and the third 592, they were obviously split. This creates an interesting case of the first book being easily stand-alone, while the two sequels are more closely connected but can still in a way also be stand-alone. They also allowed for God-Emperor of Dune, basically a midquel that set up the last two books in the series to be written. It's just kinda hard to say where Two-Part Trilogy begins and Trilogy Creep ends, or even what was intended to be a simple, honest trilogy.
  • Unhappy Medium: Paul Muad'Dib eventually discovers that having prescience is a trap, forcing you into a predetermined path.
  • Unobtainium: The Spice.
  • Unusual Euphemism: An adult beefswelling" is used as a rather... unfortunate euphemism for "erection"
  • 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.
  • Voice of the Legion: The billions of ego memories within genetic memory-awakened individuals can appear like this, especially to the pre-born.
  • Warfare Regression: Thanks to the Holtzman fields, warfare is limited to melee combat. Fast moving bullets and artillery shells are blocked by such shields. Of course, one could wish to shoot the shield with a laser weapon, if they don't mind the resulting nuclear explosion that destroys them.
  • The War to End All Wars: Kralizec; in the oldest Fremen beliefs it is the Typhoon Struggle, the war at the end of the universe.
  • 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.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: 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.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: It is later revealed in Children of Dune that during his last stand in Dune Idaho slew nineteen Sardaukar — and at the height of their power and training, a single Sardaukar was reportedly a match for ten ordinary house regulars and even a Bene Gesserit adept.


Example of: