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Literature / Dune

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"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 the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

Dune is the first book in a popular series of Science Fiction novels written by Frank Herbert. It was rejected twenty times by various publishers before finally being published in 1965 by Chilton, a publishing house best known for its DIY auto repair guides.note  Dune is a Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Seiun Award winner.

The novel is set approximately 19,000 years into The Future, in the year 10,191 AG, or "After Guild" (21,267 AD by our calendar) 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.


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" (its "official" name is melange), 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 outlawed by religious fiat—all while being ferociously addictive.


As the story opens, the Atreides family have just gained control over the Arrakis fiefdom from their longtime rivals, House Harkonnen—but this turns out to be a cunning plan by the Harkonnen and the Emperor to eliminate House Atreides, whom the Emperor has come to see as a threat but cannot move against directly. Wearing the uniforms of the Harkonnen, the Emperor's unbeatable Sardaukar stormtroopers assault the Atreides compound on Arrakis and destroy it, leading the way for the Harkonnen to retake the planet and capture Duke Leto Atreides, who dies in a failed attempt to take the Harkonnen Baron with him.

Leto's fifteen-year-old son Paul Atreides, sole heir to the family line, escapes into the desert with his mother Jessica (pregnant with his sister) and takes refuge with the Fremen, where, upon adopting their ways and religion, he becomes the Kwizatz Haderach, a long-awaited Messiah with the power to see into the future. Taking the name Muad'dib (a type of desert mouse on Arrakis, whose name means "he who teaches manners" in Arabic), he unites the Fremen tribes into a jihad to defeat both the Harkonnens and the Imperium.

The story is steeped in Arabic language and culture, due to the Culture Chop Suey of nearly 20,000 years of human existence; it is implied that Western and Eastern culture and religion have blended together into a pseudo-homogeneous whole. Religions such as "Mahayana Christianity", "Zensunni", and "Buddislam" 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 (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, through his actions, effectively creates a religion of his own, with effects that reverberate throughout the millennia.

Dune adaptations:

  • From the early 1970's on, several disastrous attempts were made to produce a theatrical film. Cult Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky (known for bizarre and unsettling film epics such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain) forced his way onto the project despite having yet to read the book, and after he did read it, decided to mostly ignore it in favor of his own vision. Convinced that he could "rape Frank Herbert with love", he resolved to make the adaptation conform to his vision. Inevitably, it was too ambitious (and far over budget), especially given production limitations, to ever get off the ground. A number of Jodorowsky ideas for the project found their way into his trippy Space Opera comic The Incal and its spin-offs and sequels, which together make up "the Jodoverse". The 2014 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune is a recounting of what Jodorowsky envisioned, although the screenplay and storyboards remain unpublished. This version has a cult following of sorts despite not technically existing, and even though the film was unmade, the attempted pre-production of the project set the stage for a number of iconic science-fiction films in the years after its release.invoked
  • Once Jodorowsky's vision fell apart, the producers turned to a young, upstart new director who had been considered for Return of the Jedi, mostly on the strength of his classic first film and a critically and commercially successful biopic which made him a popular commodity in the industry. The man's name: David Lynch, who took the project and made it his own bizarre opus, but a more faithful version than Jodorowsky would have. Due to his alien style and the sheer scale of the book, the already-complex narrative became nearly incomprehensible to some viewers; many theaters handed out printed plot summaries to patrons. The 1984 Lynch version of Dune (1984) is the most memorable (and notorious) for its Freudian imagery, elaborate set design (containing some holdovers from the Jodorowsky version, including Giger's designs), and All-Star Cast. Subsequent recut and extended versions have inspired varying degrees of critical reappraisal. Its box office revenues were lower than its substantial budget, however. It has become both a Cult Classic, and an example of how not to make a blockbuster.invoked
  • In 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel, in association with Hallmark Entertainment, produced a three-part miniseries adaptation of the novel, Frank Herbert's Dune. This version followed the plot of the book much more closely, but had a ridiculously small budget, and gave several characters expanded roles while paring others down to bare bones or removing them entirely. The Sci-Fi Channel also adapted Messiah and Children into a second three-part miniseries in 2003, which streamlined two very contradictory novels into a cohesive whole, removed or simplified some of the extremely convoluted plot elements, and paid off the previous series' Character Development of Irulan, all in all serving as a far more coherent, character-driven bridge between Dune and God-Emperor of Dune than the novels it adapts.
  • 2021's Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve, which adapts the first two books of the novel. A sequel, covering the third and final book, along with elements of Dune Messiah, is planned, with Villeneuve hoping to adapt Messiah in full as a final film in a hypothetical trilogy.

Dune also served as the inspiration for several popular video games and board games, most notably Dune, which was the board game Ur-Example of Asymmetric Multiplayer, which served as the inspiration for Dune II: The Building of A Dynasty which is the Ur-Example of the modern Real-Time Strategy game.

Notable for having a Shout-Out directed at it in almost every videogame with a Shifting Sand Land area in the form of sandworms, possibly an example of Pop-Cultural Osmosis. Oh, and it inspired a full-length parody, National Lampoon's Doon.

Also notable for providing a great deal of thematic inspiration for the Troperiffic tabletop game Warhammer 40,000, in particular the concepts of the God-Emperor, the pan-galactic human empire run as a semi-feudal state, and the need for specially-bred psychic strains of human to navigate faster-than-light travel, just to start with.

Dune contains examples of:

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  • 100% Adoration Rating: One of the things underscored frequently throughout the novel is that, with the exception of the Harkonnens, everyone likes House Atreides. This extends to the Imperial House Corrino, who actively place House Atreides on Dune to kill them.
  • Absent Aliens: Unless you count the Sandworms, and their implied creators. Even then, the sapience was added after the fact, by Leto II.
    • Plenty of non-sapient species are also mentioned in passing. There's a lot of life in the universe, but none of it talks back.
  • 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. Unusually for the trope, the Fremen are well-aware that he didn't mean it that way and don't think anything of it.
    • 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.)
  • 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:
    • Chani. At one point towards the end of the book, Paul is constantly interrupted by people who want a Duel to the Death with him to see if he's really any good. Chani puts a stop to it by taking one of the challenges herself... pointing out, correctly, that a lot of challengers will be dissuaded by the certain knowledge that if a girl can beat them, the husband who trained her can certainly do it too.
    • In the first book, Jessica's fight with Stilgar is: short, to the point, lets her and Paul introduce themselves to the Fremen properly, and underlines her Silk Hiding Steel qualities. It should be pointed out that the entire book has, to this point, been harping on the fact that the Sardaukar Super Soldiers eclipse normal infantry, that House Atreides is a threat to the Emperor precisely because they've trained a few — a few! — men to the point of being able to stand toe-to-toe with the Sardaukar... and that the Fremen can trounce them (the Sardaukar) soundly. And then Jessica trounces the Fremen soundly. Our Action Mom has just established herself to be the strongest fighter in the Duniverse — period.
  • 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.
  • Adipose Rex: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is grotesquely obese, but counteracts this by wearing small anti-gravity devices that make him as agile as a healthy young man. In the original novel, his weight is indicated to be the result of gluttony, but the prequels (written later by different authors) retcon this - they have it that in his youth he was a slender and handsome man and his obesity was the result of a rare disease inflicted by the Bene Gesseret mother of his daughter Jessica.
  • 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 Hasimir Fenring, Hwi Noree, many Fremen, and the Latin-European-Greek full names of the Bene Gesserit.
  • An Aesop: The first Dune novel reminds the reader that you are never as in control as you think you are, and that unexpected events can blindside you no matter how much you prepare. The Bene Gesserit use subterfuge, mental conditioning, and selective breeding as part of a complex program to produce a superbeing, only for the project to blow up in their faces when Paul became the Kwizatz Haderach just one generation ahead of schedule. Imperial Suk doctors are trained to be completely unsubversible, but the Harkonnens break Yueh's conditioning with ease. Various factions engage in endless planning and scheming, only to be blindsided by problems they never foresaw. And by the end, Paul is so swept up in his glory and magnificence that he believes his position as Emperor will lead humanity into a new golden age. It will... but only after his fanatical followers massacre billions of people in his name.
  • Aesoptinum: The Spice is 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, assassinations, 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 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.
    • Also subverted in the implication here and there that this is something the Duke does entirely cynically precisely because it's a way to ensure that loyalty, rather than out of genuine affection for his men.
  • A God, I Am Not: When Paul fully awakens his potential as Kwisatz Haderach he becomes a messiah to peoples of thousands of worlds despite not wanting to be treated as a god, only to be elevated to the status of god in the millennia following his death.
  • Agony Beam: 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."
  • 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".
  • Always Night: The planet Giedi Prime is fouled with pollution, preventing sunlight from piercing the cloud cover.
  • 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..."
  • Ancient Astronauts: 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: The Bene Gesserit 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.
  • Appeal to Force: Exactly how House Corrino came to dominate the other great houses and secure the imperial throne is not specified, but everyone knows there is one reason and one reason only why it has remained unchallenged for millenia: it controls the Sardaukar.
    • Likewise, Thufir Hawat bluntly explains to the Baron Harkonnen that Duke Leto Atreides's rising popularity among the other noble houses might have worried the Emperor, but Shaddam IV did not decide to have Leto eliminated until House Atreides succeeded in training a small military force (with the potential to become much bigger) that rivaled the Sardaukar in fighting prowess.
  • 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.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: 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).
  • As You Know: 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). In general, this trope is common throughout the series due to the density of the universe necessitating constant exposition.
  • 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..."
    • "[x], eh"
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Sardaukar are trained to fight in formations of three so that they never have an exposed back.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: One book cover has the front cover depict The Hero Paul Atreides standing with his back to the reader, facing an enormous sandworm that seems poised to devour him like a doggy treat. This establishes the grandiosity of the setting.
  • Ban on A.I.: A.I.s, and computers in general, are illegal after the Butlerian Jihad. Gifted and specially bred humans using copious amount of mind-enhancing drugs are used for calculating ship navigation (Guild Navigators) and as information databases (Mentats).
  • 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.
  • Bawdy Song: Gurney Halleck, troubador-warrior that he is, provides a song ("Galacian Girls") that focuses mainly on prostitution:
    Oh, Galacian girls will 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.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Zig-Zagged. Paul and his family are all attractive kind hearted people in contrast to the ugly and monstrous Baron Harkonnen and Glossu Rabban. However, there's also the beautiful yet cruel Feyd-Rautha and the benevolent Gurney Halleck who's described as lumpy and ugly. Adaptations go back and forth on how attractive they want the different characters to be.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The series.
    • The Bene Geserit wanted their uber-Father-Superior to help them help guide humankind? Congrats! How about two for the low-low price of being guided places you regret ever seeing?
    • House Corrino wanted Duke Leto Atreides dead to ensure their bloodline kept on the throne? Say "broodsire" and "puppet", please.
    • Fremen desperately pray for Arrakis to be a greener, more pleasant world. Kiss everything that was your way of life goodbye, leaving empty museum pieces.
  • 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.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: In Dune, 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 for their water. 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.
  • 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.
  • Beneath Suspicion: Dr. Yueh is dismissed as a possible traitor because he's not actually part of the Atreides military/security apparatus. (He's also received "Suk School" conditioning which hardwires him into Actual Pacifism; only Suk doctors are allowed to administer to the Padishah Emperor for this reason.) And because he is a traitor, he's considered an annoyance to be disposed of by Baron Harkonnen, even though Yueh's work is the only reason that the Baron's plan ultimately fails.
  • Beware the Superman: Main theme of the series.
  • Big Bad: It's difficult to pin this role onto a single character in Dune. Most of the problems that Paul has to overcome can be traced back to a loose coalition of enemies who are devoted to destroying him and his family.
    • The Baron and House Harkonnen are definitely The Heavy. They are the most active antagonists on the scene and serve as the personal nemeses for Paul and House Atreides. However, they ultimately answer to The Emperor (sort of), are completely ignorant of the deeper machinations at play, and serve no role in the denouement.
    • The Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino is nominally in charge and is the true mastermind behind the conspiracy to wipe out House Atreides. With that said, even he is having his strings pulled by forces greater than himself, namely, the Bene Gesserit and the Guild.
    • Speaking of the Bene Gesserit and the Guild, they too have a personal stake in the downfall of House Atreides and are arguably even more powerful than the ruling House Corrino. However, they are largely The Unseen and their personal involvement in the story is minimal at best.
    • On a whole, the villainous roles in Dune can be summarized as House Harkonnen being The Heavy, Emperor Shaddam being the Big Bad, and the Bene Gesserit and the Guild both serving as a collective Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Big Book of War: While not strictly a book, "kanly" are the formal restrictions and rules in place on political vendettas between royal houses. There does exist, however, the Assassin's Handbook, which deals with poisons and other weapons of war.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Given how far in the future the series takes place, widespread linguistic drift is justified. A few examples:
    • "Murcielago," the Spanish word for 'bat', evolved into "cielago," the Fremen term for the same thing.
    • The Fremen language is largely based on Arabic, as is the Teilaxu secret language.
    • Hebrew speakers will recognize the term "Kwisatz Haderach" as cognate with their own Kefitzat haDerekh, which does actually mean "shortening of the way" and refers to Talmudic legends of rabbis who covered long distances in impossibly short times in order to offer aid.
    • The name "Bene Gesserit" is actually a bilingual pun that only works if you know both Latin and English. It translates to "It will have been well born(e)."
    • The word "kanly" is directly from the Chechen for "vendetta."
  • 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.
  • 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 Dune Messiah that many of them came home damaged by what they saw and/or did. Finally, Herbert's narration makes it clear that part of the motive for the jihad is a sort of unconscious sexual frenzy, a form of exaggerated natural selection where the old order is killed off and the seeds of the new order sown. (Neither Herbert nor Paul appears to condone this.)
  • Blessed with Suck: You can see the future. All of itnote  . 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.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Several translations into certain foreign languages. Especially common in first editions.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The importance of water on Arrakis means Fremen morality is quite different from offworlders. Spitting at anyone, let alone a powerful Duke, would normally be a grave insult, but for a Fremen it's a gift of precious fluid and a mark of great respect. If Fremen comes across someone stranded in the desert, they'll kill them so they can distil the water from their corpse, since the person was likely going to die anyway. The Fremen also distil their own dead for their water and seem to have conditioned themselves not to cry, again in order to preserve bodily fluids; when Paul weeps at the funeral of a man he was forced to kill, the Fremen are astounded and view it as 'giving water to the dead'.
  • Body Horror: Guild Steersmen mutated by spice.
  • Bound and Gagged: Jessica when she is captured by the Harkonnen, to prevent her from using her Voice powers
  • Breaching the Wall: Paul's attack at the end of Dune had him nuking a hole through the Shield Wall, a whole mountain range protecting (and enabling the existence of) the most hospitable area of Arrakis.
  • Break the Cutie: A very disturbing example from House Harkonnen is the prolonged and violent forced prostitution (and eventual murder) of Gurney Halleck's gentle younger sister Bheth. First she is kidnapped by the Harkonnens for trying to protect her brother. Then they cut out her larynx so she can't do more than scream wordlessly. Next she is subjected to 6 years (starting at age 17) of sadistic torture. Rabban finally kills her in retribution of Gurney's attempt on his life.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Paul & Alia
  • 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.
    • Norma Cenva is tortured by the cymeks until she releases a destructive psychic wave of her latent powers. The wave not only kills her captors but also destroys her body. In that instant, she gets access to Other Memory and rebuilds her body molecule-by-molecule into that of an extremely attractive woman. She also becomes the most powerful sorceress of all.
  • 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)
  • The Captain: In the first novel, 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 Casanova: Duncan Idaho. Described as having a devastating masculine appearance and animal magnetism. Brought back to life as a ghola hundreds of times to be used as a stud in various sex-related schemes that resulted in thousands of children and eventually millions of people with his genes.]].
  • The Chains of Commanding: The Atreides bear a lot on their shoulders.
    Command must always look confident, he thought. All that faith riding on your shoulders while you sit in the critical seat and never show it.
    He breathed a sigh of relief when the lift swallowed him and he could turn and face the impersonal doors.
    They have tried to take the life of my son!
  • 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. Part of the reason he manages to avoid the trope is he makes Stilgar swear alliegence to him as Duke Atreides, rightful ruler of Arrakis, rather than taking his job as local chief.
  • 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.
    • 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.
      • Done in a different fashion in the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. The Baron has a habit of rubbing at his cheeks or temples with the first two fingers of his hand whenever he grows frustrated or annoyed; we later see Paul making the exact same gesture.
  • 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". But just try using one as an iPod.
  • 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.
  • Chemical Messiah: Melange is this.
  • 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.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Jessica and her son Paul Atreides are both Harkonnens. Combining these bloodlines is a necessary part to sire the Kwisatz Haderach.
  • The Chosen One: Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach, the end result of thousands of years of breeding to produce a superhuman. The series as a whole shows just how disastrous these tropes would be in a more realistic setting.
  • Circling Vultures: After Liet-Kynes is left in the desert to die, he sees hawks (the Dune equivalent of vultures) circling overhead.
  • 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.
    • Also, while the Corrino Imperium appear to have tolerated many religions (after all, what were a bunch of non-violent monks on Lankiveil going to do?), Paul's fanatic followers demand that everyone worship Muad'Dib or die. When the Lankiveilian Zensunni monks refuse to build a giant statue of Muad'Dib, Paul orders them slaughtered and their temple burned to the ground.
    • The novel Sisterhood of Dune reveals that the creation of the Orange Catholic Bible was hardly easy. The ecumenical council did not have the blessing of the Imperium and was just a bunch of scholars who thought they could logically compel fanatics into accepting a unified faith. The millions of people killed shortly after the publishing of the book prove them wrong. The members of the council are almost universally shunned and hunted by the Butlerian fanatics. While Emperor Julius Corrino initially offers them sanctuary in his palace on Salusa Secundus, when the leader of the council is caught sleeping with the Empress, the entire council is publicly executed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Dr. Yueh's rationale for betraying the Atreides.
  • 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.
  • 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 had set out on a deliberate campaign of crippling Spice production on Arrakis and baiting spice harvesters - which is exactly what Gurney and his smuggler friends were doing when ambushed. If there's a contrivance, it lies in Paul being on the raid otherwise he'd have been killed with the rest.
  • Convenient Cranny: While Paul and Jessica are fleeing a Sand Worm, they find a crack in a cliff and successfully hide 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.
  • Cool Chair: The Emperor's throne is described as "massive chair carved from a single piece of Hagal quartz". In Dune Messiah this is changed to "Hagar emerald" (probably a typo).
    • This may be intentional actually. Green is the color of mourning on Arrakis, the color of House Atreides, and also represents the terraform dream of Liet and the Fremen. So by having a new throne carved of emerald Paul is able to represent his powers of life and death with the symbolic throne.
  • Court Physician: Suk doctors are employed by the richest and most powerful families to serve as private physicians. Already highly-regarded for their skills, what makes them truly valuable is their reputation for utter trustworthiness: as part of their training, Suks are conditioned to be incapable of betraying their masters, ensuring that they can never be used as assassins. It's for this reason that only Suk doctors are allowed to attend to the Padishah Emperor, and that Dr Wellington Yueh enjoys the total trust of the Atreides family. Unknown to all, Baron Harkonnen has been able to break Yueh's otherwise-infallible conditioning by holding his wife hostage, allowing the Harkonnens to mould him into the perfect traitor within Atreides ranks.
  • 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. There are also shortages of just about everything. For example, Baron Harkonnen doesn't keep the artillery he used to defeat Duke Leto's forces, instead recovering the metal from which they are made.
  • 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.
  • The Creon: The Bene Gesserit 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Alas, he is unsuccessful, only managing to kill Piter De Vries, one of the Baron's Dragons.
  • Cyborg Helmsman: The Navigators rely on spice in the absence of thinking machines to be able to travel safely.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Dead Guy Junior: Paul himself is named after his grandfather Paulus Atreides. Paul eventually names both his firstborn and secondborn sons after his late father.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Paul displays his father's skull in a small memorial.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: Arrakis, as a desert world, has these as one of its hazards which can have winds of over 400 kph. Deflector Shields are useless in them and when Paul and Jessica escape the Harkonnen massacre into one, everyone assumes they're dead simply because the storms are that dangerous.
  • Deadly Scratch:
    • Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen wins his 100th gladiatorial bout by inflicting a shallow wound on his opponent with a poisoned knife. (The knife was part of a matched pair and was supposed to be clean, while the other blade was poisoned, but Feyd-Rautha secretly put the poison on the "wrong" blade to give himself an edge.)
    • At the climax of the novel, Baron Harkonnen tries to take Alia hostage, gets scratched by the House Atreides gom jabbar, and quickly dies as a result.
  • 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 turns you into a member of the two most feared fighting groups in the universe, the Fremen natives and Sardaukar soldiers.
  • Decadent Court: Shaddam's imperial court, which leads in no small part to its downfall.
  • 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.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general. To keep it short, the series demonstrates how the heroic myth in general is a very powerful weapon and can be easily misused. Dune is the story of how Paul becomes a hero and saves the human race, while Messiah onwards show how Paul's reckless actions in becoming that hero will have dire consequences.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Though at the time of the main series of books his lust is placed solely on adolescent boys, mention of youthful exploits with women is made. The first is his fifteen year old nephew and the second is his grandson of the same age, though he was unaware of this relation.
  • 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.
  • Desert Punk: A Trope Codifier here.
  • 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.
  • Deus Est Machina: The backstory suggests humanity once created machines so advanced that life became incredibly easy and comfortable. It is implied that humans (or at least a large number of fanatics) became so abhorred by their perceived over-reliance on intelligent machines (and advanced computer technology in general) that they initiated the Butlerian Jihad, a violent purge of all Artificial Intelligence and advanced computers. When the Jihad ended, it became a crime by religious and secular law to create advanced computers (the chief commandment resulting from this war is that "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of the human mind"), with all of their functions in calculation and space travel adopted by specialized humans (who arguably become a human form of this trope). The prequel novels which detail the Butlerian Jihad as a more straightforward Robot War against oppressive ruler A.I.s did, of course, piss off the fans most mightily.
  • 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?"
  • Dig Attack: In the original novel, a Sand Worm traveling beneath the sand moves under a spice harvester and sucks it underground by creating a giant sand whirlpool.
    "The worm is now beneath the crawler," Kynes said. "You are about to witness a thing few have seen."
    Flecks of dust shadowed the sand around the crawler now. The big machine began to tip down to the right. A gigantic sand whirlpool began forming there to the right of the crawler. It moved faster and faster. Sand and dust filled the air now for hundreds of meters around.
    A wide hole emerged from the sand. Sunlight flashed from glistening white spokes within it. The hole's diameter was at least twice the length of the crawler, Paul estimated. He watched as the machine slid into that opening in a billow of dust and sand. The hole pulled back.
  • Divided for Publication: At least one French translation of splits the novel into two volumes. The story is divided into three parts, the separation happens in the middle of the second part, when Paul and Jessica flee the Harkonnens by flying into a storm.note 
  • 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.
  • Doorstopper: While none of the books in the series are especially long individually, a loose trilogy is formed between the first three books to clock in at 912 pages with appendixes. There's still three more books after this.
    • There is an omnibus edition that contains the first three books in one volume.
  • Downer Ending: Almost from the moment he gets his prescience, Paul spends much of his time seeing visions of Fremen screaming his name as they lead a jihad across the known universe, thinking this would be a terrible idea, and trying to prevent it. This is all due to another trope: You Can't Fight Fate... that you yourself created. Ouch. The end of Dune is triumphant on the surface as Paul and the Fremen crush the Harkonnens and the Emperor, and Paul ascends to the throne. But it's very clear that this is just the start of the galactic Jihad which will claim billions of lives.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Harkonnen plot against House Atreides (including who the traitor is) is outlined in detail in the second chapter in the form of exposition to Feyd-Rautha. The reader must then go through several chapters where the Atreides or their retainers misconstrue the Harkonnen's plan, which, in the end, mostly works.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: The Fremen consider re-sheathing a crysknife without drawing blood to be a very grave offense. Very unevenly applied: by the end of the original trilogy, there have been multiple scenes where a crysknife is unsheathed and not blooded, with no comment made. This is possibly done to demonstrate the rapid corruption of Fremen culture.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Paul has dreams about the future (including later events on Arrakis) before gaining his full prescient ability.
  • Drop Ship — somewhat more literal than most cases, "Crushers" mentioned in the glossary, are designed to literally crush enemy fortifications. They're also made of a bunch of smaller ships stuck together. Typical examples of a Drop Ship and Awesome Personnel Carrier are also mentioned (at least in the first novel, where they're used by Sardaukar and Harkonnen soldiers).
  • Duel of Seduction: With technique and counter-technique.
  • Elite Man–Courtesan Romance: Duke Leto's romance with Lady Jessica is this. She is not a prostitute or courtesan, but a member of The Order of Bene Gesserit, who ship off some of their younger initiates as concubines to powerful nobles in order to advance their genetic selection agenda. Despite this, Leto and Jessica genuinely fall in love with each other, and she even defies the order by giving birth to his son (initiates can choose the baby's sex at will, and she was supposed to bear a daughter).
  • Either/Or Prophecy: Paul 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.
  • Emperor Scientist:
    • Dr. Kynes became leader of the Fremen because of his attempts to terraform the planet.
    • 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.
  • The Emperor: The first book starts with 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. The Padishah-Emperors (except for Feykan Corrino) are descendants of the last of the old emperors. This includes Paul via his Richese lineage.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Every chapter is headed by a quote from Princess Irulan's studies of Paul-Muad'Dib.
  • Energy Weapon: Only useful without Deflector Shields, which are ubiquitous, so almost a subversion/aversion. (A lasgun shot hitting a shield is highly unpredictable, with results that fall anywhere from merely killing both the shooter and target all the way up to a nuclear-level explosion.) Also, lasguns are presented unusually realistically for sci-fi (except for the universe-physics-specific shield bit).
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: In the main Dune novels, achieved exclusively via the use of the Holtzman generators, folding space nearly-instantaneously to the destination. However, in order to avoid getting atomized on the way, Spacing Guild Navigators are required to envision the safe passage (since computers aren't allowed).
  • 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.
  • Feudal Future: The Empire is intentionally set up this way. The novels themselves are considered to be the Trope Codifier.
  • Fictional Document : Where... to... begin... Perhaps with the Fictionary.
  • Fictional Religion:
    • The Bene Gesserit are a mysterious order of powerful women who develop strong mental abilities for years of discipline and practice. Their leaders are called Reverend Mothers and seems to be extremely influential in the Empire. As such it has certain similarities with the Catholic Church, but also has similarities with some female Pagan orders like the Vestals, and of course, they are called witches by their detractors.
    • The Fremen of Dune worship of the Muad'Dib has many similarities with Islam in its first centuries, as it a messianic figure for a desert dwelling tribal people.
    • Other are cases of Interfaith Smoothie; Budhislam, Zensufism (Zen+Sufism), Mahayana Christianity, Third Islam.
  • 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; any House that does so risks having all the others gang up and destroy its planet.
    • Kanly and the Wars of Assassins had rules in regard to house feuds and warfare, respectively.
  • Fix Fic: The end of Sandworms.
  • Flower Mouth: Most illustrations of the sandworms depict them with a three-part jaw.
  • Flying Dutchman: The in-universe legend of Ampoliros: a starship whose crew experiences group psychosis and believes the human race has been wiped out by aliens. They elect to wander the galaxy, taking as many of the aliens with them as they can. The time dilation effect of near light speed travel makes them effectively immortal, every planet is hostile by definition, and any ship is a legitimate target. To make things worse, the men are sick of, and fatigued by, their endless voyage ("forever prepared, forever unready")... but in their minds at least, to stop would spell the end of the human race.
  • 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.
  • Forgot to Gag Him: Both averted and played straight. When Lady Jessica and Paul are captured by the Harkonnens she is gagged so she can't use her Bene Gesserit Voice ability on them. Unfortunately for the Harkonnens guarding them, Paul also knows how to use Voice.
  • Fumbling the Gauntlet: In their meeting, Stilgar walks up to Duke Leto Atreides, gives an appraising look, and spits on the floor in front of him. Gurney Halleck, with his Undying Loyalty to Duke Leto, is immediately ready to slay Stilgar on the spot for such a brazen insult. Fortunately, Duncan Idaho quickly intervenes and explains that Stilgar's gesture was courteous. On a planet where water is so rare and precious, shedding a few drops of moisture at someone's feet is a sign of respect.
  • Future Imperfect: According to the pseudo-canon encyclopedia, House Atreides claims to have been founded by Atreus, the son of Agamemnon of Greek Mythology, 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.
  • Galactic Superpower: The Empire that reigned from the Butlerian Jihad to Leto II's planned Scattering.
  • Gambit Pileup: Taken Up to twenty-two. Serial Escalation and back again, and then beyond again. For the list of who is manipulating whom, just use everyone and everybody, respectively. As the simplest example: In the first book, 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 Badass Army of Sardaukar Super Soldiers. The Emperor has the Sardaukar wearing Harkonnen uniforms because he can't be seen acting against a Great House openly. 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 (see above: re: "Death World"). It does not go well for the Atreides. And that's just Act I.
  • Gambit Roulette: The Bene Gesserit are big on the Gambit Gambling Circuit, manipulating individuals, societies, governments, religions, and bloodlines to produce their Kwisatz Haderach— and then having to start over from scratch when they get one too soon.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Genius Serum: Sapho Juice allows specially-trained individuals known as Mentats to think at superhuman levels.
  • Genocide Backfire: Arguably happens in Dune, where 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.
  • Give Me a Sword
  • Global Currency: The Empire's official currency are Solari, but the Spice is universal gold.
  • God-Emperor: The series was a big influence on the more modern "Memetic Divinity" aspect.
  • Gossip Evolution: At one point in Dune Paul is with a force of Fremen warriors when they are ambushed by several Imperial Sardaukar, whom 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: Subverted in a way in Dune: 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. (Paul's narration notes how right she was.)
  • 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. Meanwhile, Leto II and Ghanima speak French, as (at that time) they are the only living beings who know it.
    • The name of the hunting-language Chakobsa just might be the only time a Circassian language has ever been used in Western fiction of any genre. It's taken from the Adyghe word Ch'ak'webze or Ch'ak'obze, "hunter's language", which refers to a special language register used in the course of a hunting expedition.
  • 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.
  • Gender Bender/Hermaphrodite: Face Dancers are described as "Jadacha hermaphrodites" (a term with an unknown meaning) and "mules" due to their sterility. They are able to change appearance and gender at will, and perform the role of either gender, but cannot reproduce.
  • 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.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "To the east, the night grew a faggot of luminous gray"
  • 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 male child. Jessica's motivation was partially love and partially the ambition to produce the Kwisatz Haderach. It worked.
  • 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).
  • History Repeats: Jessica is the love of Duke Leto's life, but she remains his concubine rather than his wife, due to politics. Chani is the love of Paul's life, but she becomes his concubine while Irulan is his official wife, due to politics. Ghanima will hopefully come to love Farad'n Corrino in time, but he becomes her concubine while Ghanima marries her twin brother (thankfully it's a Sexless Marriage) due to politics.
  • 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 (described in-universe as an impossible, superhuman beauty) 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".
  • 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 lets 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.
  • 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).
  • I Have Many Names: Paul Atreides is Paul, Muad'Dib, Paul-Muad'Dib, the Mahdi, Usul, the Lisan Al-Gaib, the Kwisatz Haderach, the Emperor, and the Preacher.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Whoooooooooo boy...
  • Inconsistent Dub: In different Italian translations of the Dune saga, the Golden Path is translated sometimes to "Sentiero Dorato" and sometimes to "Via Aurea".
    • The Turkish translations were particularly bad. While the first four books had decent translations, the last two were terrible despite the fact that the entire series was released by the same publisher. To put it in context, the books would sometimes keep certain terms (such as Axlotl Tanks) in their original English forms and sometimes use a translated term for it over the course of the same book!. It was as if the translator was thinking "You know, I think I should have used a different term for Axlotl Tanks. Oh well. That's what I will do without editing the previous bits for cohesion".
  • Informed Ability:
    • Thufir Hawat. Supposedly a brilliant mentat, he fails at pretty much everything he does. He miscalculates the size of the Harkonnen attack; he fails to anticipate the assassination attempt on Paul; and he wastes his time trying to find evidence against an innocent person while completely ignoring the real traitor. Even his attempts to play Feyd off against the baron never lead to anything useful. On top of this he generally seems ignorant. He was not aware that the Harkonnens had kidnapped Yueh's wife. Worst of all, he was surprised by Jessica's Voice ability, even though she had been training Paul to use it and had taught people like Gurney and Duncan to resist it. Some of these things can be justified by the fact that he lacked resources, but it is still a pretty dismal performance. At best Thufir is simply past his prime. At worst he was always badly overrated.
      • To give credit where credits due, Thufir Hawat does prove himself to be The Chessmaster genius once by discovering a Batman Gambit conspiracy orchestrated by Feyd-Ruta to murder his uncle Vladimir Harkonnen during sex, then warning Vladimir about it and thus spoiling the plan. Vladimir then even lampshades Thufir’s previous uselessness and assumes that the Mentat simply never even had a chance to show his true potential while serving the Atreids, whereas the chaotic and scheming life of the Harkonnens would be a much better environment for Thufir to show his capabilities – however, despite the change in environment, Thufir never repeats anything remotely genius for the rest of his life.
    • Paul. In the early chapters he supposedly shows insight beyond his years, but in reality he seems like a normal teenager. Examples: He remarks that when spice production fails people with a stockpile will make a lot of money. This is correct, but it's standard economics, not brilliant insight. Later he asks the size of the territory of a sandworm, which is presented as more proof of his precociousness. It's a pertinent question, but again, nothing special even for a teenager.
    • Suk Doctors are supposed to conditioned to be totally incapable of betraying the person they are sworn to. But there are no incidents in the stories where a Suk tries to betray someone and fails because of their conditioning, or where someone tries to subvert a Suk and fails because of the conditioning. The only incident shown is when Baron Harkonnen successfully subverts Dr Yueh by invoking I Have Your Wife, which isn't that unusual a method of compromising someone,note  making their reputation of being infallibly trustworthy fall flat.
      • Baron Harkonnen states in the first novel that he (actually Piter de Vries) was able to break Yueh's conditioning, but refused to answer Feyd Rautha's inquiry as to how, which wouldn't make sense if torturing Yueh's wife was all it took. The method of breaking the conditioning is never shown or described. The baron then uses I Have Your Wife to convince an already-broken Yueh to betray the Atreides, something he would still be highly unlikely to do even after having his conditioning broken, given respect and affection he is shown to have for the Lady Jessica and Paul. So while there is still no example of the conditioning at work, this is somewhat less an example of this trope than the others listed.
    • Justified in the case of the Sardaukar. The fact that their skills have degenerated is a major plot point of the story.
  • 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. In the main series, the majority of humanity has no idea where their race evolved. (Since it's been destroyed for millennia, this is not surprising.)
  • 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.
  • In the Blood: Apparently all Harkonnens are born evil and all Atreides are born good. Then Paul merges the bloodlines...
  • Intrepid Merchant: The Smugglers.
  • 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."
  • Junkie Prophet: The only reliable means of gaining prescience is to get hopped up on spice.
  • Kick the Dog: Enforced as a means of illustrating just how ruthless the Harkonnen can be. At one point in the story the Baron notices Feyd-Rautha spending an excessive amount of time entertaining himself in the house harem. After catching him at it red-handed, the Baron punishes him... by forcing him to go back and kill every single woman in the harem with his bare hands.
  • 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. The Fremen regularly drown juvenile sandworms in hidden cisterns; as they die, they vomit up what becomes the Water of Life.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Atreides Mentat Thufir Hawat is captured and enslaved by the Harkonnens during their ouster of the Atreides and is administered a perpetual poison, the antidote to which he receives from the Harkonnens 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 strike a personal shield without 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.
    • If we count non-firearm weapons as well, bladed melee weapons count in general in the 'verse. Though thrusting even a simple dagger through a personal shield takes practice, it is an effective enough fighting method (since nobody, in 'verse, combines a personal shield with conventional body armour capable of halting a dagger. Though most blades are so absurdly sharp human body armour has a mostly minimal effect on stopping most melee weapons, and every bit of mobility counts.). It allows the essentially medieval melee weapons of the setting to stay relevant in infantry warfare. Then again, on planets like Arrakis, where personal shields are too risky (because they drive sandworms crazy), tactics change accordingly — with melee weapons and firearms being used in roughly equal measure.
    • Baron Harkonnen calls this out specifically during the assault on Arrakis, where he boasts of resurrecting artillery to counteract the shields the Atreides troops were expected to use, which is possibly a partial aversion, since the artillery is only useful in a very conditional way: he uses it to attack the caves in which the troops sheltered, rather than attacking the shielded troops directly
  • 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.
  • Klatchian Coffee:
    • One of many, many uses of Spice is to generate dangerous levels of sanity. It's also used as flavoring for coffee.
    • Mentats drink sapho juice, a drug that is claimed (in-universe) to amplify mental powers.
  • Lady of War: Jessica
  • 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.
    • The galactic common language has separate words for poisoning someone through their food and poisoning someone through their drink.
  • Laughably Evil: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is arguably both the Big Bad of the first book and the comic relief.
  • Literary Necrophilia: This Penny Arcade strip.
  • 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.
  • Living Motion Detector: Hunter-seekers.
  • Longevity Treatment: One of many uses for spice, in the sequels when it is plentiful lifespans of three hundred years aren't uncommon.
  • Loophole Abuse: The Great Convention forbids the use of nuclear weaponry by any Great House. On People. Paul uses them against an inanimate topological feature... to his immediate tactical benefit.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: A twofer, actually. Baron Harkonnen is father to Jessica and grandfather to Paul.
  • MacGuffin: The spice is largely a MacGuffin, since the majority of what makes it valuable and highly contested (the geriatric properties) are not supported in 'verse. The Fremen don't have long lifespans, and no character of the original trilogy is described as being unusually old, or even references someone who is. The demonstrated, mind altering, properties of the spice are useful only to a very limited group.
  • 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 breaks out her lethal hand-to-hand combat skills whenever she believes Paul is being threatened.
  • Manchurian Agent/Trigger Phrase: 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 Man in the Moon: The second moon of Arrakis has the shape of a kangaroo mouse, from which Paul takes his Fremen name: Muad'dib.
  • Master of Your Domain: See Charles Atlas Superpower.
  • Master Poisoner: Poisoning is very much an accepted science in the world of Dune.
  • 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."
  • Meaningful Name: House Atreides is named after House Atreus, and are even implied to be the same family.
    • Also Leto who has a child and then dies.
  • Mega-Corp: Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles (CHOAM) is a trade organization that deals with all interplanetary commerce. The Spacing Guild has 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.
  • 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 known universe, despite only numbering in the millions.
  • Mentor: Paul has several, including the elders Thufir Hawat and Gurney Halleck.
  • Mobile Factory: Harvester factories move across the desert extracting spice from sand.
  • Modest Royalty: Emperor Shaddam IV, who prefers spending most of his time in the war room rather than in the court, 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.
  • 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."
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Count Fenring, except at the very end, when he refuses to kill Paul.
  • National Weapon: Crysknives, made from the teeth of sandworms, are sacred to the Fremen.
  • The Navigator: An entire guild of them, who depend on spice to guide their ships.
  • Neutral in Name Only: Liet Kynes, the Imperial Planetologist of Arrakis, is supposed to be the impartial Judge of the Change controlling the changeover of rulership from the Harkonnen to the Atreides. He's actually been ordered by the Emperor to take the Harkonnens' side to facilitate the upcoming joint Harkonnen/Sardaukar attack. Later as he gets to know the Atreides and realizes that Paul Atreides may the Fremen's predicted savior, he changes and begins supporting the Atreides.
  • Never Found the Body: Baron Harkonnen, upon receiving news that Paul and Jessica Atreides had to be 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). However, Harah's nonchalant reaction to Jamis's death, combined with her sons' delight at having Paul as their new father, suggests that they did not think well of Jamis.
  • 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, inheritance 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.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: The Atreides and Harkonnens end their millennia-long feud over the control of Arrakis, though there were many subtexts.
  • 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 except Baron Harkonnen 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.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Both subverted and played straight. Deliberate breeding programs are used to create humans with intelligence, reflexes, lifespan, capacity for 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: Paul and Jessica.
    Never count a human dead unless you've seen the body. And even then you can make a mistake.
  • No Woman's Land: In general, the Dune universe is patriarchal outside of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, with women exposed to socially sanctioned subordination and violence.
    • Fremen society is patriarchal. 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. 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.
    • 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 axlotl tanks.
  • Numbered Homeworld: The planet Ix (pronounced as spelled) developed from millennia of language-development to the point that the original prefix was lost, and Ix came to be pronounced as a word rather than as "IX", or 9 in Roman numerals.
  • Nuke 'em: Almost all of the Great Houses keep stockpiles of "atomics" as a tool of last resort. However, under the "Great Convention", the rules of house warfare in Dune, the use of nuclear weapons against humans is grounds for planetary annihilation. Of course it helps in the context of the novel that humanity's eggs are in many, many baskets. In the climax, Paul blows a hole in the Shield Wall with one, arguing he is targeting a terrain feature, not people. Gurney Halleck notes that that's a rather fine point; Paul's response is that the Guild ships in orbit will take any point to avoid having to destroy Arrakis.
    • Why are they kept? For mutual deterrence and for use against hostile aliens (though the exact phraseology is "other intelligence".
  • 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.
    • The Baron also describes him as "a killer with the manners of a rabbit ... the most dangerous kind."
  • 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: Paul has not one, but three Old Retainers — Gurney Halleck, Duncan Idaho (though he's not so old), and Thufir Hawat.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Paul
    "Remember, we speak now of the Muad'Dib who ordered battle drums made from his enemies' skins, the Muad'Dib who denied the conventions of his ducal past with a wave of the hand, saying merely: "I am the Kwisatz Haderach. That is reason enough."
    (the final Irulan quote in the first book)
    • Considering how much Paul angsted over trying to stop the jihad, it's possible that if he did say that, he was just being ironic.
  • Once an Episode: The Litany Against Fear is recited in its entirely at least once in every one of the original books.
  • One Dose Fits All: Averted. When Jessica and Paul are sedated and abducted, Jessica manages to figure out who the poisoner is by narrowing it down to the only person who would have had access to the medical data necessary (weight and metabolic rate are mentioned, others implied) to make the individual doses so precise.
  • 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, Telixau as a Underworld (selling taboo technology), Caladan is a Farm world, Kaitain is the Capital, and Salusa Secundus is ostensibly a Penal colony but really a Military world. Tupile is a Service world, providing protection for exiled families.
  • 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).
  • Oppose What You Suffered: The Bene Gesserit struggle to improve humanity because they have inherited all the atrocities humanity has both suffered and inflicted through their Genetic Memory (though it would be argued by the Bene Gesserit themselves that this is more of a case of the Bene Gesserit being the atoners rather than opposing what their genetic ancestors suffered, since they only inherit the memories of survivors - which usually means the memories of those who perpetrate atrocities rather than suffer them).
  • 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, the Spacing Guild navigates space through prescience in the place of computers, and the Bene Tleilax use their females as wombs for their genetic products.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: A Bene Gesserit's "ancestral egos" can become troublesome. Alia finds this out the hard way.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Mostly averted, but also played a bit around with.
    • For example, one of the appendices to Dune includes a Bene Gesserit report detailing the various ways in which the Bene Gesserit should have caught on to Paul Atreides being the Kwisatz Haderach long before he took the name Muad'Dib, passed through the Spice Agony to actually gain the powers of the Kwisatz Haderach, and conquered the known universe. The report comes to the conclusion that since all involved parties so incredibly failed to see the obvious, some power must have been manipulating them in a plan to bring Muad'Dib to power. This power is never specified, but the book's clear religious tones imply that God may have given humanity the Messiah it so foolishly wanted.
    • A major theme of the novels is that cultural and religious influences don't ever really go away; they just go underground and surface later. Examples of this include the Fremen and Tleilaxu as well as the Jews.
    • An introduction to religion is one of the elements in cultivating a mentat, to allow them to understand the logical fallacies and traps involved.
  • 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 (see above for DEATH in the Discworld novels). 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.
  • Paradise Planet: Caladan, home of the Atreides; an idyllic ocean world, it provides an effective contrast to the Polluted Wasteland of the Harkonnens. Paul later claims that it made the Atreides complacent and left them unprepared for the carnage on Arrakis.
  • 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.
  • Phlebotinum Overload: Shield and lasgun interaction results in nuclear explosions.
  • 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."
  • The Plan: Everyone. Some work, some don't. See below.
  • 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".
    • The first book has 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.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The dark world Giedi Prime, the home planet of the Harkonnens, is heavily polluted from over-industrialization. One of the final two books makes a point that this was so bad that now, over eight thousand years after the Harkonnens were overthrown, the ground will never lose its greasy texture.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Imperial Sardaukar. For Paul, the Fedaykin.
  • Prescience Is Predictable: One of the core themes of the main series. Indeed, this could be the Trope Codifier for all modern uses.
  • The Promised Land: The Fremen believe they can turn Arrakis into this with some ecological engineering.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Justified — prophecy actually controls reality.
  • 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.)
  • A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Paul.
  • 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 Sardukar.
  • Psychic Powers: Prescience (precognition), Other Memory, and memory transfers.
  • Psycho Serum/Super Serum: The Spice is both a boon and bane for humanity, politically, culturally, and biologically.
  • Psychic Starship Pilot: The Guild needs prescient Navigators mutated by Spice exposure to guide foldspace ships safely.

  • Razor Floss: Shigawire, a strand of wire so fine that just being brushed by it can cause deep wounds and even sever limbs.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Really Gets Around: Arguably subverted by the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres, whom really do have many sex partners, but only because the Bene Gesserit are engaged in a subtle breeding program and aren't allowed to use aritifical insemination, meaning all genes have to be collected and gestated physically, and the Honored Matres use their sexuality as a form of conditioning. Both only do it professionally.
    • Duncan Idaho more so. See The Casanova above.
    • Baron Harkonnen has a taste for young male slaves. Feyd takes several slave girls as lovers.
  • Red Scare: The Baron Harkonnen has a Russian name, Vladimir (though the family name Harkonnen is reminiscent of the Finnish surname Härkönen). Now remember that the books came out during the Cold War.
  • Regretful Traitor: Dr Yueh from the first book, who knows he's being manipulated and is reluctant to betray House Atreides, but is compelled to do so due to the Harkonnens exploiting I Have Your Wife.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • Other changes that might be considered a Retcon within the first three 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!")
    • The Butlerian Jihad. Originally, a reference to Samuel Butler and his Darwin among the Machines. Retconned — possibly unintentionally — by Brian Herbert to refer to the death of one "Manion Butler" instead.
  • Retro Upgrade: Both laser weapons and shielding technology have been well developed, but due to the Technobabble behind them if one meets the other then a catastrophic explosion occurs. Most warfare is waged through unconventional projectile weapons — or through simple knife and swordplay.
  • 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.
    • And then he tries to right his wrongs in the sequels, to disastrous results (he does finally get it right at the end, however, to the point where the reborn Atreides have forgiven him).
  • Rigged Spectacle Fight: One chapter covers Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen celebrating his 17th birthday by fighting a gladiatorial duel against a fighter who reveals himself to be part of the Atreides army. Feyd is fighting with a dual advantage: he has not only secretly switched which of his two daggers has a poisoned blade, his opponent has been conditioned to freeze up when a Trigger Phrase is spoken. Feyd drags out the fight to give the crowd a show, and this causes him to underestimate his opponent enough that he almost kills Feyd before Feyd uses his advantages to win.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Rock Beats Laser: This is an example when the trope is totally justified. Because of shields, the Sardaukar use knives and swords. The Fremen use knives because that's what they have. When the Sardaukar come to Arrakis, they have to turn their shields off. So it's not rocks beating lasers, but more along the lines of your lasers have stopped working, and the locals are better at using rocks than you are.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The royalty/nobility in Dune basically do nothing but scheme against one another and actually ruling their domains. Court functions and leisure occasions seem to only serve the purpose of furthering their schemes for power.
    • Averted at least by Leto I Atreides, who was an active governor of Arrakis and sought to bring reform to the everyday masses in the wake of the corrupt Harkkonnen administration. Also averted by Beast Rabban, who was sent to deliberately be a despot and oppress the people of Arrakis, so that they would "welcome" their liberator, Feyd Rautha (and the Baron behind him).
  • 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: Possibly the Trope Maker. Unquestionably the Trope Codifier.
  • Schizo Tech: Many of the apparently anachronistic elements of technology are justified by the book's extremely-detailed backstory.
  • School of Seduction: Although it's not the entire curriculum, it features in Bene Gesserit training. In later novels, it's a core part of the Honored Matre way of ruling subject populations.
  • Science Is Bad: This is the view of the Butlerians, whose goal is to force humanity to go back to manual labor and destroy any advanced technology. While they claim to only be following the tenets established during the Butlerian Jihad (i.e. no computers), they actually destroy any technology they feel is wrong and will burn down a medical school because they believe that if you're sick, then it's God's will that you die. Even though the leader of the movement would have died without advanced medical care when his legs were blown off. The Butlerians also have no qualms about using starships to achieve their goals, even though they admit it's a necessary evil.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, timewise: Justified, as there is Genetic Memory that allows the denizens of the past to inform the future (not to mention a millennia old absolute despot worshipped as God who intentionally holds things in stasis). Not so much justified in the prequels, where there is no such explanation yet the elements of the later series leap fully formed into existence and apparently remain unchanged for over ten thousand years.
  • Scry vs. Scry: A few times in Dune. Bonus points for the foresight itself being a trap; seeing a future locks it in among all the possible futures, so it's avoidable unless you know it's coming.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Setting Update: Dune is Lawrence of Arabia IN SPACE! WITH PSYCHOTROPIC DRUGS!
  • Shout-Out:
    • A "cone of silence" shields Count Fenring's conversation with Baron Harkonnen. A reference to a 1960 British film, Cone of Silence.
    • There are at least two to Poul Anderson: an appendix to Dune mentions a biography of Alia written by "Pander Oulson".
    • There's a reference to author Jack Vance (full name John Holbrook Vance) in Dune. In the "Terminology of the Imperium" entry for Krimskell Fiber the author of "The Strangler Vines of Ecaz" is given as "Holjance Vohnbrook".
  • Shown Their Work:
    • With regards to the ecology of Dune, as well as the Arabic-based Fremen language, which are the two most well-researched aspects of the entire first book and possibly series. The later history and philosophy, both real and imagined, are near-equally amazing. It's also one of the few series that does not completely screw up Judaism.
    • When Jessica consumes the psychotropic Water of Life, she identifies it as a tryptamine compound. Tryptamines are a family of chemicals that include hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocin, and bufotenin, so Herbert did his research on mind-altering drugs.
  • 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?
  • Silly Reason for War: The Atreides/Harkonnen feud started thousands of years prior to the start of the series, because an Atreides general reprimanded a Harkonnen subordinate for failing an assigned mission, and the Harkonnens have never been able to forgive that.
  • 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.
  • 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 in addition to fast and safe space travel, 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..
  • Space Opera: Exactly.
  • 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.
  • Speculative Fiction
  • 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.
  • Spiteful Spit: Subverted. When we first meet Stilgar, he spits onto Leto's conference room table as a sign of respect. Water is precious on Arrakis. Played straight in Children of Dune, where a captive spits in the face of the man who's about to kill him. In that context, it means "See how little I value my water when it is taken by animals."
  • The Spock: Mentats. Although not all of them are by any means moral and logical.
  • 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 Kwizatch Haderach... whether that means matchmaking, blackmail, or outright rape is of little concern to them as long as the right children result. At one point Margot Fenring casually discusses with her husband about her orders to seduce, mind-whammy and 'retrieve the genetic material' of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. (In Dune Messiah, we learn that the Sisterhood ironically aren't allowed to use testtubes, as artificial insemination is banned as part of the Buterlian Jihad.)
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Stealth Pun: The Spice, also called Melange, prolongs life. The word "melange" is French for "variety". Which means that in the universe of Dune, variety is the spice of life!
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration
  • Super Soldiers:
    • The Sardaukar. The original Fremen when organized
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The stillsuits recycle sweat, feces, and urine to help the Fremen to keep their body's moisture. Predictably, the book tells stillsuits stink when Fremen are inside.
  • Survival Mantra: See the page quote.
  • 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.
    • Inverted in that 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 Universe. This is what the hero does. 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.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: Suspicion briefly falls on Jessica as being a mole for the Harkonnens, though the Duke angrily discards such accusations.
  • 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.
  • They Were Holding You Back: What's done to Thufir Hawat.
  • Top Wife: Noblemen of the Empire can have one official wife and any number of concubines. It's a plot point that Jessica, though the love of Duke Leto's life and the mother of his heir, is for political reasons only a concubine and not a full wife. In turn, and again for political reasons, their son Paul takes the Emperor's daughter as his wife and the woman he really loves, Chani, as his concubine. The novel ends with Jessica commenting to Chani:
    "Think on it, Chani: the princess will have the name, yet she'll live as less than a concubine — never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she's bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine — history will call us wives."
  • 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.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Leto explains to his son that their being given Arrakis is a trap by the Emperor, including the classic line, "Knowing there is a trap is the first step in evading it." Where he fails is in anticipating the magnitude of the forces poised to destroy him (and he isn't the only one).
  • Truth Serum: Verite, a will-destroying narcotic from the planet Ecaz that renders a person incapable of falsehood..
  • Übermensch: Paul-Muad'Dib. "I am the Kwisatz Haderach. That is reason enough." His son takes it up a few thousand notches.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: House Atreides and the Fremen
  • Unhappy Medium: Paul Muad'Dib eventually discovers that having prescience is a trap, forcing you into a predetermined path.
  • Unobtainium: The Spice.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Dune, at least on one occasion, replaced the f-bomb 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.
    • Children of Dune had the dubious "beefswelling" for "erection".
  • Unusual User Interface: The heavily-mutated Guild Navigators interfacing with space-time to plot the course the navigating machines will take.
  • 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.
  • Vicariously Ambitious:
    • Baron Harkonnen knows that he will never rise to the position of Emperor, but he dreams of putting someone from House Harkonnen on the throne, and schemes to make Feyd-Rautha that Harkonnen.
      One day, a Harkonnen would be Emperor. Not himself, and no spawn of his loins. But a Harkonnen.
    • The irony is that it actually happens, since Paul is his grandson. But only for a brief period in Children of Dune is it a Harkonnen he can control - Alia - and only as an ancestral memory inside her head.
    • In Children of Dune, Wensicia Corrino plots to regain the throne for her House by making her son the logical heir. Her son actually considers her methods foolish and hamfisted, and banishes her when they inevitably fail.
  • Victory by First Blood: When Paul duels Jamis, this is his mindset; it's only when the other Fremen react with disgust and anger at his asking if Jamis wants to yield that he learns that by Fremen custom such duels are to the death.
  • 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.
  • Villainous Glutton:
    • The Baron. A sensation-hedonist, he purposefully eats as much as he can both because he enjoys the taste and sensation of eating and because it amuses him that his grotesquely fat body disgusts others.
  • Vision Quest: Meeting one's spiritual Gom Jabbar is something like this.
  • Voice of the Legion: The billions of ego memories within genetic memory-awakened individuals can appear like this, especially to the pre-born.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Atreides and Harkonnen feud erupts into this when Arrakis becomes involved, all over production of the spice. For the Harkonnens, it's just as fun as it is profitable.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • One sentence near the end of the book implies that the underwhelming performance of Sardaukar is due to the Padishah Emperor cutting down on their resources and neglecting his military power throughout his reign (i.e. Worf had budget cuts), but that still doesn’t explain how the Sardaukar don’t stand any chance even in smaller-scale fights in which they have the element of surprise.
  • 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 ("six years of research ahead of it", according to a radio interview the author gave shortly before his death).
  • World Half Empty: Sure it makes for an interesting setting, but would you really want to live on Arrakis? Hell, would you even want to live in this universe?
    • Well, by all accounts, Caladan is nice. So is Tupile, a system in an undisclosed location, maintained by the Spacing Guild for the benefit of any good customers who may need (or want) political asylum.
  • Wormsign: The Trope Namer.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word: 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 means the same thing.
    • "k'fitzat haderech" translates literally to "shortcut".
    • He is also the Mahdi for the Fremen, which is the same word Muslims give their awaited messiah.
  • 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.
  • 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!: Duncan Idaho sacrifices himself to hold off a flood of Imperial Sardaukar elite troopers, while Paul Atreides makes good his escape. In the sequel, it's revealed that while he did indeed die, the surviving Sardaukar were so impressed with his skills as a Master Swordsman that they preserved his body, later having it resurrected as a "Ghola"... and that, as it turns out, has some extremely far-reaching effects on the Dune universe.
    • 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.
  • 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.

Other adaptations provide examples of:

  • Adapted Out:
    • Cryo's 1992 adventure game also removed Irulan (although she appears in the opening FMV in the CD version), Shadout Mapes, Piter, and, probably most majorly, Yueh, and while the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild are mentioned, none of their representatives appear.

  • Ascended Extra:
    • Harah in Cryo's 1992 video game adaptation.
  • Black-and-White Morality: In contrast with the books, the movies and video games set in the Dune universe tend to depict the Atreides and the Fremen as the unambiguously good guys, and the Harkonnen and the Corrino as the bad guys.
  • The Board Game: The 1979 Dune board game, designed by Eon and published by Avalon Hill, is widely considered a classic. That didn't stop them from allowing Parker Brothers to make yet another Dune game in 1984, which hardly anyone cares about.
  • Canon Foreigner: House Ordos, mentioned once in the semi-canon Dune Encyclopaedia, was picked by Westwood Studios to become the third faction in their Dune series of games. In contrast to Atreides being noble and Harkonnen being evil, the Ordos were made mysterious, insidious, and rumoured to experiment with forbidden technology.
    • Ironically, this makes them a dead ringer for the Canon-compliant Ixians, but no adaptation has ever emphasized the latter.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Duncan Idaho, Thufir Hawat and Liet Kynes survive in the Cryo game. Duke Leto, however, still bites it.
  • Warfare Regression:
    • Averted in Emperor: Battle for Dune, where guns, cannons, and artillery are not affected by shields, even when not fighting on Arrakis.


Video Example(s):


The Voice

Reverend Mother Mohiam uses "The Voice", a secret Bene Gesserit control technique on Paul.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / CompellingVoice

Media sources: