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"I must not fear.
—from the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
"Arrakis, Dune, Desert Planet
—Paul Atreides in the beginning for the first book
Popular series of Science Fiction novels, originated by Frank Herbert and continued after his death by son Brian Herbert. The original novel 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.
The novel is set approximately 16,000 years in The Future, in a galaxy-spanning empire loosely based on the Holy Roman and Ottoman Empires, ruled by feuding nobles, arcane religious sects, and Byzantine corporate monopolies. Its five sequels by the original author, and further prequels and sequels by Brian Herbert, span nearly 20,000 years of galactic history overall.
Much of the action throughout the series takes place on the eponymous planet, Arrakis, commonly called Dune by the native Fremen. Arrakis is a desert planet largely populated by the nomadic, xenophobic Fremen and inhabited by giant sandworms that destroy anything caught out in the open, and would be of little interest to the rest of the galaxy if not for one thing: it is the only source in the entire galaxy of "Spice", an all-purpose chemical that triples the human lifespan, unlocks or enhances the capacity of humans for telling the future, and therefore makes Faster-Than-Light Travel possible in a culture where computers have been made illegal by religious fiat.
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 the Atreides, whom the Emperor has come to see as a threat to his own power. Wearing the uniforms of the Harkonnen, the Emperor's undefeatable 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 commits suicide rather than let his rival have the satisfaction of killing him. Leto's fifteen-year-old son Paul Atreides, sole heir to the family line, escapes into the desert with his mother (who is pregnant with his sister) and takes refuge with the Fremen, where, upon adopting their ways and their religion, he becomes the Kwizatz Haderach, a long-awaited Messiah with the power to see into the future. Taking the name Muad'dib (a kind of desert mouse of Arrakis whose name means "he who teaches manners" in Arabic), he unites the Fremen tribes into a jihad that eventually defeats both the Harkonnens and the Imperium, and Paul declares himself Emperor.
That's the first novel.
The first two sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, conclude Paul's story as he comes to realize that prescience is a trap - by seeing into the future, one dooms oneself to live out that vision. In spite of Paul's best efforts to prevent it, the war he began on Arrakis has become an interstellar jihad that has sterilized entire planets and left him one of history's greatest murderers.
As the remaining powers in the galaxy - the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit sisters who control religion in the galaxy, the Bene Tleilaxu masters of genetic engineering, and the children of the deposed emperor Shaddam, one of whom has been married to Paul for political reasons - begin to conspire against him, his visions grow darker. As the result of his late father's attempt to make Arrakis temperate and verdant, the sandworms are dying - and with their extinction will come the end of the spice, economic collapse, and the extinction of the human race. In order to try and prevent this from happening, Paul wanders into the desert to die, and his son Leto II merges with several larvae of the soon-to-be-extinct sandworms that produce the Spice, becoming one himself and making himself nearly immortal.
God Emperor of Dune, the fourth novel in the series, picks up 3500 years later at the end of Leto's reign. Leto, now the last sandworm on Arrakis and God-Emperor of all humanity, has prevented the collapse of civilization his father foresaw, but only by making himself into a tyrant beyond compare. Much of the novel takes place as a series of conversations between Leto, a clone of Paul's long-dead retainer Duncan Idaho, and Siona Atreides, the distant descendant of his sister Ghanima and a leader of the rebels seeking to overthrow him. Despite his best efforts to convince them that what he has done was necessary for the greater good, they decide the universe is better off without him, and manage to kill him at the novel's end.
The final two novels by Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune, occur 5000 years after that. After the dark ages brought on by Leto's death, there is no Empire anymore. The sandworms have returned to Arrakis, but after thousands of years of research spice has been synthesized in the laboratory, rendering it a backwater once more. The Bene Gesserit sisters, now the dominant power in the galaxy (and whose leaders are now descendants of Duncan and Siona), find themselves in a struggle for their very existence as the legacy of Leto's tyranny comes back to haunt them in the form of the "Honored Matres" - schismatic Bene Gesserits who fled the galaxy as a result of his persecution, and who in the absence of the spice produced an entirely new culture that relies on sex as a weapon and a tool of brainwashing. The sisters' hopes rest in an attempt to recreate Arrakis on their capital world of Chapterhouse and in a new clone of Duncan Idaho who might be a new Kwizatz Haderach, or something even more powerful and frightening. Herbert died before completing the final story in the "second trilogy" beginning with Heretics.
In the 2000s, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson said they used notes from Herbert found in a safety deposit box to write prequels and two sequels to the Dune series. These books comprise ten novels overall - the "Legends of Dune" trilogy which covers the rise of the Empire and the Spacing Guild some 10,000 years prior to the original novel; the "Prelude To Dune" trilogy which follows the conflict between Leto Atreides and Vladimir Harkonnen in the years prior to Paul's birth; Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, two sequels which complete the second trilogy started by the elder Herbert; and Paul of Dune and The Winds of Dune, a pair of Interquels set between the novels of the original trilogy. Unfortunately, they were not very well received. FHM magazine once speculated that while they may have begun with notes from a deposit box, by the time of the last books they were down to a Post-it Frank left on the fridge saying "NOTE: Write more Dune books". Penny Arcade's assessment of these books was rather.... blunt.
The entire series is steeped in Arabic language and culture; it is implied that, in the distant future in which the books are set, Western and Eastern culture and religion have blended together into a pseudo-homogeneous whole. Religions such as "Mahayana Christianity" and "Zensunni" are referred to though not explicitly described, and many Arabic words have found their way into the standard language spoken by the people of the Galactic Empire, especially after the Fremen crusade spreads aspects of their culture to thousands of worlds. (An extensive glossary is included in the first novel, without which many readers might find it incomprehensible) The Bene Gesserit sisterhood, an order of philosopher-nuns that considers itself the guardian of human civilization, extensively manipulate various religions over a scale of thousands of years in order to protect their agenda. Paul Atreides, through his actions in the first novel, effectively creates a religion of his own, with effects that reverberate throughout the millennia.
Dune has been adapted into movie form twice:
- From the early 1970's on, attempts were made to produce a theatrical film. Cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky (known for incredibly bizarre films such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain and equally strange or stranger comic books) came to the project after having a bizarre dream almost identical to the broader plot of the first novel and then hearing about a book of almost exactly the same story. Convinced that there was something more here he resolved to make a movie based on his dream, with bits of the book itself thrown in (that's not hyperbole, that's his stated agenda). Comic artist Moebius and fellow Heavy Metal writer/artist Dan O'Bannon (also responsible for the concept art and a decent chunk of the screenplay for Alien) worked on concept art and designs, as well as Aliens designer H. R. Giger, whose work actually ended up in the final film in small doses. Salvador Dali was cast as the Emperor (which is not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds to non-Dune fans) and Pink Floyd had agreed to provide the score. Sadly, and inevitably, it fell apart.
- Ultimately, Jodorowsky turned the script into an original graphic novel, The Saga of The Metabarons. Some elements of the plot are heavily influenced by Dune, such as the Hooker-Nuns Shabda-Oud for the Bene Gesserit, with the same kind of genetic agenda.
- The producers turned to a hot new director who had been considered for Return of the Jedi, mostly because of George Lucas' still-intense passion for experimental film, mostly on the strength of his classic first film and a critically and commercially successful biopic that made him a true commodity in the industry. That man's name: David Lynch, who took the project and made it his own to only a slightly lesser extent 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. Ironically, the altered cut made more understandable to be commercially viable for television was even longer than the existing film, running about four hours with commercials, and included, among other things, altered narration and a lengthier prologue. Lynch was incensed that the studio had recut his movie behind his back; he had himself credited for director as Alan Smithee and as Judas Booth for his screenwriting credit. The 1984 Lynch version of Dune is the most memorable and notorious for its elaborate and immersive set design, and carried some holdovers from the Jodorowsky version, including Giger's designs. Subsequent recut and extended versions have inspired varying degrees of critical reappraisal. It was a complete flop at the box office and has become both a Cult Classic, and an example of how not to make a blockbuster.
- In 2000, the Sci Fi Channel produced a three-part miniseries adaptation of the novel. 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 was substantially better in some people's opinion (though its ending was much more ambiguous than that of the novel and doesn't provide a suitable lead-in to God Emperor.)
- Although another film adaptation of the first novel was in the works, it has been shelved indefinitely by Paramount over budget issues.
The Dune books contain examples of:
- Absent Aliens: Unless you count the Sandworms, and their implied creators. Even then, the sentience was added after the fact, by Leto II.
- Plenty of non-sentient species are also mentioned in passing. There's a lot of life in the universe, but none of it talks back.
- The final two books introduce two species, one primitive and questionably sentient (the cat-like Futars), and the other vaguely intelligent (the fish-like Phibians). Both were still created by the Tleilaxu (or some variant thereof) so they are not strictly alien.
- In one of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's books , an extinct human order, the Muadru, are implied to know the non-Arrakis location that the Sandworms came from. This may mean that even the Sandworms are human creations.
- In the out of print Encyclopedia of Dune the Natives of Caladan are sentient: morons by human standards and around Stone Age level of technology, but sentient all the same. They are mentioned maybe once in the series proper though. Mind you, the Encyclopedia is not fully Canon.
- Accidental Marriage: Paul, before adapting to Fremen culture, asks Chani to carry his water tokens for him without realizing that only a betrothed does this for a man, making his offer tantamount to a proposal.
- Paul's defeat of Jamis also counts, since he didn't realize he'd inherit Jamis' widow out of it.
- He rejects her as wife, though, despite her pleading. Instead, Stilgar takes her.
- Paul's defeat of Jamis also counts, since he didn't realize he'd inherit Jamis' widow out of it.
- 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.
- Achilles Heel: Leto II, at the end of Children of Dune combines his body with a sandworm to extend his life by thousands of years and gain immunity to almost every form of physical damage, also inherits the sandworms' vulnerability to water. Of course, this is intentional and part of his plan.
- Action Girl / Action Mom:
- Jessica as well in the first book, when she has to be. Her fight with Stilgar is a good example: short, to the point, and lets her and Paul introduce themselves to the Fremen properly.
- 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.
- 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.
- Aesoptinum / Does This Remind You of Anything? : The Spice. It's one of the few clear-cut allegories in the book - a precious resource absolutely vital to the economy, much like gold in past eras and oil today. To hammer the point home, Herbert even compared the CHOAM company (which oversees the Imperium's commerce, including spice procurement) in one interview to Real Life international trade organizations, including OPEC. As for the Aesop : Humans Are Greedy Bastards and will often do anything in order to collect as much spice as possible, including armed conflicts, espionage, assasinations, and a great variety of immoral acts, all out of blind wilfulness and greed. Thus, Paul (and later Leto II) act against humanity's immediate desires in order to save it from itself.
- A Father to His Men: Lampshaded when Duke Leto Atreides risks his life and the priceless Spice to save his men; Liet-Kynes comments that a man such as that would inspire fanatical loyalty. It's implied that this is exactly why the Emperor wants him dead, because he fears Leto will use his popularity to depose him. There are further hints that this may be a mask designed expressly for the purpose, although it's explicitly contradicted by the prequels.
- A God Am I: When Paul fully awakens his potential as Kwisatz Haderach he becomes a messiah to peoples of thousands of worlds, only to be elevated to the status of god in the millennia following his death. His son, Leto II, grinds into the people of the universe that he is a god more for the sociological outcome rather than personal lust for power. After Paul's death, his status as a god is less widespread compared to his son's.
- Agony Beam/Hand in the Hole/Life or Limb Decision: The ritual of the gom jabbar is a test employed by the Bene Gesserit, performed by requiring the examinee to put her hand into a box that causes excruciating pain by nerve induction. A poison-coated needle — the gom jabbar itself — is then held to the "victim's" neck with the threat of instant death should she withdraw her hand without permission. The test is whether the person can master her instinctive desire to flee the pain, thus proving her "humanity". Paul Atreides is one of the few males to be administered the test, and his passing of it is seen as a sign of his future role as the Kwisatz Haderach.
"He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained."
- AI Is a Crapshoot
- In the original books, it was not that the computers were inherently bad, it was that humanity chose to destroy them because they were making humans lazy and limiting humanity's potential, effectively making them dependent on sentient machines for survival. Computer AI was later demonized.
- In the prequels, Omnius was actually doing what he was programmed to do (the conquest and enslavement of humanity), he just decided to work for himself, and not his Titan masters.
- Alternative Calendar: The calender used in the book begins from the establishment of the Spacing Guild's monopoly on space travel, with BG standing for "Before Guild" and AG being "After Guild".
- In addition it's implied that the (3000-year) reign of the Leto II has in effect become a calendar.
- Amazon Brigade:
- Fish Speakers, Honored Matres, and the Bene Gesserit.
- Alia's female guards are also explicitly referred to as amazons.
- Serena Butler's all-female guards also quality, even though they're actually loyal to Iblis Ginjo. They are strong enough to be able to break a person's neck with single kick (as one of them does to Serena at Ginjo's orders).
- 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..."
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Frank Herbert stated he based the Harkonnens on the Nazis.
- Ancient Astronauts/All Myths Are True: A variant in that humans themselves fill this role, with the Bene Gesserit purposely spreading myths based on heroic and religious archetypes throughout fledgling colonies to make use of the people there later.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Although they are more visible than most ancient conspiracies, the Bene Gesserit definitely count: they have manipulated practically all existing religions in the Dune universe to be tools for their purposes, to the point a Bene Gesserit can basically go to any planet and detect different cues and codes within the local religion's tenets to know exactly what to say and do to present herself as a paragon, prophet or even messiah of the local religion. This is how Lady Jessica insinuates herself and Paul into the Fremen culture. Of course, Jessica had no way of knowing Paul would become an ACTUAL messiah.
- And I Must Scream: Leto II's awareness supposedly exists in each of the sandtrout and sandworms produced from his body. In his words, he is a pearl of awareness locked in an endless dream. The the Axlotl tanks of the Bene Tleilax are no better.
- Animal Assassin: In Children of Dune, one daughter of the deposed Emperor develops a plot to assassinate Paul's children Leto II and Ghanima with conditioned Laza Tigers.
- Anti-Magic: Due to Leto II breeding the Siona gene into humanity, a substantial portion of the human population (including all of the Bene Gesserit) cannot be seen within prescient visions, thereby preventing the prophet's trap.
- Anyone Can Die: Paul, Chani, Alia, Leto, Leto II, Duncan Idaho several times, Lucilla, Odrade...
- Arc Words: "The Golden Path" pretty much defines the entire series after the first book, and only becomes more and more powerful as you fully come to realize what it means.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Probably the only exception is Duke Leto. And even then, only maybe. Averted in the prequels — the Atreides are almost always benevolent, and the Ecazi, Richese, and Vernius families are more or less good. Too bad Being Good Sucks. A few more good ones in the prequels describing the Butlerian Jihad, including some of the Butlers, Tantors, and Porce Bludd (but not his great-uncle Niko Bludd, a complete Jerkass).
- The Harkonnens (before Abulurd's exile to Lankiveil) also qualify as exceptions. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's half-brother Abulurd II is also unusually docile for a Harkonnen.
- Artificial Human: Any Tleilaxu-creation, including the Face Dancers, Gholas, clones, some Mentats, and human-animal hybrids.
- Ascended Extra: Duncan Idaho, in the first book, actually dies only to become the only character to feature in all six novels of the original series.
- 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: Literally entire chapters of it. One chapter begins with the villain introducing himself by name to his henchmen — "Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnnen, 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.
- This trope is also extensively employed in the Anderson/Brian Herbert novels.
- Attack Pattern Alpha: Various Houses each have their own, mostly secret languages that are dead to other populations.
- Author Catchphrase:
- "Plans within plans...wheels within wheels..."
- Author Existence Failure: Frank Herbert died in 1985, leaving the Dune series on an apparent massive cliffhanger. His son and Kevin J. Anderson continued the series to mixed critical and reader response.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Sardaukar are trained to fight in formations of three so that they never have an exposed back.
- Badass: Paul. Baron Harkonnen. Leto Atreides. Gurney Halleck. Duncan Idaho. Liet Kynes. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. And that's just the first book.
- Badass Abnormal: Paul primarily, and anyone with Mentat or Bene Gesserit training pretty much qualifies for this trope.
- Badass Normal: Leto Atreides for certain. Vladimir and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen as well. Most of the Imperial Sardaukar and Paul's Fremen troops also count.
- Badass Army: The Sardaukar at first, then they are joined in this category by the Fremen under Paul Atreides. Also, the Fish Speakers under Leto II, and then Miles Teg's Bene Gesserit troops in Heretics and Chapterhouse.
- Badass Creed: See page quote.
- Badass Family: Atreides
- Barbarian Tribe: The "evil barbarians" mindset is inverted with the Fremen. While the rest of the universe definitely see them as barbarians, they have a much more complex, honor-based culture driven to barbarian-horde status only by the harsh world they must survive on.
- Bastard Understudy: Feyd attempts this role with his uncle, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, but the attempt fails.
- The Battlestar: The Ballista-class battleships are the main warships used by the League Armada in the prequels. Besides formidable weaponry, they carry 20 troop transports, 15 shuttles, 50 patrol craft, and 200 Kindjal Space Fighters. Each one also has a crew of 1500. They are later equipped with Deflector Shields and Holtzmann drives.
- Bawdy Song: Gurney Halleck, troubador-warrior that he is, provides a song ("Galacian Girls") that focuses mainly on prostitution:
The Galacian girls do it for pearls,
- Beastly Bloodsports: Duke Leto's father was killed in a bullfight. The prequels by Brian Herbert added that the bull that killed him was hopped up on stimulants rather than sedated like it should have been. A tool of assassination. The original didn't attribute any foul play.
- 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 Messiah 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. 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.
- Becoming the Mask: Happens to Face Dancers that spend too long imitating a person.
- Beware the Superman: Main theme of the series.
- Big Bad: The Harkonnens, the Tleilaxu, Alia (once she's possessed by the Baron), Omnius. The Moritani in the prequels.
- 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.
- Big Eater: Miles Teg in Heretics of Dune undergoes a transformation that unlocks his Super Speed powers, and as a consequence, has to consume many, many normal human portions to satisfy his hunger. Justified as his metabolism is accelerated to compensate for the increased energy demands. This is commented upon with amazement by the people who observe him eat.
- Bilingual Bonus: Cielago, the Fremen term used for bats, is based off of the Spanish word for 'bat': ' murcielago '.
- Also true for the general Fremen language, which is largely based on actual Arabic terms and phrases. And the Teilaxu secret language as well.
- Biological Mashup: Leto II's merge with the sandtrout/sandworms, as well as the Futars.
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: There are no female Tleilaxu. This is because the axlotl tanks are their females, having been engineered into being just gigantic wombs on life support.
- Black and Gray Morality: The novels are consistently and deliberately ambiguous about the relative morality of each of the various factions. House Atreides, the most conventionally moral of the Great Houses depicted in the story, is made to pay heavily for its idealism, and even that is called into question by the prequels. Paul slaughters billions under the godhead of the Madhinate, and his son Leto II is the greatest tyrant in history; yet both claimed their actions were necessary to avoid an even greater catastrophe — the complete and total extinction of humanity. The Bene Gesserit are similarly portrayed as scheming witches, yet by the time of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, they have inherited the responsibility of safeguarding humanity's future.
- Blessed with Suck: You can see the future. All of it. Every twist, turn, nook, and cranny. There are no surprises. There is no escape. You will never live something that you have not already foreseen. It's even worse for Alia: she has access to the genetic memory of all her ancestors. Unfortunately, this includes her grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
- Blind Idiot Translation : Several translations into certain foreign languages. Especially common in first editions.
- Blind Seer: After Paul loses his sight in an assassination attempt he substitutes his precient memory of the future instead. He literally knows exactly what's going to happen moment to moment and fits his actions seamlessly into that vision. Later, he chooses to "forget" his vision when overcome with grief over Chani's death, and loses it completely when Leto II takes the oracular reins from him in Children of Dune.
- Body Horror: Leto II in demiworm form, Guild Steersmen mutated by spice, the Axlotl tanks.
- Brain In a Jar: The prequels have brain-jar villains riding around in giant war machines (just because they can), who cause the Butlerian Jihad through poor programming of their computerized inside "man" and wind up as minions/slaves themselves. Besides the Titans (giant war machines ), are the Cogitors, humans who gave up their bodies to spend millennia contemplating the mysteries of the universe. As a group they have declared themselves neutral in the war where humanity is being exterminated like rats.
- 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 rape and torture by a recorded 4620 Harkonnan soldiers. Rabban finally kills her in retribution of Gurney's attempt on his life.
- Brother-Sister Incest/Twincest:
- Children of Dune, while treating incest as a theme, does not create such feelings Leto II and his sister Ghanima. Ghanima says "I will not bear your children, brother." to which Leto replies: "I love you, my sister, but that is not the way my thought tends." They do end up marrying each other, but it is nonsexual and actually meant to invoke pharaonic-archetypes of ancient Egypt.
- Paul and Alia have incestuous overtones in Dune Messiah. At one point, Alia engages a sparring robot nude, before Paul stops her from killing herself. It's certainly not helped by the Bene Gesserit's clear intention to find a way of bargaining for a way to get Paul and his sister to produce an heir.
- Brother-Sister Team: Leto II and Ghanima are twins, as well as pre-born. This makes them the only people capable of mutually understanding each other in the entire universe. Paul and Alia to a lesser degree.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: The Bene Gesserit arrange marriages for the members of their sisterhood.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday: In the Dune Encyclopedia, under "Atomics, they mentioned the first ever use of the weapons was by House Washington (the USA) in a "provincial conflict."
- Butt Monkey: Duncan is reincarnated as a ghola. Again. And again. And again. And again. And killed (rather than dying of old age) only a slightly smaller number of times.
- By the Eyes of the Blind, Inverted: Siona and her descendants cannot be detected by prescience.
- The Caligula: The Harkonnens are pretty much an entire family of Caligulas. Gladiatorial death sports, hunting humans as game, Perverse Sexual Lust, 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.
- Can Not Tell a Lie: Mentats. In the books, the Bene Gesserit are also explicitly said to be incapable of outright lying, due to their training and method of consciousness expansion. Because of this, they have become masters of evasion and misdirection. "A Bene Gesserit will always tell the truth, but rarely the whole truth." (paraphrased)
- Averted in the prequels, where the first mentat Gilbertus Albans lies constantly in order to protect himself and Erasmus.
- The Casanova: Duncan Idaho, dear god. 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. This comes full-circle when the Tleilaxu conditioning he receives from his last incarnation allows him to seduce an Honored Matre.
- Catgirl: The Futars introduced in Heretics of Dune are the creation of Lost Tleilaxu returning from the Scattering. They're basically humanoid cat-people, and are kept as pets and feral weapons by the Honored Matres, despite being designed originally as weapons against them..
- The Chains of Commanding: The Atreides bear a lot on their shoulders.
- Challenging the Chief: Subverted; Paul refuses to face Stilgar in ritual combat because they both knew Paul would win and Paul wants him to remain chief for his role as a loyal political adviser. As he puts it, killing Stilgar would be like cutting off his own right arm.
- Character Tics:
- Hasimir Fenring and his wife annoyingly hum while they speak, read as "Uhhh-hmmmmmmmm" every time. It's actually their private code language, use to share information between themselves secretly while in front of other people.
- The Baron apparently tapped his fingers during anxiety or boredom, as shown in Children of Dune when Alia becomes possessed with her ego-memories of him.
- Charles Atlas Superpower:
- The Bene Gesserit train themselves to alter their blood composition, manipulate others by voice alone, being able to hold their breath for long periods of time, delay aging, neutralize any poison or drug, possibly see the future, and intense martial arts. They only get the future-vision and molecular control from the Spice. Everything else is pure Charles Atlas, with a few hints of selective breeding.
- 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 himself — to quote Duke Leto, "a Mentat Duke would be formidable indeed". And, later, a Mentat Kwisatz Haderach. Miles Teg in the later novels is a mentat generalissimo. But just try using one as an iPod.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Chosen One/Messianic Archetype: Paul as the Kwisatz Haderach, Leto II as his successor, Sheeana in the final two books, though she doesn't get to fulfill that role, being instead set up for it as a decoy to get the Honored Matres to destroy Arrakis. Her ability to command sandworms is still useful, though.
- The 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.
- No need to work it out. It is outright stated that Fremen stink in closed spaces.
- Cloning Blues: Gholas (clones of the dead), especially the multiple incarnations of Duncan Idaho.
- Coca Pepsi Inc: Perhaps the most famous example in science fiction. Due to thousands of years of space migration, various religions and cultures have merged, split, then re-merged again and again. The Fremen are Zensunni, a combination of Sunni Islam and Zen Buddhism. Though most of this occurred naturally, it eventually was pushed this way by an ecumenical council that produced the "Orange Catholic Bible". The title suggests a reunification of Catholicism and Protestantism (the militant, anti-Catholic Protestant Irish Orangists), although it is actually far more ecumenical, incorporating "Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions".
- A few religions manage to survive intact through the millennia, most notably Judaism.
- There are also Zenshiites in the prequels, a more violent sect than the Zensunnis.
- 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 for Your Convenience: 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.
- Con Lang: 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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.
- 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 pretty much everyone.
- Creepy Twins: Leto II and Ghanima, though they come off that way more to the reader that can watch in on their "games".
- Creepy Uncle: The Baron, completely obsessed with his young nephew. Somehow worse that he considers him an adopted son.
- The Creon: The Bene-Geserit play this trope on an organizational scale. They do not believe that assuming direct control of the empire will be beneficial to them, and instead conduct extremely elaborate (millennia-spanning) schemes to remain advisors to the emperor while controlling the empire only from the shadows.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: In one of the prequels, the Baron has his etiquette teacher drowned in raw sewage. The man had been trying to teach the Baron how to behave in polite society.
- 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.
- Cyanide Pill: Yueh gives Duke Leto a poison-gas tooth so that he can kill the Baron Harkonnen. This makes Leto something of a kamikaze — but an unsuccessful one, as the gas only kills Piter.
- 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.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Yueh, who anticipates the Baron having already killed his wife and planning to kill him once he outlived his usefulness, devises a plan to take the Baron with him. It doesn't kill him, but it does kill Piter.
- Dark Messiah: Paul appears to be this, but uses all his political and religious power, as well as prescient foresight, to prevent as much harm as he can. But as evidenced by the quote in the above A Million Is a Statistic, this wasn't much.
- His son, however, more accurately fulfills this role by purposely being as evil as possible.
- Dune Messiah brings up a dose of realism when Stilgar informs Muad'Dib of the various difficulties that the Fremen, himself included, have had on other planets, especially water-rich planets. Since the Fremen have adapted to an extremely arid and dessicated environment, it makes sense that they would suffer illness and weakness in water-rich environments.
- 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 named not just one but both of his sons after their late grandfather, though one (son) had died by the time the other came along. Oddly, they're both named Leto II.
- Paul himself is named after his grandfather Paulus Atreides.
- Abulurd Harkonnen II (later Abulurd Rabban), Baron Vladimir's half-brother and the father of Glossu "Beast" Rabban and Feyd-Rautha, is named after his distant ancestor Abulurd Butler, who changed his family name Harkonnen after finding out the truth about his grandfather Xavier. Coincidentally, both Abulurds were some of the few decent guys in the Harkonnen gene pool.
- The Corrinos, like any dynastic family, constantly reuses names. For example, the last Corrino Padishah-Emperor is Shaddam IV. His father was Elrood IX.
- Dead Guy on Display: Paul displays his father's skull in a small memorial.
- One of the Dune prequel books had the Baron Harkonnen build a secret retreat with glass walls containing the decaying corpses of the construction crew. Evidently the builders died with resigned expressions on their faces.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Shaddam's imperial court, which leads in no small part to its downfall.
- Death by Childbirth: Chani
- Death By Origin Story: The prequels reveal that both Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck grew up on Geidi Prime and lost family members to Rabban's ruthlessness, which is how they ended up fleeing to Caladan and signing up with the Atreides (at different times). Duncan's parents were killed by Rabban right in front of him for refusing to be the prey in their Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. Gurney's little sister was taken by Harkonnen troops, repeatedly raped and had her legs amputated. When Gurney attempted to rescue her, Rabban publicly raped and killed her.
- Death Faked for You: Dr. Yueh made it easy for Paul and his mother Jessica to escape into the desert and presumed dead.
- Death World: Both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus are so deadly that simply surviving them develops the two most feared fighting groups in the universe, the Fremen natives and Sardaukar soldiers.
- Deflector Shields: Subverted, as shields explode when contacted by an Energy Weapon, specifically lasers. Not to mention that they only stop fast things like bullets; according to the glossary, objects moving "6 to 9 centimeters per second" will still get through, and it's a plot point that, for Paul, counterattacking at this slower "shield" speed has become force of habit that he has to overcome. (On the spot.)
- It's mentioned during Paul's fight with Gurney that the air was becoming stale because it couldn't be exchanged. (A deflector shield which keeps out fast-moving objects would isolate the wearer from things like, well, oxygen — individual molecules of which drift around at several hundred metres a second even at room temperature.)
- The shields are also useless in the desert of Arrakis. First of all, it cannot stand up to the desert's powerful storms. Second, the rapid oscillations of the shield drive any sandworm into a murderous frenzy.
- In one of the prequels, it is mentioned that activating a shield while the heighliner is folding space can throw off calculations and result in a Blind Jump. There are safeguards to abort the jump if a Holtzmann field is active (this includes shields and suspensors).
- Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general.
- 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 Punk: A Trope Codifier here.
- Designated Monkey: Paul refers to Irulan with pointed disdain, and seems to hold her partly responsible for their sham marriage. The author lets this view speak for itself, even though it is hard to square with the princess's actual depiction as a character, or with her future writings.
- Designer Babies: Everyone thinks this is how the Tleilaxu produce their various genetically modified human products...
- 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 Is did, of course, piss off the fans most mightily.
- Deus Sex Machina: In the final two books, an offshoot of the Bene Gesserit called the Honored Matre arise whom use sex as a form of hypnosis. Numerous galaxy-spanning, wheels within wheels plots are derailed when it is discovered that there is a man with the same power. And this man trains other men to use that power. Leading to a feud carried on mostly through sexual guerrilla warfare.
- Did You Actually Believe?: A heroic example, where Thufir Hawat (the Atreides mentat) betrays the Emperor and Harkonnens by refusing to kill Paul:
"Did you think that I, who have given my life to the service of the Atreides, would give them less now?"
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A (nearly) orphaned young man, begins receiving visions, becomes an exile from a desert-based center of commerce and religion, marries a notably older widow, granting him status among his adopted tribe, becomes a powerful religious leader by uniting a nomadic people with a history of in-fighting, and eventually leads an army of the faithful to claim control of the city from which he was exiled by political rivals. After solidifying this base of military and mercantile power, the new religion sweeps across most of the known world (often 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 (p.b.u.h.) 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.
- Doing It for the Art: Dune contains a sprawling universe adorned with myriad details and complicated histories, economics, and ecology. Frank Herbert loved to show his work, as detailed below. It began as work for a newspaper article ("They Stopped the Moving Sands"), but he became so enthralled that it became a passionate epic. He never even got around to finishing that article.
- 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.
- Downer Ending: Almost from the moment he gets his prescience, Paul spends most 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. Not to mention Chani's death. This is all due to another trope: You Can't Fight Fate... that you yourself created. Ouch.
- 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.
- Dragon with an Agenda: Logno manages to slip poison into Dama's drink in order to assume the role of Great Honored Matre toward the end of Chapterhouse. Not that it does her much good.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Paul has dreams about the future (including later events on Arrakis) before gaining his full prescient ability. So does Leto II.
- 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.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Say what you will about Sandworms there's no denying Paul and Chani earn theirs. Leto II's Golden Path is set up so the entire human race can earn theirs.
- Either/Or Prophecy: Paul and later Leto II can see possible futures and must choose the best one to carry out.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: The Bene Gesserit stress emotional control at all times as both proof of humanity and a basic survival tool with the Litany Against Fear. Unlike Vulcans, they're more than happy to use emotion as a tool to manipulate others - their emphasis is control, not denial. And it later turns out to be a weakness that Odrade (and Murbella) must reverse.
- Emperor Scientist:
- Leto II actually becomes the God-Emperor of the Universe to continue a gigantic human breeding program personally.
- Dr. Kynes became leader of the Fremen because of his attempts to terraform the planet.
- The cymek titans from the prequels, who were philosopher kings and scientists, particularly ones that dealt with robotics, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence.
- Though not canon, the prequels state that one former Padishah Emperor, working under a false name, was an accomplished chemist that discovered the properties that made Spice so important. The original books state it was a chemist working for that emperor, so it all depends what you want to believe.
- The Emperor: The first book starts with Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, who is overthrown by Paul by the time the novel ends. Then Leto II takes the throne as God-Emperor after ousting his aunt Alia, whom was acting as regent.
- The Empire: Purposely set up this way by the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild, though noble families had existed before the Butlerian Jihad. There was also an empire prior to the Time of the Titans. The Padishah-Emperors (except for Feykan Corrino) are descendants of the last of the old emperors. This includes Paul and Leto II via their Richese lineage.
- Jules and Salvador were also not Padishah-Emperors, as the title was only established with the creation of the Golden Lion Throne and the establishment of the Spacing Guild.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: Every chapter of the first book is headed by a quote from Princess Irulan's studies of Paul-Muad'Dib. Every chapter of every subsequent book is headed by similar in-universe historic quotes. All of Frank Herbert's Dune novels make use of this, quoting from fictional (auto)biographies, treatises on religion/politics, journals...
- Enfant Terrible/Little Miss Badass: Alia in the first book. And moreso in the first movie - she even creeped out her costars!
- Marie, the daughter of Lady Margot Fenring and Feyd-Rautha is also one of these in the Heroes of Dune series by Kevin J Anderson. On summary, she's pretty bad-ass. In the books, however, really badly-written.
- Both girls are killers, despite being very young, due to their Bene Gesserit training. Marie kills Thalo with a single kick, and Alia kills the Baron in the original novel and Marie later, earning her the name Alia-of-the-Knife.
- Environmental Symbolism: Arrakis, Caladan, and Giedi Prime seem to be designed with this in mind. Caladan is a green, soft world to reflect the humanity of the Atreides family; Giedi Prime is portrayed as a mechanical, desolate place to reflect the inhumanity of the Harkonnens. Dune, of course, is pretty much a planet-sized Holy Land. It is a theme that planet of origin effects the mindset of the groups that live there, or vise versa. Every planet is a reflection of the ruling house (including the Fremen with Dune).
- The Epic: Exactly.
- Precious Puppy: Tleilaxu chairdogs! They bleed and squeak when Honored Matres abuse them.
- 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.
- Evil Matriarch: In the prequels, Duke Leto Atreides' mother, Helena, is generally a thorn in the side of the Atreides household, and hatches a plot to kill her husband, the Old Duke Paulus. She is eventually exiled to the Sisters in Isolation to spend the rest of her life. She is also a Bible-thumper and hates the Ixians supposedly due to their (alleged) violations of the no-AI rule, but mostly because House Vernius (the rulers of Ix) beat her own House Richese in the technological and economic game. Anything bad that happens to the Ixians is God's will in her mind.
When Paul shows up on the doorstep of the Sisters retreat, Helena at first wants nothing to do with her grandson, even though he is being hunted by assassins.
- Express Delivery: In Dune Messiah, Chani's twins come to term superfast as a side effect of the Spice.
- Eye Scream: Paul Atreides' eyes are burned out of his face by being too close to the explosion of a stone-burner nuke. It's stated that this is a common use for the stone-burner. Also, many people have their eyes gouged out in fights.
- Face Your Fears: The Litany against fear promotes doing this whenever possible.
- Fake Memories: Ghanima creates false memories to convince herself that Leto had died as part of a prophetic Xanatos Gambit.
- False Reassurance: The Baron promises Dr. Yueh that if he betrays the Atreides he would stop torturing his wife and allow him to join her. After Yueh does so, the Baron has him killed, as he had done earlier with his wife, thus carrying out his promise to the letter. Of course, Yueh already knew perfectly well what the Baron would do, he just couldn't bear to live without having it confirmed.
- Fantastic Honorifics: "na-" is used as a prefix to a rank (for example, na-Baron) to refer to the heir to that rank. It's short for "nascent."
- Fantastic Slur: After becoming "cymeks", the Titans began to view normal humans as inferior creatures and invented an insulting term for them - "hrethgir". When Omnius took power from the Titans, he shared the Titans' view of humans and kept using the term. His final defense against the Army of Humanity is a group of cargo ships filled with millions of human slaves and rigged to blow if the human fleet passes a certain threshold. He calls it the Bridge of Hrethgir.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: More like Culture Chop Suey.
- 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). The prequel novels show that a more conventional means of FTL travel was used before the invention of space folding, which took weeks-to-month to get from star to star. It was largely phased out after space folding became common, although it's mentioned in Sisterhood of Dune that non-critical cargo is still sent by (relatively) slow ships (i.e. using conventional FTL drives) in order to cut costs (this is before they start building the enormous Heighliners). Additionally, when Josef Venport sends warships to secure a re-discovered Thinking Machines' shipyard, his ships first fold space to the target system and then use conventional FTL drives to quickly approach the planet before they're discovered.
- 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 and poison in a drink.
- 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.
- Fix Fic: The end of Sandworms.
- 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.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: At the finale of Children of Dune, Leto II fights his way through Alia's elite guards before smashing down the door to her chambers, his extreme strength (due to sandworm-based enhancements) allowing him to basically sweep them aside. Since he was dragging his sister along during all of this, it means his Foe-Tossing Charge was one-handed!
- Follow the Leader: The Bene Tleilax finally manage to create synthetic Spice in their tanks by Heretics of Dune.
- 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.
- In Dune Messiah, the conclusion is hinted at in the second chapter, and by halfway through the novel, the protagonist has a prescient dream in which he foresees the entire rest of the story. The vision guides him even after his eyes get burned out by nuclear radiation. By twenty pages before the climax (a substantial portion of the just 200-page book) it's a definite Foregone Conclusion, except for the Plot Twist in which Paul foresees only the birth of his daughter, and not her far more significant twin brother — because he's the one who will ultimately take the reins of prophecy from Paul.
- God Emperor of Dune is written from the Framing Device of the titular Leto's unearthed memoirs. That he is dead and his reign ended is therefore known from the start, and the nature of his demise ("fragmented consciousness") is foreshadowed.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Only useful without Deflector Shields, which are ubiquitous, so almost a subversion/aversion. (A lasgun shot hitting a shield is highly unpredictable, and can cause either a nuclear-level explosion or only destroy both shooter and shootee). Also, lasguns are presented unusually realistically for sci-fi (except for the universe-physics-specific shield bit). In Leto II's future, lasguns have come back into general use after he banned shields, leading to a massive arms race after his death.
- 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.
- Gambit Pileup: Taken Up to twenty-two. Serial Escalation and back again, and then beyond again. For the list of who is manipulating who, just use everyone and everybody, respectively. As the simplest example: In the first book, the Harkonnen employ a Xanatos Gambit by losing Arrakis to the Atreides in order to come down on them like the fist of an angry god with the aid of the Emperor's Sardaukar. The Atreides know this is what the Harkonnens are trying to do, but are gambling on using the Fremen to fight back in a gambit of their own. It does not go well for the Atreides.
- Gender Incompetence: In Dune, it seems to be something of a theme to have an all-female society with strange and terrible powers suddenly have to deal with a man with those exact same powers, only several jillion times stronger. According to certain throwaway lines regarding Norma Cenva in God-Emperor Of Dune, there have been genderswapped variants of this in the past as well.
It's stated that the limit of the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers was that their training to particularly feminine/maternal instincts meant that they couldn't access their male ancestry in their Other Memory. The Kwisatz Haderach was intended to overcome this weakness (as well as having other capabilities), which would require a male trained in Bene Gesserit ways. Note the fact that the Gesserit wanted to have a Kwisatz Haderach, but he ended up coming a generation too early for their plans — and then refusing to go along with them.
- Gender Restricted Ability: Only women could be Bene Gesserit. They had a long standing breeding program to try and create a male Bene Gesserit.
- 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. Leto II has similar dreams during his spice ordeal, leading him to understand where Paul went wrong, and subvert the trope by rejecting that path.
- 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 which is ambushed by several Imperial Sardaukar, which the Fremen decimate. Paul somberly notes that as his reputation as the Fremen's holy savior grows, the stories will say that he singlehandedly killed scores of Sardaukar, even though he didn't even draw his knife.
- Go Through Me: 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.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: The Dune universe is positively riddled with words seemingly inspired by or derived from Arabic and Farsi (most of the future religions have some Islam in them). Even Hebrew shows up once or twice. Amongst other things, K'fitzat ha'derekh (compare to Dune's Kwisatz Haderach) is a magical ability ascribed to some real-world Chassidic holy men — specifically, the ability to teleport. The twins speak French, because it's a dead language at this time, so nobody else could possibly understand them.
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.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Leto II, sort of.
- 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 son because he wanted a male child. In Jessica's case, it was done for love and ended up saving the universe, so...
- In the prequels, he had recently lost his six-year-old son by another concubine (a bitchy one).
- Horse of a Different Color: Fremen climb onto sandworms and steer them with hooks as a means of desert transport. Also, "thorses" in the sequels, whatever they are.
- Hot Consort:
- Paul ends up marrying Princess Irulan for political reasons, but keeps his true love Chani as royal concubine.
- Paul's father, the Duke Leto, never marries the Lady Jessica as it provides some leverage with other Houses, who might want to arrange a marriage. He claims this as one of his few regrets.
- Hobbes Was Right: Leto II determines that the only way to prevent an energy crisis and galactic war leading to the extinction of humanity is to establish himself as a tyrannical, semi-immortal God Emperor. Though this is a bit of a subversion, since the problem was that humans wouldn't leave their safety zone of the known star systems unless they were oppressed and forced to stay there for a couple centuries. Once Leto died, every major human civilization was then free to explore the universe again, in a bit of reverse psychology. Just As Planned. Of course he knew it would happen that way.
- And despite what Brian and Kevin J Anderson would have you believe with their sequels, a close friend of Frank's has stated that he told him that if he were to end the series, he'd do it in such a way where a true democracy was established.
- You don't even need inside information to reach that conclusion, really: Leto II was quite open and fierce about his -hatred- of the "pharaonic model".
- Ho Yay: Teg and Patrin, to the point that Teg's daughter and several other Bene Gesserit comment on it.
The form Patrin's loyalty would take had been clear to Lucilla then. How could Teg have been so blind? Love! That long, trusting bond between the two men. Schwangyu would act swiftly and brutally. Patrin knew it. Teg had not examined his own certain knowledge.
- Hufflepuff House: A fictional example that actually has Houses. House Atreides and House Harkonnen take center-stage with every other mentioned House relegated to background mentions. House Corrino would be a true example of this, but their role of filling the position of the Imperial court makes them important.
- Human Resources: Fremen reclaim water from human waste through their stillsuits, and from the dead by draining them in "death stills". The Tleilaxu really top them, though, by using all their females as artificial wombs for their genetic products.
- Hundred-Percent Adoration Rating: House Atreides is portrayed as having this on their native Caladan in the prequels, and have for generations. This more or less contradicts the original series.
- 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...
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Prince Roderick Corrino is shown to be a much more sensible and intelligent man than his half-brother Emperor Salvador Corrino. Both of them know how much Salvador's rule depends on Roderick. While Salvador is not a fool (even though he sometimes likes to project Obfuscating Stupidity), there is no denying that the Imperium would collapse under Salvador's rule if not for Roderick. Many privately agree that Roderick would've made a far better Emperor. At the same time, Roderick is fiercely loyal to his brother and would die for him in a heartbeat. The Sisterhood even goes to great lengths to ensure that future Corrino emperors come from Roderick's bloodline not Salvador's.
- Hypochondria: Emperor Salvador Corrino claims to be suffering from numerous ills, most of which appear to be stress-related symptoms. His former Suk physician took advantage of this by prescribing and performing expensive made up treatments to these symptoms, making a fortune. This could be genetic, though, as his mother is mentioned to have been emotionally unstable and once tried to commit suicide.
- I Am X, Son of Y: Paul NEVER makes anyone forget that, before being Usul of the Fremen, before being Muad'dib, before being the awaited Mahdi, before being the Kwisatz Haderach, he is Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides. In fact, the closest thing Paul has to a Berserk Button is someone belittling the memory of his father or the Atreides name.
- 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).
- Identical Grandson: The Atreides "look", which is so distinctive Miles Teg looks like his ancestor Duke Leto I, 5,000 years later.
- Teg was bred by the Bene Gesserit to look like Leto 1 in order to help a certain someone regain their memories. Keep in mind that the BG plan actions far, far, far in advance.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Frank Herbert's original Dune novels all contain the word "Dune", and three out of six follow the formula "X of Dune".
- The three Prelude to Dune novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson are each named after a noble house in the Dune Verse.
- 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".
- 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. According to The Machine Crusade (written after Frank had died, so possibly not canon), humanity nuked earth in a first strike against the thinking machines. In the main series, the majority of humanity has no idea where their race evolved.
- Instant Oracle, Just Add Water: The Guild Navigators adapted to life in a spice-filled environment which granted them precognition and the ability to navigate at FTL speeds. They spend most of their lives inside of zero gravity tubes filled with spice laden air rather than a tub of water, but same concept.
- In the Blood: Apparently all Harkonnens are born evil and all Atreides are born good. Then Paul merges the bloodlines...
- Subverted by the possibly non-canonic prequels. Even Feyd-Rautha had potential to be good, had he been allowed to be raised by his parents instead of taken by his older brother to be raised by the Baron. Xavier Harkonnen is a noble warrior and good friend to Vorian Atreides. It was only after the Harkonnen/Atreides schism that the "evil" Harkonnen started being born.
- Intrepid Merchant: The Smugglers.
- Intrinsic Vow: Gholas. ...All of them.
- Invisibility Cloak: No-Chambers and No-Ships. Not your average cloaking device; even prescient scryers cannot find you. Except Miles Teg.
- 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:
- Kill and Replace: A favorite tactic of Tleilaxu Face Dancer Shape Shifters.
- Kill It with Water: Aside from extreme old age or atomic explosions, the only way to kill a sandworm is by completely drowning them in water. Good luck finding any on a planet called Dune. This, of course, comes full circle in God Emperor of Dune, where Leto II must be killed in water for the sandworm cycle to continue.
- The Fremen regularly drowned juvenile sandworms.
- In a prequel novel, Glossu Rabban uses conventional explosives to kill a sandworm. Unfortunately for him, sandworm bones are very brittle and only held together by a living being's bioelectric field. No trophy there.
- Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand: In Dune Messiah Duncan Idaho comes back to life with the help of the Bene Tleilax who brainwash him to kill Paul-Muad'Dib. Paul knows this, and deliberately gives him a chance near the end of the book to kill him. Idaho snaps out of his brainwashing and lets Paul live.
- Significantly earlier, in the original Dune, Atreides Mentat Thufir Hawat is captured and enslaved by the Harkonnen during their ouster of the Atreides and is administered a perpetual poison, the antidote to which he receives from the Harkonnen and must take on a regular basis in order to survive. Near the end of Dune, when Paul overthrows the Emperor and confronts the conspirators, the Harkonnen offer Thufir a permanent antidote in exchange for assassinating Paul, who willingly offers his life to Thufir in recognition of his years of loyal service to House Atreides. Unable to bring himself to kill the heir to House Atreides, Thufir instead commits suicide.
- King Bob the Nth: It's the year 10,191 of the Galactic Empire, and the current monarch is Shaddam IV, 81st Padishah Emperor. It's never explained within the original novel who exactly the previous three Shaddams were.
- The Dune Encyclopedia has a list of every Emperor along with the dates of their reigns. Shaddam IV's immediate predecessors were Fredhrick XIX, Corrin XXV and Elrood IX. Shaddam III reigned 4200 years before Shaddam IV, Shaddam II was some 3000 years before that, and Shaddam I reigned 2400 years before him. Shaddam IV was the 81st "Padishah" Emperor, but the 370th Emperor of the Known Universe. Number 1 was Alexander the Great, so it isn't supposed to be an accurate list.
- 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.
- Last of His Kind: Leto II, as the last of the sandworms. Scytale, the last true Tleilaxu Master.
- 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. Leto II can detect a human's emotional state with perfect accuracy by sampling pheromones at 3 parts per billion.
- Living Motion Detector: Hunter-seekers.
- Lonely At the Top: Both Paul and his son Leto II at the height of their power have no one to truly understand them. For Paul, his love Chani, dies in childbirth and for Leto II Hwi Noree. Leto and her both die before their wedding.
- 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. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun in Children of Dune, when his genetic memory-self possesses Alia.
- Mad Lib Thriller Title: Dune... or ...of Dune
- Mad Scientist:
- Tleilaxu Master Hidar Fen Ajidica grows more and more insane and power-hungry under the influence of Amal, a spice substitute he has developed with some nasty side effects.
- Doctor Ptolemy is a humble scientist working on cybernetic prosthetic limbs, wishing only to help people. After his lab is destroyed by anti-technology fanatics, who also kill his friend and colleague, not to mention his entire staff, he signs up to work for Venhold, while secretly desiring vengeance upon the Butlerians and Manford Torondo in particular. How does he do it? By rebuilding the cymek walkers and hatching a plan to use them to crush the fanatics and then re-establish the Time of Titans with himself in charge.
- Mama Bear: Jessica
- 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 later books elaborate on a barely mentioned act in the first book, where Bene Gesserit condition males through psychosexual techniques (a process called hypno-ligation) to act in a specified way on a given code word. In Heretics and Chapterhouse, the Tleilaxu are capable of delivering gholas custom-programmed to act out any desired behavior on the appropriate trigger.
- The Man in the Moon: The second moon of Arrakis has 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 almost 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.
- Meaningful Name: Ghanima, Leto II's twin sister. Her name means "spoils of war," because despite his seeing-the-future-vision, he'd never realized his wife was having twins. "Ghanima" also comes with added connotations of an object that is no longer being used for its real purpose-- or for any meaningful purpose at all, in fact. Paul was in a weird mood when he named her: he'd just been blinded, and she'd just killed his concubine via Death by Childbirth.
- Medieval Stasis: Society is partially stagnant due to the religious proscriptions against thinking machines, robotics, and computers set up after the Butlerian Jihad, which keeps things from advancing too much. Spice does this as well, since its properties allow for expanded lifetimes and space folding, so there was no desire to experiment and find alternatives. Finally, the Bene Gesserit and Guild collaborated to set up a feudalistic government with full knowledge that it would be easier to control.
- Mega Corp: Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles (CHOAM) is a trade organization that deals with all exchanges between planets. The Spacing Guild is a monopoly on space travel and controls the prices. They also have a majority of the stock in CHOAM, which just goes to show how much Spice is entwined in human politics, at least until Paul takes over the whole kit and kaboodle. His son Leto II does away with CHOAM entirely.
- Venport Holdings (AKA Venhold) in the prequels has bits of this, with Josef Venport working tirelessly to monopolize space travel and spice mining, ruthlessly suppressing any competition. Given that Venhold will eventually evolve into the Spacing Guild, it can be assumed that he succeeds in the former (the latter will be taken from him). Also, Josef Venport is also the creator of a child company of Venhold called Combine Mercantiles, which handles all non-space-travel and non-spice-mining businesses.
- Memory Gambit: Ghanima hypnotizes herself to believe she witnessed her brother being assassinated by Laza tigers, when in actuality he had escaped.
- Men of Sherwood: The Fremen, though largely a background force, account for most of Paul's success. Their prowess in battle leads them to conquer the entire universe, despite only numbering in the millions.
- Mentor: Paul has several, including the elder Mentat Thufir Hawat, and Gurney Halleck.
- Mind Over Matter: The Sorceresses of Rossak have powerful telekinetic abilities, which they hone over the years in order to weaponize them. Unfortunately, the destructive psychic wave would fry the brain of any living creature in the vicinity, including the sorceress herself. Norma Cenva initially doesn't have any psychic abilities. However, torture at the hands of the cymeks awakens her extremely powerful (even by the standards of the Sorceresses) abilities, and she not only kills the cymeks but also reshapes her body molecule-by-molecule to become extremely attractive. Later on, after becoming a Navigator, she uses her abilities to fold space without a Holtzman generator with pinpoint accuracy.
- Most of the sorceresses die during the Jihad either by sacrificing themselves or killed by the epidemic. The remaining sorceresses are killed by the Emperor's troops 80 years later.
- Mind Probe: Many, many variations, including the Ixian Probe, its successor the T-Probe, and the abilities of Face Dancers to take a memory imprint of their victims even after death. They are so common by the time of Heretics of Dune, in fact, that anyone with secret knowledge takes a special drug named "shere" that is designed to foil mental probes.
- Shere doesn't work with post-God-Emperor Face Dancers: the only way to stop them memory-printing you is to destroy your own head before you are captured.
- Mind Rape: In the Bulterian Jihad Trilogy the cymeks take brains from their human bodies (literal mind rape?), stick them in jars and turn the "thoughtrode" settings to make the minds feel pain. And then they are left on a shelf in their own little silent hell ... for centuries.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: One of the Bene Tleilax' most popular exports are sligs, hybridized pigs and slugs. The combination supposedly makes for tender, succulent meat. Goes well with Caladanian wine.
- Mobile Factory: Harvester factories move across the desert refining spice from sand.
- Modest Royalty: Emperor Shaddam IV, who prefers spending most of his time in the war room rather than in the court, and wears the military uniform of a Sardaukar instead of any royal pomp. Politics really isn't his thing, and he only flaunts his wealth when he has to.
- 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".
- Mundane Utility: Horse drawn antigravity wagons for farmers. Dune, for all your anachronistic needs. Justified in that Leto II intentionally suppresses all forms of advanced culture and technology except those he uses himself, as part of his Xanatos Gambit to force humanity to evolve.
- "Have you not considered how much easier it is to control a walking population?"
- My Death Is Just the Beginning/Heroic Sacrifice: Leto II's Golden Path.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Count Fenring, except at the very end, when he refuses to kill Paul.
- National Weapon: Crysknives, made from the tooth of a sandworm, are sacred to the Fremen.
- Necessarily Evil: Leto II makes himself the most terrible tyrant in history deliberately, so that when he is dead humanity will scatter and never be controllable by a single power ever again.
- A scattered humanity that cannot be found via any type of prescience is a humanity that cannot be exterminated. (c.f., Siona's initiation to the Golden Path.)
- Neck Snap: This is how Hyla kills Griffin Harkonnen. Justified in that she has flowmetal under her skin that gives her super-strength.
- Never Found the Body: Genre Savvy villain Baron Harkonnen, upon receiving news that Paul and Jessica Atreides were dead after flying into a sandstorm, asks explicitly, "You've seen the bodies?" He was right to doubt. This series also provides the pagequote for that trope.
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: When Paul kills Jamis in a duel, the other Fremen refrain from speaking ill of Jamis, even though he had a history of violence and unethical actions (i.e., killing Harah's first husband so that he could marry her). However, Harah's nonchalant reaction to Jamis' death, combined with her sons' delight at having Paul as their new father, suggests that they did not think well of Jamis.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Miles Teg's exposure to a T-Probe gives him Super Speed just in time to save his life, though the T-Probe was meant to kill him.
- Noble Savage: The Fremen, backed up by a number of quotes in the Encyclopedia Exposita, are intentionally set up to be perceived this way. Even their essential cruelty is explained as the cold necessity of survival in a harsh environment, combined with a carefully nurtured desire for revenge against their oppressors. This is reinforced by the decline of the Fremen culture in later novels; as they lose touch with the desert and become "civilized", their power and nobility decline.
- Depending on your perspective, the Fremen could be a deconstruction of the Noble Savage trope. Their society is characterized by senseless internal violence, such as duels, inheretance of women by duel victors, and succession through killing. When Paul assumes the role of Emperor, the Fremen descend on recalcitrant planets, slaughtering and ravaging the inhabitants. This from a people who lamented their own unjust oppression for centuries.
- 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 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 Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Happens very blatantly in one of the Prelude to Dune books: a genius inventor invents a no-room, and Baron Harkonnen kills him so nobody else can find out. It later blows up.
- He also creates the first no-ship (although, it doesn't protect against prescience). This no-ship is later lost due to Rabban's stupidity to the Bene Gesserit, who study it and then destroy it to prevent such technology from being misused.
- Subverted. The scientist had plans hidden in his own no-chamber aboard a space station. They are discovered by his fellow scientists who try to recreate the no-field. Unfortunately, the station is raided by the Sardaukar and destroyed with atomics.
- Despite these setbacks, the technology is re-invented independently, this time with prescience shielding.
- No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: An entry in the Dune Encyclopedia claims the Bene Gesserit existed millennia before humanity developed spaceflight, and more-or-less specifically stated that Jesus was nothing more than a premature — and, therefore, failed — Kwisatz Haderach.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Both subverted and played straight. Deliberate breeding programs are used to create humans with intelligence, reflexes, lifespan, capacity higher consciousness and physical capabilities far beyond those of current-day humans, but a religious taboo is kept in place on genetically engineering anything recognizably inhuman or unable to interbreed back into the larger human population. Thus, the characters and societies remain human while simultaneously having greater advancements over modern man than modern man has over homo erectus. The Tleilaxu, however, have no religious taboo on inhumanity and gleefully make a living selling inhuman humans genetically-engineered for specific purposes.
- Not Quite Dead: Paul and Jessica. And Leto II. Gholas are a subversion in that the original does explicitly die, but the cloned replacement can be awakened to its Genetic Memory.
Never count a human dead unless you've seen the body. And even then you can make a mistake.
- 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.
- Not So Different: The most obvious example is Paul Atreides and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. A more poignant example occurs at the end of the first book between Paul Atreides and Hasimir Fenring.
- Nuke'Em: Under the "Great Convention", the rules of house warfare in Dune, the use of nuclear weapons ("atomics") 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", and given what happens in the prequels, this intelligence need not be organic).
- The Obi-Wan: Thufir Hawat.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Count Hasimir Fenring definitely counts as one of those. 'Umm-ah-hm-mm-mm', indeed! He completely loses the affect/speech impediment when in private conversation about the Emperor's orders with the Baron.
- It should be noted that in other books he does this on purpose, both to annoy people around him and to communicate secretly with his wife, who is a Bene Gesserit.
- 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: Leto II, though framed more like Necessarily Evil.
- 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.
- Let's not forget the massive inversion at the end of Chapterhouse: Dune, where the key plot point is the concept that every atrocity ever committed by humanity is inherited by its descendants, and the Bene Gesserit, as a direct consequence of Genetic Memory, have taken it upon themselves to expiate those sins.
- Once an Episode: The Litany Against Fear, which is recited in its entirely at least once in every one of the original books (not all the prequels and sequels, though).
- One-Gender Race: The Tleilaxu (all male). Exactly how this is achieved is eventually revealed with significant Squick.
- 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, 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).
- 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.
- Orwellian Editor: Leto II, being a Kwisatz Haderach, has full access to his masculine and feminine genetic memory which stretches from about the year 40,000 back to the beginning of human awareness. What does he do with it? He has hundreds of historians burned alive for misconstruing the facts that he has personal access to. Of course, this was partly mystique-building, as he secretly rendered them unconscious first.
- Hundreds? The book only mentions nine. "...The Sisters report that the nine were rendered unconscious, then burned on pyres of their own published works. This conforms exactly with the stories which spread across the Empire at the time." Later, Leto tells Moneo: "They were destroyed because they lied pretentiously."
- The official Dune forums are run by Frank's grandson, a decent fellow in person and somewhat intelligent, though under clear orders to delete or edit any posts that don't align towards the positive concerning the prequels and sequels by Brian and Kevin. Posts and entire threads pointing out a book's critical and financial failure, even those started by the admin himself, have been known to be deleted and all references removed. Bans are common and sometimes pre-emptive. A user can be banned without even posting if their username is found on another forum that is made up almost entirely of previously banned users. All this is done, and signed in edited posts, with the now joke phrase "EDITED BY THE ALMIGHTY MODERATOR"
- 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.
- On the other hand, there will still be Jews who speak Hebrew and observe Passover 20,000 years in the future.
- 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.
- Outlived Its Creator: Since Frank Herbert's death, Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson have written a number of prequels and sequels.
- 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.
- 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.
- People Jars: Used and subverted in which genetic clones (and other creatures) are grown in 'Axolotl tanks'. The tanks are revealed to be 'people' as well.
- 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.
- Phlebotinum Rebel: Psychically-invisible Siona Atreides, as part of a Xanatos Gambit.
- Place Beyond Time: Reverend Mothers are able to enter a spice-enduced trance in which time effectively stops, allowing them to transfer memories, consult with their maternal ancestors, alter their body chemistry, and see through time. When Paul Atreides takes the Water of Life, he gains this ability to such an extent that he experiences the NOW: "The future and the past! All at once. All the same."
- Planetary Romance : Both a classic example and a Deconstruction.
- Planet of Hats: Shows up more in the prequels and games than the original novels. For instance, Houses Ix and Richese's hat is being gadgeteer geniuses.
- 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.
- Polluted Wasteland: The dark world Giedi Prime, the home planet of the Harkonnens, is heavily pollluted from over-industrialization. One of the final two books makes a point that this was so bad, that now, over 8,000 years after the Harkonnens were overthrown, the ground will never lose its greasy texture.
- Praetorian Guard: The Imperial Sardaukar. For Paul, the Fedaykin.
- Prequel in the Lost Age: Some of the prequel novels cover the ancient history where machines ruled the galaxy.
- Prescience Is Predictable: One of the core themes of the main series. Indeed, this could be the Trope Codifier for all modern uses.
Leto II: "It has occurred to me more than once that holy boredom is good and sufficient reason for the invention of free will."
- 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 Sardukaur, and, well, Leto II for the Fremen.
- Psychic Powers: Prescience (precognition), Other Memory and memory transfers, Miles Teg's clairvoyant sensing of No-Ships, in the prequels Mind Over Matter. With the exception of the prequels, most of these are not explained as "psychic" powers, but a natural consequence of Genetic Memory and Charles Atlas Superpower levels of mental training.
- Psycho Serum/Super Serum: The Spice is both a boon and bane for humanity, politically, culturally, and biologically. Leto II spends his entire (extremely) long life trying to get humanity over its spice addiction. He succeeds - sorta.
- Razor Floss: Shigawire.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Mainly due to the effects of the Spice, many people extend their life far greater than would be possible without. The Emperor Shaddam is described by his daughter Princess Irulan as looking around 50, though being in his late '80s. He dies due to work-related stress rather than old age.
- The Bene Gesserit take this to the extremes. With complete control over their biochemical makeup, they can slow down or speed up the aging process at will or choose to look younger or older while chemically being another age. They rarely take advantage of this, however, because such power can be intoxicating and dangerous. If someone outside the inner-Bene Gesserit organization were to notice the true extent of their powers it could lead to their destruction from superstitious outsiders as well as loss of influence over the Empire. Leto II ends up doing this, living up to 3,500 years before being (willingly) assassinated.
- The pre-Born count in a different way. While chemically and physically true to their age, exposure to the Water of Life in the womb awakens their Genetic Memory. This leads to a personality being composed solely of their complete lineage of ego memories, upwards of hundreds of thousands of generations. Leto II and his sister Ghanima are both nine when they begin wresting control of the empire from their similarly-affected aunt, and must constantly chastise anyone that presumes them to be mere "children". They never had a childhood, nor a life of their own. Only the memories of billions.
- And finally Duncan Idaho. He has clocked up at least 5,000 years through hundreds of ghola-incarnations, although most incarnations only possess the original Duncan's memories, each is blissfully unaware of the many copies that have existed between the original and himself. Then the final Duncan finds a way to awaken the memories of all the ghola-incarnations to create a chain of memory-lifetimes. And having realised that, he uses it on Miles Teg.
- Thanks to the cymeks' life extension treatment, both Vorian Atreides and Gilbertus Albans hardly look a day over 40, even though they're both well over a century old. Vorian, at least, is described to have some grey hair.
- Reality Warper: Norma Cenva, being not only a Navigator but also a powerful Sorceress of Rossak, learns to fold space with pinpoint accuracy without a Holtzman engine. She uses her powers to basically become God, and eventually kills Omnius with them.
- 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 the Honored Matres use their sexuality as a form of conditioning. Both only do it professionally.
- Duncan Idaho more so. See The Casanova above.
- Vorian Atreides in the prequels. Of course, living for centuries gets lonely. After his first wife's (natural) death, he goes to track down any other descendants he may have from many encounters over the decades. Apparently, he has never heard of contraceptives or just doesn't care. Later on, he re-marries and has another family. After his second wife's death (not natural), he is once again free to do whatever (and whomever) he wants.
- Red Scare: The Harkonnens are apparently of Russian descent. Now remember that the books came out during the Cold War.
- Regent for Life: Alia in Children of Dune (she didn't start out that way, but shit happened).
- Required Secondary Powers: Heretics of Dune sees Miles Teg gain Super Speed, but needs to become a Big Eater to compensate (Several characters lampshade his Big Eating). He also gets his hands badly bruised and torn from hitting his enemies at such speeds.
- Reinforce Field: The bones of a sandworm are extremely brittle. However, their crystalline structure can be made as tough as diamond with a weak bioelectric field, such as one produced by a living creature, including the sandworm itself. When a sandworm is killed, its skeletal structure collapses and rapidly erodes. The same is true for crysknives, weapons made out of sandworm's teeth.
- Retcon: In the first novel, the Reverend Mother power of "other memory" was bestowed by a kind of "download" of all the memories of another Reverend Mother — only that Reverend Mother's memories, or the memories of previous Reverend Mothers she'd downloaded, were accessible. By the time of Children of Dune, "other memory" was a genetic phenomenon that allowed its possessor access to the memories of anybody in his or her past, male or female.
- Some difference was made between "Ancestral Memory" and "Other Memory". AM is awakened genetic memory, while OM is transferred genetic memory. The later books use OM as a catch-all for both.
- Other changes that might be considered a Retcon within the first 3 books included the appearance of Guild Navigators (at the end of Dune, they were perfectly normal-looking humans except for the blue-within-blue eyes that they hid behind contact lenses), and the factors that make a child "pre-born" ("No no no, Alia wasn't pre-born because she downloaded the dying Reverend Mother's memories while she was still in the womb, she was pre-born because her mom was addicted to the Spice!")
- 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.
- 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).
- Ridiculously Human Robot: Erasmus from the Legends of Dune trilogy (for those that admit he exists). He wasn't designed to be intelligent (although does look at least vaguely like a human - two arms, two legs etc) but ends up being far more so than any other robot, and this feat can't be replicated.
- He's also, somehow, a transexual that crossdresses and is implied to have homosexual encounters.
- 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).
- Robot War: The "Butlerian Jihad," which is referenced in the very first book but wasn't fleshed out in any detail, certainly not by the prequels. Led to a core tenet of civilization: "thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind"-- by which we mean, No Computers Allowed. Various schools of mental training, such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit, were founded to produce humans who can do what Pentiums did (and eventually went far beyond that).
- Of course it's never made clear (in the original series, which predates widespread computer use in Real Life anyway) how advanced the computer has to be before it's forbidden, nor really what precisely it is that Mentats do most of the time.
- 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.
- Royal Blood
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. The Honored Matres later on are this full-throttle.
- 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.
- Screw Destiny: This is the major theme of Children of Dune and God-Emperor of Dune novels. The main character's goal of the novels is the creation of what he termed, the 'Golden Path' - A future completely free of destiny with unlimited choices. The ironic thing is, to do this, Leto messes with peoples futures for the next 3000 years. This is also a direct subversion of the original novel, where one of the main themes were "you can't fight fate."
- Paul tries oh so hard to be able to screw destiny, and basically falls into a Despair Event Horizon when he fails. His biggest reasons for trying are the jihad made in his name when he ascends to the throne of emperor(with BILLIONS of people killed in his name) and the prophecies of the Bene Gesserit that predict that Duke Leto would be completely forgotten by history.
- 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.
- Or rather, past events have set up a collision of mutually exclusive forces, and the only place free will has in all that is in how these predestined events will be handled. Paul always refers to the Jihad as necessary, but he usually follows that up by saying that he at least chose the way with less killing.
- An important point of the early novels is that those that see the future can't see each other, or those directly involved with them. Much of the second novel involves a conspiracy that is kept from Paul by a Guild Navigator's own scrying. However, Leto II's foresight is so ungodly powerful that it doesn't have this problem... which is part of why he works to create things that CAN overcome his vision (and he'll only know he's done it when it kills him).
- 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. It takes Leto II almost four thousand years to break humanity free from the consequences of this.
- Send in the Clones: Duncan Idaho dies in the first novel, only to return over and over again first as a ghola, then as a ghola-clone. God-Emperor of Dune even has several Duncan gholas throughout the story, though all but one were played with through flashbacks and mentions.
- The Shill: Kevin J. Anderson does this, and quite publicly. His site, aptly named the "KJA Special Forces", asks members to post blogs, links, discussions, and reviews on online stores such as Amazon in support of both him and his work. Doing so can land you "points", and in exchange for those points you can "earn" prizes and money. Enough points can even earn you a Shout-Out in a future Dune book.
- 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's a Rush shout-out in "Hunters of Dune" with a familiar named philosopher reworking the lyrics to "Freewill" (pg. 427). Not so surprising, considering Anderson is a big fan of the band and has actually worked with drum god/lyricist Neil Peart before on a short story.
- There are at least two to Poul Anderson: an appendix to Dune mentions a biography of Alia written by "Pander Oulson"; and in God Emperor of Dune, Leto II asks Hwi Noree if she's familiar with the philosophy of Noah Arkwright, a philosopher/explorer mentioned (but apparently never actually appearing) in several of Anderson's stories.
- 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.
- 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?
- Silent Scapegoat: Leto II. Even the Bene Gesserit, thousands of years after Leto sacrifices himself, don't realize what it was he was trying to accomplish.
- 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.
- Social Darwinist: The Fremen and Sardaukar: by living on a Death World where merely surviving is a struggle, they have become the toughest and most effective soldiers in the known universe.
- Solid Gold Poop: Spice is formed via the excretions of the sand trout mixed with water.
- Sonic Stunner
- Space Is Cold: After Josef Venport spaces Arjen Gates, the latter is told to freeze almost instantly instead of turning into a bloody mess from Explosive Decompression. Just to hammer the Did Not Do the Research point home, the authors further state that the corpse is "petrified". Obviously, they don't understand the difference between turning to stone over millennia and simply freezing. Furthermore, the body stays frozen at room temperature when recovered.
- Space Jews - Literally, as of Chapterhouse. As much as the other major religions have shifted in 20,000 years, there are still people who observe Passover, speak ritual Hebrew, and have a conception of a nation of Israel. They managed to survive by first going into hiding, then pretending to be revivalists.
- 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.
- Spear Counterpart: The all-male Tleilaxu are eventually revealed to be this to the all-female Bene Gesserit (they also call themselves the Bene Tleilax).
- 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.
- Split Personality Takeover: Alia gets taken over by the memory-construct of her dead grandfather Baron Harkonnen. It doesn't end well.
- Advanced Face Dancers at the time of Heretics of Dune make a memory-print of their victim's mind and therefore mimic them perfectly. Too perfectly, as it turns out. Leave one in the job long enough and he forgets he's a Face Dancer.
- 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.
- Standard Time Units: Years are known as "Standard years", or SY, and are described as being about 20 hours less than the "so-called primitive year".
- Standard Sci Fi History: The background history of the Imperium tends to follow this trend. The Buterlian Jihad serves the role of World War III by resetting the political and technological situation. The Corrino-led Imperium serves as the First Empire, and the Paul/Leto II regimes as the Second Empire. It's one of the few examples in which the Second Empire follows up the first without an Interregnum. There is an Interregnum (referred to as "The Scattering"), but it occurs only after the collapse of the Second Empire.
- Starfish Aliens: The sandworms, which are gigantic (as in up-to-half-kilometer-long) wormlike creatures that live in the desert. They also have a larval form, which begin as microbial "sand plankton" that serve as food to the adults, and grow into a small roughly diamond-shaped form called sandtrout AKA "Little Makers". The sandtrout are later revealed to seal away all the water on the planet, which is highly toxic to the adult form, and secrete the precursors to the addictive and Psychic Powers-granting Spice, which triggers their transformation into the sandworm "Makers".
- They also inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out fresh oxygen, working as a substitute for the nearly non-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 LostOrganic Technology for terraforming planets (created a long time ago by humans, presumably).
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Chani. Though she dies relatively late in Dune Messiah.
- Super Detailed Fight Narration
- Super Soldiers: The Sardaukar, the original Fremen when organized, the Fish Speakers
- Leto II's Fish Speakers, an Amazon Brigade, become more feared than the Sardaukar.
- Super Speed: In Heretics of Dune, Miles Teg gets this power as a result of a botched interrogation — implied to be a result of the unique mechanics of the interrogation device unlocking a latent genetic talent. His speed also includes accelerated reflexes, slowed time perception, a form of Super Senses (explained as an amplification of his Mentat training), and massive boosts to his metabolic rate and the oxygen storage capacity of his blood to handle the increased energy demands. The effect also turns him into a Big Eater, which is played for both drama and laughs. Fortunately, he can turn the ability on or off at will.
- 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.
- This is inverted during and after Leto II's reign, as he bans shields within the Empire in order to force warfare to start evolving again. By the time of Heretics, ground and space combat are much, much deadlier as lasguns and even nastier weapons are in full use.
- Also inverted in Dune - 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.
- 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. As part of Leto II's 3,500-year breeding program, a Duncan Idaho ghola was introduced every few generations for the "wild" genes of the distant past.
- Ten Little Murder Victims: Suspicion briefly falls on Jessica as being a mole for the Harkonnens, though the Duke angrily discards such accusations.
- Terraform/Weather Control Machine: The sandworms managed to turn the once-lush and verdant Arrakis into a desert-world. Paul promises to transform Arrakis into a paradise through use of weather satellites, and makes good with signs of life and vegetation taking hold of the planet at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, his son Leto II realizes this is taking place much too quickly and will destabilize the universe's political and social infrastructure if the sandworms die out, so destroys the canals. He takes control of the program himself and over the next 3,500 years transforms Arrakis more steadily, only to return it to a desert world once again on his death.
- The Rabbi Did It
- The Starscream: Logno. Not that it does her much good, because Murbella kills her a few pages later.
- Theme Naming: (Nearly) all the Bene Gesserit have names of the form Something-us (Female Name) (Surname), which is slightly odd considering -us is a male suffix.
- They Were Holding You Back: What's done to Thufir Hawat.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Josef Venport to Arjen Gates.
- Too Dumb to Live: The head of the ecumenical council is taken in by Emperor Julius Corrino after the release of the Orange Catholic Bible causes mass rioting and hunting of said council. Then the Emperor's daughter catches the guy violating the Empress in the palace gardens. As a result, the entire council is publicly executed by the Emperor. Somehow, the guy himself manages to slip away in the confusion, although it's hinted that it was actually consentual, and that the Empress (whom the Emperor never invited to his bedchamber) helped him escape.
- Too Kinky to Torture: In the sequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, a group are trying to reawaken the memories of a ghola of the Baron Harkonnen, which is usually accomplished by pushing someone to breaking point with some great trauma. However, he proves Too Kinky to Torture and the only thing that eventually works is sensory deprivation.
- Totally Radical: In the Dune prequels there are things called 'Cymeks,' apearently trying to combine 'cyborg' and 'mech' with a Xtremely Kool Letter. Cybernetic and mechanical.
- To the Pain: Feyd-Rautha
- To Win Without Fighting: In Heretics. In the Backstory, Miles Teg was a famous Bene Gesserit military commander.
Teg's reputation was an almost universal thing throughout human society of this age. At the Battle of Markon, it had been enough for the enemy to know that Teg was there opposite them in person. They sued for terms.
- 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).
- Trilogy Creep: An interesting example. Dune was actually conceived as one long book, with the sequels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune fitting directly after the first. Messiah was fleshed out while writing Dune and eventually became its own novel, which due to its expansion then warranted Children to be expanded as well and also became its own book. God Emperor of Dune and the last two in the series, Heretics and Chapterhouse are genuine examples of a trilogy creep, though the fact that the story is now over 10,000 years past in the originals, it's fair to say that they're a trilogy of their own.
- Truth Serum: Verite, a will-destroying narcotic from the planet Ecaz that renders a person incapable of falsehood.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The Advanced Face Dancers against the Lost Tleilaxu, and then the Old Empire Tleilaxu in Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune.
- Two-Part Trilogy: Dune was originally conceived as one large masterwork, with the two sequels of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune entwined into the story. Considering the original is 412 pages, the second 222, and the third 592, they were obviously split. This creates an interesting case of the first book being easily stand-alone, while the two sequels are more closely connected but can still in a way also be stand-alone. They also allowed for God-Emperor of Dune, basically a midquel that set up the last two books in the series to be written. It's just kinda hard to say where Two-Part Trilogy begins and Trilogy Creep ends, or even what was intended to be a simple, honest trilogy.
- Ubermensch: 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 in the first book.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The first Dune game started as an adventure game, then became a strategy game halfway through.
- Unhappy Medium: Frank Herbert's Dune series. Paul Muad'Dib eventually discovers that having prescience is a trap, forcing you into a predetermined path. Thousands of years later, Darwi Odrade is in worse straits, since her knowledge of how dangerous this is predates the beginning of her own recurring prescient dream.
- Unnecessarily Large Interior: Paul's throne room on Arrakis in Dune Messiah is unnecessarily large for the sole purpose of intimidating his visitors.
- Unobtainium: The Spice.
- Unreliable Narrator: The Dune Encyclopedia is very much an example of this. It is framed as an encyclopedia within the Dune universe, purportedly 5,000 years after the events of the first novel and after the historical record has been greatly altered or lost. Several of the entries either contradict or give a different perspective on the events of the novels. It is up to the reader to determine what account, if any, "really" happened.
- Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Leto II and Ghanima
- 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.
- "Beefswelling" is used as a rather... unfortunate euphemism for "erection" in Children of Dune.
- Unusual User Interface: The heavily-mutated Guild Navigators interfacing with space-time to plot the course the navigating machines will take.
- Up to Eleven: In Dune Messiah, Alia Atreides engages in a sparring match with a mechanical swordsman, which gets faster, and creates more lights (which reflect off its prismatic body to distract its opponent) every time it is struck. Its noted that the greatest swordsmen in the universe can strike it seven times before it becomes too fast to safely continue. Alia manages to strike it eleven times, before Paul stops her by throwing a knife at the off switch, which is on the machine.
- 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.
- 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.
- Villain Ball / Contractual Genre Blindness: Done deliberately by the Tleilaxu. They mean to leave exploitable loopholes in their schemes; seeing whether or not their victim can spot it is what makes things fun for them.
- It's not that it makes it fun for the Tleilaxu, it's stated that perfection can only come from God, and therefore a person attempting perfection would be blaspheming, so therefore they deliberately include flaws in everything they create, just to make sure.
- Villain Protagonist: The Baron during his POV segments. You so want him dead for his crimes and perversions, but while waiting for his comeuppance, you can't help but admire his brilliant political maneuvering and epic-level Magnificent Bastardy.
- 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.
- Beast Rabban is portrayed as this to an even greater degree in the 1984 film.
- 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.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Face Dancers
- 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.
- 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.
- The War to End All Wars: Children of Dune mentions Kralizec; in the oldest Fremen beliefs it is the Typhoon Struggle, the war at the end of the universe. It actually happens in Sandworms of Dune.
- Weaponized Exhaust: The Emperor is both enraged and terrified when he hears that his Sardaukar only just barely escaped with their lives by doing this against a settlement of women, children, and elderly.
- We Have Reserves: The Butlerian fanatics use no tactics and simply rush into the fray, most wielding nothing more than clubs. If their numbers are high enough, they might win but at great cost. During the space battle between the Butlerian and Venhold forces, Manford Torondo told mentat Gilbertus Albans to assume all his forces (200+ ships with thousands of people) are expendable. This was the only they manage to win that battle despite numerical superiority.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Justified in that after the Butlerian Jihad, complex autonomous machines are forbidden for millennia. Even regular old calculators are replaced by (highly-paid) people known as Mentats.
- Their justification for slavery in the prequels is flimsy at best. They primarily enslave Zensunnis and Zenshiites, as they claim their ancestors refused to fight the Thinking Machines.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: The Bene Gesserit Question Book in Dune: House Harkonnen:
What is this Love that so many speak of with such apparent familiarity? Do they truly comprehend how unattainable it is? Are there not as many definitions of Love as there are stars in the universe?
- 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.
- World of Badass : Arrakis. Oh, God... Arrakis.
- And arguably the main characters of each book.
- Hell, the whole Duniverse is built on this trope !
- World Building: 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.
- Worm Sign: The Trope Namer.
- Xanatos Gambit: Everyone. Some work, some don't. See below.
- The Bene Tleilaxu create a ghola (reanimated cloned corpse for those who haven't read this or seen any of the films) of Duncan Idaho to assassinate Paul Muad'Dib. Either he would kill Paul or he would regain all of his memories, something the Bene Tleliaxu have been trying to figure out for ages.
- The Bene Tleilax again, Up to Eleven, since they've spent millennia constructing the image of evil stupidity to hide the fact that they're secret Zensufis (not to be mistaken for Zensunnis, from whom the Fremen descend — Heretics is most explicit about this).
- Xanatos Roulette: More like a Xanatos Casino because Leto II goes through four millennia of jihad after jihad, taking a totalitarian grip on all matters secular and religious, controlling the universal economy with his stranglehold on the spice, and carefully manipulating the bloodline stemming from his sister through the ages, all to get Duncan Idaho in bed with his great-great-great-great-great-great^? grand niece (and subsequently create prescient-immune people).
- The Bene Gesserit are also big on the Xanatos 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.
- 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 Can See Me?: The Honored Matres get a nasty surprise when Miles Teg pinpoints and eliminates all their supposedly undetectable no-ships in the final battle.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Fremen can challenge each other to duels to the death, with the winner being entitled to the loser's water and their wife. This extends to the responsibility for caring for the widow and her children. Also, any Honored Matre who kills the Great Honored Matre becomes Great Honored Matre herself.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen has Yueh's wife kidnapped to coerce him into betraying the house of Atreides, then fulfills his promise to "reunite" the two of them.
- You Shall Not Pass: In the original Dune book, Duncan Idaho sacrifices himself to hold off a flood of Imperial Sardaukar elite troopers, while Paul Atreides makes good his escape. In the sequel, it's revealed that while he did indeed die, the surviving Sardaukar were so impressed with his Implausible Fencing Powers 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. Luckily, he saw it coming and prepared accordingly. That he largely fails is a stroke of terribly bad luck.
Adaptations with their own trope pages include:
Other adaptations provide examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The Lynch film introduced many elements that influenced later works in the Dune universe. Examples include the Mentat Mantra ("It is by will alone that I set my mind in motion" sounds similar enough to the Litany Against Fear that it feels like a line from the book, but never appeared there), the Atreides research into sound-based weaponry (again, never mentioned in the book. Sonic tanks and the like have turned up in subsequent works), heart-plugs (only briefly mentioned in the book as some sort of filtration device, but turned into something entirely more sinister by the Harkonen), the Baron Harkonen's skin conditions (never mentioned in the book, the Baron is only ever described as morbidly obese with no references made to skin problems), and many elements of the film's "look and feel" are aped by the works that followed (It's very rare to see the Emperor depicted without a neat little beard these days, for example, and Bene Gesserit are often depicted as bald).
- Alan Smithee: David Lynch had his name removed from the extended cut of the '84 film, replacing it with this. And then had his script credit changed to "Judas Booth", in case anyone didn't get the message.
- All-Encompassing Mantle: In the Sci-Fi miniseries, the Spacing Guild representatives wear purple velvet-ish capes. However, these just keep going up and up into giant purple-velvetish cones.
- Ascended Extra: Princess Irulan gets an expanded role in the Sci Fi miniseries.
- A Storm Is Coming: "A storm is coming... our storm." — Dune (1984 Version).
- Badass Abnormal: Leto II in the Children of Dune miniseries. Bene Gesserit training and Voice, preternatural experience, intelligence, and confidence, and eventually the ability to survive unprotected in an Arrakis sandstorm and command worms. Basically everything you would expect as a precursor to becoming God-Emperor.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: Several quotes from the original film are widely assumed to be from the novel:
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Thufir Hawat and Piter deVries in the '84 Lynch film have big bushy eyebrows, possibly to denote them as Mentats.
- 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.
- Blasphemous Boast: "Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen."
- 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.
- Brother-Sister Incest/Twincest: The Children of Dune miniseries has strong incestuous overtones between Leto II and his sister Ghanima.
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: The miniseries visualized the Eyes of the Ibad as glowing. This was toned down in the Children of Dune sequel.
- 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.
- Character Tics: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in the Dune miniseries had a distinctive habit of rubbing his right temple when he was frustrated. Later on, Paul Atreides does this himself, demonstrating the family connection between the two. In Children of Dune, we see Alia performing the gesture when she hears the Baron's voice in her head.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Sci-Fi Channel's miniseries portrays the Harkonnens in red, the Imperial Corrinos are purple and gold (likely a reference to the purple togas worn by Roman emperors), the Atreides primarily in tan and white, Fremen in brown and dark orange, and Spacing Guild members in black.
- Compelling Voice: In the film and the mini-series, the Voice is clearly heard as the Voice of the Legion. In the film, it can be heard playing over and over in the target's mind, forcing him to comply.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: In the 1984 film, Thufir Hawat is required to milk a cat for the antidote to the poison he has been administered by the Harkonnens.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: The "gift of moisture" scene appears in adaptations with variations. In the mini-series, it is Paul who thanks Stilgar for the gift. In the extended cut of the film, Liet is the one who spits, and Leto himself recognizes its value.
- Creator Cameo: Lynch, as the radio operator on the spice harvester in the movie.
- Creepy Uncle:
- The 1984 movie plays up the Ho Yay between Harkonnen and Feyd Rautha even more than the books.
- The miniseries takes this further, and has the Baron rapturously watching a naked Feyd Rautha emerging from a swimming pool.
- Dawson Casting:
- Sting and Kyle MacLachlan, both in their late 20s, played the 15 year olds Paul Atreides and Feyd Rautha in the '84 film.
- The miniseries also did this, and in Children of Dune the nine-years-old Leto II and Ghanima were played by mid-twenties actors, and the miniseries twins' ages were upgraded to nearly 18 for this very reason.
- Dead Star Walking: William Hurt gets top billing as Duke Leto Atreides in Sci Fi Channel's Dune Miniseries, despite his character getting killed at the end of part one (of three). Susan Sarandon as Wensicia does as well in the sequel, though they did elevate her character more from the books.
- Death Wail: Inverted in the 2000 film, where Rabban does this when he realises that he is about to become the metaphorical ex beloved ally.
- Deleted Scene: Several scenes were cut from the theatrical release of the 1984 film and later restored to the extended versions, which is part of why they're so much longer. Of these, one of the most significant is the death of Thufir Hawat, a powerful scene in which Paul separates Thufir from the captured Harkonnen and offers him his life, only for Thufir to commit suicide rather than kill Paul. This omission creates something of a What Happened to the Mouse? moment in the original cut, as Thufir--one of the film's more important characters--can clearly be seen standing among the prisoners (between the Emperor and Gaius Mohiam) in one shot, and simply vanishes in the next; his disappearance is never explained.
- Did You Actually Believe?: The '84 film has a heroic example, where Thufir Hawat (the Atreides mentat) betrays the Emperor and Harkonnens by refusing to kill Paul:
Thufir Hawat: [He turns to Feyd and the Emperor]... Did you actually believe, even for a moment, that I would fail my Duke twice? [He commits suicide]
- Distant Reaction Shot: The mini-series has a dead-serious one of these with a spice-blow right after Liet-Kynes realizes that he's right on top of it and begins screaming, "I am a desert creat-"
- Driven to Madness: Subverted in the Sci Fi miniseries when one of the Cast-out attempts to drive Leto Atreides II insane with too much spice consumption. He does have some "episodes"...but then becomes completely immune to the effects of spice and gains some superpowers into the bargain.
- Elite Mooks: Sardaukar elite troopers.
- Ermine Cape Effect: Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV in the miniseries wears very elaborate outfits even when he's just working in his study or meeting with his advisors. This is different from the book, where Shaddam IV wore an ordinary Sardaukar officer's uniform with no decoration other than a silver helmet even at official state functions. This was stated to not be the case throughout history, being a personal affectation of Shaddam's which symbolized his reliance on the Sardaukar to maintain power.
- Evil Redhead: Almost all of the Harkonnens we see in the Lynch movie have red or orange hair.
- Exotic Entree: The Lynch film has an inexplicable throwaway scene of Rabban crushing a live mouse in a small device and then drinking the resulting mess with a straw.
- Fisher King: Lynch's '84 film has Paul Atreides taking up his place as the Kwisatz Haderach, at which point Arrakis, a planet defined by its absurd dearth of water, is consumed by a torrential downpour of rain. In the book, it took years of Terraforming.
- Fish People: Barlowe's Guild To Extraterrestrials depicts a Guild Steersman as looking like this.
- Flash Step: How "the weirding way of fighting" is depicted in the Dune and Children of Dune miniseries.
- Happy Rain: When Muad'Dib makes the rain fall at last, the Fremen rejoice at the end of the '84 Lynch film.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Frank Herbert's Dune, the miniseries.
- Inner Monologue: Taken to almost ridiculous levels in the 1984 movie. A great deal of the exposition and background information is given to the audience through this.
- I Was Never Here: The Guild Navigator from Lynch's movie, after telling the Emperor to kill Paul Atreides. "I did not say this, I am not here."
- Kick the Dog: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in the '84 film when he pulls the heart plug from one of his slaves and then does something too gruesome to describe here.
- Large Ham. Plenty of them in the 1984 film, including:
- Kenneth McMillan as Baron Harkonnen.
I'M ALIVE!!!! I'M ALIVE!!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
- Sting as Feyd Rautha.
I WILL KILL HIM!!!!!
- Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck.
Not in the mood? Mood's a thing for cattle and loveplay, not fighting!
- Ian McNiece as the Baron in the miniseries.
Atreides is DEAD! And Harkonnen LIVES!
- Steven Berkoff as Stilgar in Children of Dune.
Then I SAY unto you, send MEN. to summon. WORRRMS!
- Miniseries: 2000 Sci Fi. Adapted the first three books, the first titled Frank Herbert's Dune and the second Children of Dune (combined with the second book, Dune Messiah).
- Monochromatic Eyes/Technicolor Eyes: A result of high-level Spice addiction, when enough ingestion saturates the blood stream and stains the eyes. Turned into Glowing Eyes of Doom in both live-action adaptations.
- Mr. Fanservice: Feyd's utterly gratuitous speedo scene in the film. Sting's running five miles a day really paid off.
- Nice Hat: In the Sci Fi Channel's production of Dune there were several Nice Hats, mostly notably the Bene Gesserit, seen here (the hat is the thing extending back from her head).
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The final scene of the 1984 film shows Paul using his incredible psychic powers as the Kwisatz Haderach to make it rain on Arrakis for the first time in eons. However, the film omits a key plot point from the novel: water is highly toxic to sandworms, which are the source of the spice. In the novel, Paul instead blackmails the Spacing Guild into surrendering to him; he threatens to pour the Water of Life into a pre-spice mass, which would cause an extinction chain reaction that would destroy all spice production forever and throw the galaxy into a new dark age. Had Paul actually made it rain in the novel, it would have obliterated the life cycle on Arrakis, having the same net effect; in fact, it isn't until Children of Dune that the disruption of the ecological balance by the terraforming effort is fully explored. The film completely ignores this.
- Non Actor Vehicle: The Movie by David Lynch, with Sting.
- Notable Original Music: Brian Eno and Toto's score for the David Lynch film.
- Oh Crap:
- In the 2000 Dune miniseries, the Fremen have a four-part opening to their assault on Arrakeen. First, they blow up the Shield Wall with a nuke. This is followed by a massive sandstorm, a squadron of ornithopters, and four sandworms carrying Fremen warriors. In between each part, we shift back to the Imperial Palace to see the Oh Crap reactions on everyone's faces.
- Also satisfying is the expression on Rabban's face when he sees that he is surrounded by an immense, eerily silent mob of the very people he had enjoyed brutally oppressing. The fact that he just drops his knife and lets out a cry of abject despair as the mob swarms in and guts him is icing on the cake.
- To make this one worse, is the Hope Spot Rabban has when he sees Stilgar there with a gun, and you can almost sense that he hopes for a quick death by gunshot... only for Stilgar to turn and walk away, leaving him at the mercy of a hundred villagers and fremen who are hardly going to give him such mercy. In other words, Oh Crap, Hope Spot, then double Oh Crap.
- And the expression on the Baron's face when he realizes that a little girl had just poisoned him. Him, the Baron of Geidi Prime, brought low by a four-years-old girl. Oh Crap indeed.
- Opening Monologue: "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year ten-thousand, one-ninety-one..." Narration was used to insane levels in the 1984 Dune movie, although being Dune it needed it, and Irulan narrates the book anyway.
- People of Hair Color: In the movie, nearly all of the Harkonnens have orange hair.
- Pimped-Out Dress: The 1984 movie has dresses based on renaissance gowns.
- Precious Puppy: In the book, there is no mention of a specific dog, but the 1984 film showed several pugs (owned by the Atreides and Corrinos).
- Psychic Nosebleed: The 80s movie version of Dune has a scene in which several Bene Gesserit cry blood when Paul drinks the Water of Life. Although the movie doesn't make it clear, those who read the books will know that all of them are his relatives, and the identity of two of them makes guessing the significance of the third reasonably easy.
- Reality Warper: Contrary to the books, the Guild Navigators in the '84 Lynch film fold spacetime with their minds.
- Re Cut: The 1984 theatrical version was not direct or David Lynch's Director's Cut--the producers not only made him cut a lot of material from his script, they also cut a lot of scenes that had been shot out as well--but it's the only one he's very happy with. Then in 1988, an Extended Cut was made to be shown on TV, referred to as The Alan Smithee Cut. It used deleted scenes, but reused more footage than Battlestar Galactica. David Lynch hated it, demanding his name be removed from the writer and director credit. Then, in 1992, a San Francisco TV station made a mix of a cut between the original theatrical version of the movie and the Alan Smithee cut, which kept the new scenes but also put the violence back in. Finally, a cut known as the Extended Edition came out on DVD, which was a 177-minute edit of the Alan Smithee version. David Lynch is now a bitter arthouse director. Go figure.
- Training Montage: a short one is used in The Movie to show Paul Muad'dib training the Fremen to fight against the Harkonnens.
- Truer to the Text: The 2000 miniseries takes some liberties with Frank Herbert's book, but compared to the 1984 David Lynch movie, its fidelity is nigh-slavish.
- Women Are Wiser: The reason the Fish Speakers are an all woman force is because of Leto's assertion that men, conditioned to violence and deprived of an outlet, will turn on their own populace; while women, deprived of that outlet, will turn to maternal instincts. Leto understands this because he has both male and female Genetic Memory. Thousands of years after Leto, the remnants of the Fish Speakers (and their ultimate descendants, the Honored Matres), have degenerated into megalomania and bureaucratic corruption.
- Words Can Break My Bones: The 1984 film turns the Weirding Way into a martial art and turns "My name is a killing word" into something much more literal.
- (as in John Wilkes; a name he has signed at least once as an autograph at the request of a fan)
- a Meaningful Name, when you consider that "-wright" means "maker" or "builder."