Dune (franchise)

Dune is a science fiction media franchise that originated with the 1965 novel Dune by Frank Herbert and has continued to add new publications up to 2017. Dune is frequently cited as the best selling science fiction novel in history. It won the 1966 Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel, and was later adapted into a 1984 film and a 2000 television miniseries. Herbert wrote five sequels, and the first two were presented as a miniseries in 2003. The Dune universe has also inspired some traditional games and a series of video games. Since 2009, the names of planets from the Dune novels have been adopted for the real-world nomenclature of plains and other features on Saturn's moon Titan.
Frank Herbert died in 1986. Beginning in 1999, his son Brian Herbert and science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson published a number of prequel novels, as well as two which complete the original Dune series, partially based on Frank Herbert's notes discovered a decade after his death.
The political, scientific, and social fictional setting of Herbert's novels and derivative works is known as the Dune universe, or Duniverse. Set tens of thousands of years in the future, the saga chronicles a civilization which has banned all forms of computers, or "thinking machines", but has also developed advanced technology and mental and physical abilities. Vital to this empire is the harsh desert planet Arrakis, only known source of the spice melange, the most valuable substance in the universe.
Due to the similarities between some of Herbert's terms and ideas and actual words and concepts in the Arabic language, as well as the series' "Islamic undertones" and themes, a Middle Eastern influence on Herbert's works has been noted repeatedly.


The Dune saga is set thousands of years in humanity's future. Faster-than-light travel has been developed, and humans have colonized a vast number of worlds, but a great reaction against technology has resulted in a ban on any kind of “thinking machine”, with creation or possession punished by immediate death. Despite this prohibition, humanity continues to develop and advance other branches of technology, including ESP and instruments of war. At the time of the first book's setting, humanity has formed a feudal interstellar empire known as the Imperium, run by several Great Houses that oversee various planets. Of key interest is the planet Arrakis, known as "Dune". Entirely a desert planet with nearly no precipitation, it is the only planet where a special life-extending drug, melange or "the spice", can be found. In addition to life-extension, melange enhances the mental capacity of humans: it enables humans known as Mentats to perform complex calculations without aid of computers, allows for the mutated Spacing Guild pilots to fold space and travel the distances between planets, and creates the visions and powers of the Bene Gesserit, a religious group that secretly seeks to control the direction humanity takes. Melange is difficult to acquire not only due to the harsh environment of Arrakis, but also the presence of giant sandworms that are drawn towards any movement on the sands of the planet. Control of Arrakis, its spice production, and the impact on humanity's development become the centerpoints of a thousand-years long conflict that develops through the series.

Development and publication

Original series

Herbert's interest in the desert setting of Dune and its challenges is attributed to research he began in 1957 for a never-completed article about a United States Department of Agriculture experiment using poverty grasses to stabilize damaging sand dunes, which could "swallow whole cities, lakes, rivers, and highways." Herbert spent the next five years researching, writing, and revising what would eventually become the novel Dune, which was initially serialized in Analog magazine as two shorter works, Dune World and The Prophet of Dune. The serialized version was expanded and reworked—and rejected by more than 20 publishers—before being published by Chilton Books, a printing house best known for its auto repair manuals, in 1965. Dune won the 1966 Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. The novel has been translated into dozens of languages, and has sold almost 20 million copies. Dune has been regularly cited as one of the world's best-selling science fiction novels.
A sequel, Dune Messiah, followed in 1969. A third novel called Children of Dune was published in 1976, and was later nominated for a Hugo Award. Children of Dune became the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field. Parts of these two first sequels were written before Dune was completed.
In 1978, Berkley Books published The Illustrated Dune, an edition of Dune with 33 black-and-white sketch drawings and eight full color paintings by John Schoenherr, who had done the cover art for the first printing of Dune and had illustrated the Analog serializations of Dune and Children of Dune. Herbert wrote in 1980 that though he had not spoken to Schoenherr prior to the artist creating the paintings, the author was surprised to find that the artwork appeared exactly as he had imagined its fictional subjects, including sandworms, Baron Harkonnen and the Sardaukar.
In 1981, Herbert released God Emperor of Dune, which was ranked as the #11 hardcover fiction best seller of 1981 by Publishers Weekly. Heretics of Dune, the 1984 New York Times #13 hardcover fiction best seller, was followed in quick succession by in 1985. Herbert died on February 11, 1986.

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Over a decade after Herbert's death, his son Brian Herbert enlisted science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson to coauthor a trilogy of Dune prequel novels that would come to be called the Prelude to Dune series. Using some of Frank Herbert's own notes, the duo wrote ', ', and '. The series is set in the years immediately prior to the events of Dune. This was followed with a second prequel trilogy called the Legends of Dune, consisting of ', ', and '. These were set during the Butlerian Jihad, an element of backstory which Frank Herbert had previously established as occurring 10,000 years before the events chronicled in Dune. Herbert's brief description of humanity's "crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots" was expanded by Brian Herbert and Anderson in this series.
With an outline for the first book of Prelude to Dune series written and a proposal sent to publishers, Brian Herbert had discovered his father's 30-page outline for a sequel to Chapterhouse Dune which the elder Herbert had dubbed Dune 7. After publishing their six prequel novels, Brian Herbert and Anderson released Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, which complete the original series and wrap up storylines that began with Frank Herbert's Heretics of Dune.
The Heroes of Dune series followed, focusing on the time periods between Frank Herbert's original novels. The first book, Paul of Dune, was published in 2008, followed by The Winds of Dune in 2009. The next two installments were to be called The Throne of Dune and Leto of Dune, but were postponed due to plans to publish a trilogy about "the formation of the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats, the Suk Doctors, the Spacing Guild and the Navigators, as well as the solidifying of the Corrino imperium." Sisterhood of Dune was released in 2012, followed by Mentats of Dune in 2014. In a 2009 interview, Anderson stated that the third and final novel would be titled The Swordmasters of Dune, but by 2014 it had been renamed Navigators of Dune and was published in 2016.
Jon Michaud of The New Yorker wrote in 2013, "The conversion of Dune into a franchise, while pleasing readers and earning royalties for the Herbert estate, has gone a long way toward obscuring the power of the original novel."

Short stories

In 1985, Frank Herbert wrote an illustrated short work called "The Road to Dune", set sometime between the events of Dune and Dune Messiah. Published in Herbert's short story collection Eye, it takes the form of a guidebook for pilgrims to Arrakis and features images of some of the devices and characters presented in the novels.
Brian Herbert and Anderson have written several Dune short stories, most of them related to and published around their novels. The stories include "", "", "", "", "", and "".

By other authors

In 1984, Herbert's publisher Putnam released The Dune Encyclopedia under its Berkley Books imprint. Approved by Herbert but not written by him, this collection of essays by 43 contributors describes in invented detail many aspects of the Dune universe not found in the novels themselves. Herbert's estate later confirmed its non-canon status after Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson had begun publishing prequel novels that directly contradict The Dune Encyclopedia.
The 1984 Dune film spawned The Dune Storybook, a novelization written by Joan D. Vinge, and The Making of Dune, a making-of book by Ed Naha. In November 1984, Pocket Books published National Lampoon's Doon by Ellis Weiner, a parody novel.
In May 1992, Ace Books published Songs of Muad'dib, a collection of Dune-related poems written by Frank Herbert and edited by his son Brian. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson released The Road to Dune on August 11, 2005. The book contains a novelette called Spice Planet, a number of the Brian Herbert/Anderson short stories, and letters and unused chapters written by Frank Herbert.
In the 1999 gazetteer The Stars and Planets of Frank Herbert's Dune: A Gazetteer, Joseph M. Daniels estimates the distance from Earth in light-years for many Dune planets, based on the real-life distances of the stars and planetary systems referenced by Frank Herbert when discussing these planets in the glossary of the novel Dune. Though Herbert used the names of actual stars and planetary systems in his work, there is no documentation supporting or disputing the assumption that he was, in fact, referring to these real-life stars or systems. The Science of Dune analyzes and deconstructs many of Herbert's concepts and fictional inventions.

In other media


In 1973, director and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky set about creating a cinematic adaptation, taking over the option that producer Arthur P. Jacobs had put on the film adaptation rights in 1973 shortly before his death. Jodorowsky approached, among others, Peter Gabriel, the prog rock groups Pink Floyd and Magma for some of the music, artists H. R. Giger and Jean Giraud for set and character design, Dan O'Bannon and Douglas Trumbull for special effects. Jodorowsky cast his own son Brontis Jodorowsky in the lead role of Paul Atreides, Salvador Dalí as Shaddam IV, Padishah Emperor, Amanda Lear as Princess Irulan, Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Gloria Swanson as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, David Carradine as Duke Leto Atreides, Geraldine Chaplin as Lady Jessica, Alain Delon as Duncan Idaho, Hervé Villechaize as Gurney Halleck, Udo Kier as Piter De Vries, and Mick Jagger as Feyd-Rautha. He began writing a vast script, so expansive that the movie was thought to potentially last 14 hours. The project, nevertheless, was scrapped for financial reasons, leaving Jodorowsky's unfinished handwritten script in a notebook that was partially published as a facsimile in 2012 as part of the 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts catalog of the 13th documenta exhibition. Frank Pavich directed a documentary about this unrealized project entitled Jodorowsky's Dune, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in May 2013, and was released theatrically in March 2014.
In 1984, Dino De Laurentiis and Universal Pictures released Dune, a feature film adaptation of the novel by director and writer David Lynch. Although a commercial and critical failure upon release, Frank Herbert himself was reportedly pleased with the movie, as it stayed more faithful to the book than earlier movie adaptation attempts, although he had his reservations on its failures at the time, citing the lack of "imagination" in its marketing and estimated costs, and some of the filmmaker's production techniques.
In 2008, Paramount Pictures announced that they had a new feature film adaptation of Dune in development with Peter Berg set to direct; Berg dropped out of the project in October 2009, and director Pierre Morel was signed in January 2010. Paramount dropped the project in March 2011.
In November 2016, Legendary Entertainment acquired the film and TV rights for Dune. Variety reported in December 2016 that Denis Villeneuve was in negotiations to direct the project, which was confirmed in February 2017. In early 2018, Villeneuve stated that his goal was to adapt the novel into a two-part film series. He said in May 2018 that the first draft of the script had been finished. Villeneuve said, "Most of the main ideas of Star Wars are coming from Dune so it's going to be a challenge to this. The ambition is to do the Star Wars movie I never saw. In a way, it's Star Wars for adults." In July 2018, Brian Herbert confirmed that the latest draft of the screenplay covered "approximately half of the novel Dune." Timothée Chalamet is to play Paul Atreides. Greig Fraser joined the project as cinematographer in December 2018. In September 2018, it was reported that Rebecca Ferguson was in talks to play Jessica Atreides. In January 2019, Dave Bautista and Stellan Skarsgård joined the production, playing Glossu Rabban and Vladimir Harkonnen, respectively. It was reported later that month that Charlotte Rampling had been cast as Reverend Mother Mohiam, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto, Zendaya as Chani, and Javier Bardem as Stilgar. In February 2019, Josh Brolin was cast as Gurney Halleck, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, and David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries. Filming began March 18, 2019, and the film was shot on location in Budapest, Hungary and Jordan. Warner Bros. will distribute the film, which will be released on December 18, 2020.


premiered a three-part miniseries adaptation called Frank Herbert's Dune on December 3, 2000. Its March 16, 2003 sequel, Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, combined both Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. As of 2004, both miniseries were two of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on Syfy. Frank Herbert's Dune won two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2001, for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie and Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. The miniseries was also nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. Frank Herbert's Children of Dune won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special in 2003. The miniseries was also nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie, and Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie.
In June 2019 it was announced that Legendary Television will be producing a spin-off television series, Dune: The Sisterhood, for WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service, HBO Max. The series will focus on the Bene Gesserit and serve as a prequel to the 2020 film. Villeneuve will direct the series' pilot with Jon Spaihts writing the screenplay, and both will serve as executive producers alongside Brian Herbert. Though he initially served as showrunner, on November 5, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Spaihts had stepped down from this position to focus more on the sequel to the 2020 film.

Comics and graphic novels

On December 1, 1984, Marvel Comics and Berkley published Dune: The Official Comic Book, a comic adaptation of David Lynch's film Dune. Marvel Super Special #36: Dune featuring an adaptation of the film by writer Ralph Macchio and artist Bill Sienkiewicz was released on April 1, 1985, as well as a three-issue limited comic series from Marvel entitled Dune from April to June 1985.
In January 2020, Entertainment Weekly reported that Abrams Books was developing a three-part graphic novel adaptation of Dune, which will be the first time the novel has been published in this format. The graphic novel will be written by Brian Herbert and Anderson and illustrated by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín, with covers by Bill Sienkiewicz. In May 2020, Boom! Studios was announced to have acquired the comic and graphic novel rights to the 1999 prequel novel , with the intent of doing a 12-issue comic adaptation written by the original authors Brian Herbert and Anderson.


Soundtrack albums have been released for the 1984 film, the 2000 TV miniseries, and the 2003 Children of Dune miniseries, as well as the 1992 video game, the 2001 computer game Emperor: Battle for Dune, and select tracks from the entire series of Dune video games.



A line of Dune action figures from toy company LJN was released to lackluster sales in 1984. Styled after David Lynch's film, the collection featured figures of Paul Atreides, Baron Harkonnen, Feyd, Rabban, Stilgar, and a Sardaukar warrior, plus a poseable sandworm, several vehicles and weapons, and a set of View-Master stereoscope reels. Figures of Gurney and Lady Jessica previewed in LJN's catalog were never produced. In 2006, SOTA Toys produced a Baron Harkonnen action figure for their "Now Playing Presents" line. In October 2019, Funko announced a "Dune Classic" line of POP! vinyl figures, the first of which are Paul in a stillsuit and Feyd in a blue jumpsuit, styled after Lynch's film. An alternate version of Feyd in his blue loincloth was released for the 2019 New York Comic Con.


The board game Dune was released by Avalon Hill in 1979, followed by a Parker Brothers game Dune in 1984. A 1997 collectible card game called Dune was followed by the role-playing game ' in 2000. The 1979 Avalon Hill game was republished by Gale Force Nine in 2019.
To date, there have been five licensed Dune computer and video games released. The first was Dune from Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive. Another game developed at the same time, Westwood Studios' Dune II, is generally credited for popularizing and setting the template for the real-time strategy genre of computer games. Dune II is considered to be among the most influential video games of all time.
Dune 2000 is a remake of Dune II from Intelligent Games/Westwood Studios/Virgin Interactive. Its sequel was the 3D video game
' by Intelligent Games/Westwood Studios/Electronic Arts. The 3D game Frank Herbert's Dune by Cryo Interactive/DreamCatcher Interactive is based on the 2000 Sci Fi Channel miniseries of the same name.
On February 26, 2019, Funcom announced that it was entering into an exclusive partnership with Legendary Entertainment to develop games related to the upcoming Dune films.

Themes and influences

The Dune series is a landmark of soft science fiction. Herbert deliberately suppressed technology in his Dune universe so he could address the politics of humanity, rather than the future of humanity's technology. Dune considers the way humans and their institutions might change over time. Jon Michaud of The New Yorker called the originating novel Dune "an epic of political betrayal, ecological brinkmanship, and messianic deliverance." Director John Harrison, who adapted Dune for Syfy's 2000 miniseries, called the novel a universal and timeless reflection of "the human condition and its moral dilemmas", and said:
Novelist Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert's son and biographer, explained that "Frank Herbert drew parallels, used spectacular metaphors, and extrapolated present conditions into world systems that seem entirely alien at first blush. But close examination reveals they aren't so different from systems we know". He wrote that the invaluable drug melange "represents, among other things, the finite resource of oil". Michaud explained, "Imagine a substance with the combined worldwide value of cocaine and petroleum and you will have some idea of the power of melange." Each chapter of Dune begins with an epigraph excerpted from the fictional writings of the character Princess Irulan. In forms such as diary entries, historical commentary, biography, quotations and philosophy, these writings set tone and provide exposition, context, and other details intended by Herbert to enhance understanding of his complex fictional universe and themes.
Michaud wrote in 2013, "With daily reminders of the intensifying effects of global warming, the spectre of a worldwide water shortage, and continued political upheaval in the oil-rich Middle East, it is possible that Dune is even more relevant now than when it was first published." Praising Herbert's "clever authorial decision" to excise robots and computers from his fictional universe, he suggested that "This de-emphasis on technology throws the focus back on people. It also allows for the presence of a religious mysticism uncommon in science fiction."

Environmentalism and ecology

The originating novel Dune has been called the "first planetary ecology novel on a grand scale". After the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, science fiction writers began treating the subject of ecological change and its consequences. Dune responded in 1965 with its complex descriptions of life on Arrakis, from giant sandworms to smaller, mouse-like life forms adapted to live with limited water. Dune was followed in its creation of complex and unique ecologies by other science fiction books such as A Door into Ocean and Red Mars. Environmentalists have pointed out that Dune popularity as a novel depicting a planet as a complex, almost living, thing, in combination with the first images of Earth from space being published in the same time period, strongly influenced environmental movements such as the establishment of the international Earth Day.

Declining empires

Lorenzo DiTommaso compared Dune portrayal of the downfall of a galactic empire to Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which argues that Christianity allied with the profligacy of the Roman elite led to the fall of Ancient Rome. In "History and Historical Effect in Frank Herbert's Dune", DiTommaso outlines similarities between the two works by highlighting the excesses of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV on his home planet of Kaitain and of the Baron Harkonnen in his palace. The Emperor loses his effectiveness as a ruler through an excess of ceremony and pomp. The hairdressers and attendants he brings with him to Arrakis are even referred to as "parasites". The Baron Harkonnen is similarly corrupt, materially indulgent, and a sexual degenerate. Gibbon's Decline and Fall partly blames the fall of Rome on the rise of Christianity. Gibbon claimed that this exotic import from a conquered province weakened the soldiers of Rome and left it open to attack. Similarly, the Emperor's Sardaukar fighters are little match for the Fremen of Arrakis because of the Sardaukar's overconfidence and the Fremen's capacity for self-sacrifice. The Fremen put the community before themselves in every instance, while the world outside wallows in luxury at the expense of others. The decline and long peace of the Empire sets the stage for revolution and renewal by genetic mixing of successful and unsuccessful groups through war, a process culminating in the Jihad led by Paul Atreides, described by Herbert as depicting "war as a collective orgasm". These themes reappear in God Emperor of Dune Scattering and Leto II's all-female Fish Speaker army.


Brian Herbert wrote that "Dune is a modern-day conglomeration of familiar myths, a tale in which great sandworms guard a precious treasure of melange... resembles the myth described by an unknown English poet in Beowulf, the compelling tale of a fearsome fire dragon who guarded a great treasure hoard in a lair under cliffs".
Paul's rise to superhuman status follows the hero's journey template; after unfortunate circumstances are forced onto him, he suffers a long period of hardship and exile, and finally confronts and defeats the source of evil in his tale. As such, Dune is representative of a general trend beginning in 1960s American science fiction in that it features a character who attains godlike status through scientific means. Frank Herbert said in 1979, "The bottom line of the Dune trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes." He wrote in 1985, "Dune was aimed at this whole idea of the infallible leader because my view of history says that mistakes made by a leader are amplified by the numbers who follow without question."
Juan A. Prieto-Pablos says Herbert achieves a new typology with Paul's superpowers, differentiating the heroes of Dune from earlier heroes such as Superman, van Vogt's Gilbert Gosseyn and Henry Kuttner's telepaths. Unlike previous superheroes who acquire their powers suddenly and accidentally, Paul's are the result of "painful and slow personal progress." And unlike other superheroes of the 1960s—who are the exception among ordinary people in their respective worlds—Herbert's characters grow their powers through "the application of mystical philosophies and techniques." For Herbert, the ordinary person can develop incredible fighting skills or mental abilities.

Middle-Eastern and Islamic influences

Due to the similarities between some of Herbert's terms and ideas and actual words and concepts in the Arabic language, as well as the series' "Islamic undertones" and themes, a Middle Eastern influence on Herbert's works has been noted repeatedly. In addition to Arabic, Dune derives words and names from multiple other languages, including Hebrew, Navajo, Latin, Chakobsa, the Nahuatl dialect of the Aztecs, Greek, Persian, East Indian, Russian, Turkish, Finnish, and Old English.
As a foreigner who adopts the ways of a desert-dwelling people and then leads them in a military capacity, Paul Atreides' character bears many similarities to the historical T. E. Lawrence, whose 1962 biopic Lawrence of Arabia has also been identified as an influence. Lesley Blanch's novel The Sabres of Paradise has also been identified as a major influence upon Dune, with its depiction of Imam Shamil and the Islamic culture of the Caucasus inspiring some of the themes, characters, events and terminology of Dune.
The environment of the desert planet Arrakis is similar to the Middle East, particularly the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf, as well as Mexico. The novel also contains references to the petroleum industries in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf as well as Mexico. The Fremen people of Arrakis were influenced by the Bedouin tribes of Arabia, and the Mahdi prophecy originates from Islamic eschatology.

Zen and religion

Early in his newspaper career, Herbert was introduced to Zen by two Jungian psychologists, Ralph and Irene Slattery, who "gave a crucial boost to his thinking". Zen teachings ultimately had "a profound and continuing influence on work". Throughout the Dune series and particularly in Dune, Herbert employs concepts and forms borrowed from Zen Buddhism. The Fremen are Zensunni adherents, and many of Herbert's epigraphs are Zen-spirited. In "Dune Genesis", Frank Herbert wrote:
Brian Herbert called the Dune universe "a spiritual melting pot", noting that his father incorporated elements of a variety of religions, including Buddhism, Sufi mysticism and other Islamic belief systems, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Hinduism. He added that Frank Herbert's fictional future in which "religious beliefs have combined into interesting forms" represents the author's solution to eliminating arguments between religions, each of which claim to have "the one and only revelation." Frank Herbert writes that, in the aftermath of the technology-purging Butlerian Jihad, the Bene Gesserit composed the Azhar Book, which "preserves the great secrets of the most ancient faiths". Soon after, an ecumenical council created a syncretic religion defined by the Orange Catholic Bible, which would become the primary orthodox religious text in the universe. Its title suggests a merging of Protestantism and Catholicism. Herbert writes in the glossary of Dune:
The Bene Gesserit also practice "religious engineering" through a faction called the Missionaria Protectiva, which spreads contrived myths, prophecies and superstition on primitive worlds so that the Sisterhood may later exploit those regions. Herbert suggests that the Fremen religion on Arrakis has been thus influenced, allowing Paul to embody their prophesied messiah.

Plot arc

The Dune universe, set in the distant future of humanity, has a history that stretches thousands of years and covers considerable changes in political, social, and religious structure as well as technology. Creative works set in the Dune universe can be said to fall into five general time periods:
  • The Butlerian Jihad: Legends of Dune prequel trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson; Great Schools of Dune by Brian Herbert and Anderson
  • The Corrino-led Imperium: Prelude to Dune prequel trilogy by Brian Herbert and Anderson; Heroes of Dune series by Brian Herbert and Anderson
  • The rise of the Atreides: Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune by Frank Herbert; Heroes of Dune series by Brian Herbert and Anderson
  • The reign and fall of the God Emperor: God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The return from the Scattering: Heretics of Dune and by Frank Herbert; Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Anderson

    The Butlerian Jihad

As explained in Dune, the Butlerian Jihad is a conflict taking place over 11,000 years in the future which results in the total destruction of virtually all forms of "computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots". With the prohibition "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind," the creation of even the simplest thinking machines is outlawed and made taboo, which has a profound influence on the socio-political and technological development of humanity in the Dune series. Herbert refers to the Jihad several times in the novels, but does not give much detail on how he imagined the causes and nature of the conflict. Critical analysis has often associated the term with Samuel Butler and his 1863 essay "Darwin among the Machines", which advocated the destruction of all advanced machines.
In Herbert's God Emperor of Dune, Leto II Atreides indicates that the Jihad had been a semi-religious social upheaval initiated by humans who felt repulsed by how guided and controlled they had become by machines. This technological reversal leads to the creation of the universal Orange Catholic Bible and the rise of a new feudal pan-galactic empire which lasts for over 10,000 years before Herbert's series begins. Several secret societies also develop, using eugenics programs, intensive mental and physical training, and pharmaceutical enhancements to hone human skills to an astonishing degree. Artificial insemination is also prohibited, as explained in Dune Messiah, when Paul Atreides negotiates with the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, who is appalled by Paul's suggestion that he impregnate his consort in this manner.
Herbert died in 1986, leaving his vision of the actual events of the Butlerian Jihad unexplored and open to speculation. The Legends of Dune prequel trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson presents the Jihad as a war between humans and the sentient machines they had created, who rise up and nearly destroy humanity. The series explains that humanity had become entirely complacent and dependent upon thinking machines; recognizing this weakness, a group of ambitious, militant humans calling themselves the Titans use this widespread reliance on machine intelligence to seize control of the entire universe. Their reign lasts for a century; eventually they give too much access and power to the AI program Omnius, which usurps control from the Titans themselves. Seeing no value in human life, the thinking machines—now including armies of robot soldiers and other aggressive machines—dominate and enslave nearly all of humanity in the universe for 900 years, until a jihad is ignited. This crusade against the machines lasts for nearly a century, with much loss of human life but ultimately ending in human victory.

The Corrino-led Imperium

The ancient Battle of Corrin—occurring 20 years after the end of the Butlerian Jihad—spawns the Padishah Emperors of House Corrino, who rule the known universe for millennia by controlling the brutally efficient military force known as the Imperial Sardaukar. Ten thousand years later, one balance to Imperial power is the assembly of noble houses called the Landsraad, which enforces the Great Convention's ban on the use of atomics against human targets. Though the power of the Corrinos is unrivaled by any individual House, they are in constant competition with each other for political power and stakes in the omnipresent CHOAM company, a directorship which controls the wealth of the entire Old Empire. The third primary power in the universe is the Spacing Guild, which monopolizes interstellar travel and banking. Mutated Guild Navigators use the spice drug melange to successfully navigate "folded space" and safely guide enormous heighliner starships from planet to planet instantaneously.
The matriarchal Bene Gesserit possess almost superhuman physical, sensory, and deductive powers developed through years of physical and mental conditioning. While positioning themselves to "serve" humanity, the Bene Gesserit pursue their goal to better the human race by subtly and secretly guiding and manipulating the affairs of others to serve their own purposes. By the time of Dune, they have secured a level of control over the current emperor, Shaddam IV, by marrying him to one of their own who intentionally bears him only daughters. The Bene Gesserit also have a secret, millennia-long selective breeding program to bolster and preserve valuable skills and bloodlines as well as to produce a theoretical superhuman male they call the Kwisatz Haderach. When Dune begins, the Sisterhood are only one generation away from their desired individual, having manipulated the threads of genes and power for thousands of years to produce the required confluence of events. But Lady Jessica, ordered by the Bene Gesserit to produce a daughter who would breed with the appropriate male to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, instead bears a son—unintentionally producing the Kwisatz Haderach a generation early.
"Human computers" known as Mentats have been developed and perfected to replace the capacity for logical analysis lost through the prohibition of computers. Through specific training, they learn to enter a heightened mental state in which they can perform complex logical computations that are superior to those of the ancient thinking machines. The patriarchal Bene Tleilax, or Tleilaxu, are amoral merchants who traffic in biological and genetically engineered products such as artificial eyes, "twisted" Mentats, and gholas. Finally, the Ixians produce cutting-edge technology that seemingly complies with the prohibitions against thinking machines. The Ixians are very secretive, not only to protect their valuable hold on the industry but also to hide any methods or inventions that may breach the anti-thinking machine protocols.
Against this backdrop, the Prelude to Dune prequel trilogy chronicles the return from obscurity of House Atreides, whose role in the Butlerian Jihad is all but forgotten. The Imperial House schemes to gain full control of the Empire through the control of melange, precisely at the time that the Bene Gesserit breeding program is nearing fruition.

The rise of the Atreides

As Frank Herbert's Dune begins, Duke Leto Atreides finds himself in a dangerous position. The 81st Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV has put him in control of the desert planet Arrakis, known as Dune, which is the only natural source of the all-important spice melange. The most valuable commodity in the known universe, the spice not only makes safe and reliable interstellar travel possible, but also prolongs life, protects against disease, and is used by the Bene Gesserit to enhance their abilities. The potential financial gains for House Atreides are mitigated by the fact that mining melange from the desert surface of Arrakis is an expensive and hazardous undertaking, thanks to the treacherous environment and constant threat of giant sandworms which protect the spice. In addition, Leto is aware that Shaddam, feeling threatened by the rising power and influence of the Atreides, has sent him into a trap. Failure to meet or exceed the production volume of his predecessor, the villainous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, will negatively affect the position of House Atreides in CHOAM, which relies on spice profits. Further, the very presence of the Atreides on Arrakis inflames the long-simmering War of Assassins between House Atreides and House Harkonnen, a feud ignited 10,000 years before when an Atreides had a Harkonnen banished for cowardice after the Butlerian Jihad.
The little-understood native population of Arrakis are the Fremen, long overlooked by the Imperium. Considered backward savages, the Fremen are an extremely hardy people and exist in large numbers, their culture built around the commodity of water, which is extremely scarce on Arrakis. The Fremen await the coming of a prophesied messiah, not suspecting that this prophecy had been planted in their legends by the Missionaria Protectiva, an arm of the Bene Gesserit dedicated to religious manipulation to ease the path of the Sisterhood when necessary. In Dune, the so-called "Arrakis Affair" puts unexpected Kwisatz Haderach Paul Atreides in control of first the Fremen people and then Arrakis itself. Absolute control over the spice supply allows Paul to depose Shaddam and become ruler of the known universe, with Shaddam's eldest daughter Princess Irulan as his consort. With a bloody jihad subsequently unleashed across the universe in Paul's name but out of his control, the Bene Gesserit, Tleilaxu, Spacing Guild, and House Corrino conspire to dethrone him in Dune Messiah. Though the plot fails, the Atreides Empire continues to devolve in Children of Dune as the religion built around Paul falters, Irulan's sister Wensicia conspires to place her son Farad'n on the throne, and Paul's twin heirs Leto II and Ghanima rise to power.
The Heroes of Dune series by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson follows events involving the Atreides before, between, and after Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune.

The reign and fall of the God Emperor

At the time of God Emperor of Dune, Paul's son, the God Emperor Leto II Atreides, has ruled the Empire for 3,500 years from the verdant face of a transformed Arrakis; melange production has ceased. Leto has forced the sandworms into extinction, except for the larval sandtrout with which he had forged a symbiosis, transforming him into a human-sandworm hybrid. Human civilization before his rule had suffered from twin weaknesses: that it could be controlled by a single authority, and that it was totally dependent upon melange, found on only one planet in the known universe. Leto's prescient visions had shown that humanity would be threatened by extinction in any number of ways; his solution was to place humanity on his "Golden Path," a plan for humanity's survival. Leto governs as a benevolent tyrant, providing for his people's physical needs, but denying them any spiritual outlets other than his own compulsory religion. Personal violence of any kind is banned, as is nearly all space travel, creating a pent-up demand for freedom and travel. The Bene Gesserit, Ixians, and Tleilaxu find themselves seeking ways to regain some of their former power or unseat Leto altogether. Leto also conducts his own selective breeding program among the descendants of his twin sister Ghanima, finally arriving at Siona, daughter of Moneo, whose actions are hidden from prescient vision. Leto engineers his own assassination, knowing it will result in rebellion and revolt but also in an explosion in travel and colonization. The death of Leto's body also produces new sandtrout, which will eventually give rise to a population of sandworms and a new cycle of spice production.

The return from the Scattering

In the aftermath of the fall of the God Emperor, chaos and severe famine on many worlds cause trillions of humans to set off into the freedom of unknown space and spread out across the universe. This diaspora is later called the Scattering and, combined with the invisibility of Atreides descendants to prescient vision, assures that humanity has forever escaped the threat of total extinction. At the time of Heretics of Dune and —1500 years after Leto's death—the turmoil is settling into a new pattern; the balance of power in the Empire rests among the Ixians, the Bene Gesserit, and the Tleilaxu. The Spacing Guild has been forever weakened by the development of Ixian machines capable of navigation in foldspace, practically replacing Guild Navigators. The Bene Gesserit control the sandworms and their planet, now called Rakis, but the Tleilaxu have also discovered how to synthetically produce melange. This balance of power is shattered by a large influx of people from the Scattering, some fleeing persecution by an as-yet unknown enemy. Among the returning people, the Bene Gesserit finds its match in a violent and corrupt matriarchal society known as the Honored Matres, whom they suspect may be descended from some of their own sent out in the Scattering. As a bitter and bloody war erupts between the orders, it ultimately becomes clear that joining the two organizations into a single New Sisterhood with shared abilities is their best chance to fight the approaching enemy.


Dune has been widely influential, inspiring numerous novels, music, films, television, games, and comic books. It is considered one of the greatest and most influential science fiction novels of all time, with numerous modern science fiction works such as Star Wars owing their existence to Dune. Dune has also been referenced in numerous other works of popular culture, such as Star Trek, The Kingkiller Chronicle, and Futurama. Dune was cited as a major source of inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki's anime film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Jon Michaud of The New Yorker noted in 2013, "what's curious about Dune stature is that it has not penetrated popular culture in the way that The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars have." He praised Herbert's "clever authorial decision" to excise robots and computers from his fictional universe, but suggested that this may be one explanation why Dune lacks "true fandom among science-fiction fans".
Since 2009, the names of planets from the Dune novels have been adopted for the real-world nomenclature of plains and complexes of valleys on Saturn's moon Titan. Planet names used to date include Arrakis, Caladan, Giedi Prime, Kaitain, Salusa Secundus, and Tleilax. The Hagal dune field and other sites on Mars are informally named after planets mentioned in the Dune series. The city of Tacoma, Washington, Herbert's birthplace, dedicated part of Point Defiance Park as the "Dune Peninsula" to honor the writer and the series.