Frank Herbert’s Dune has been around since 1965, and the latest film adaptation of the sci-fi story is set to hit theaters on Oct. 22. I say latest because, well, there have been multiple attempts to make Herbert’s novel into a movie before, but it’s easier said than done. Since the story takes place in an almost unimaginable setting (think the desert but with 800 times more sand), previous film attempts have tried and failed to capture the world Herbert built. Set in the very distant future (I’m talking at least 20,000 years into the future, to be exact), Dune explores the life of Paul Atreides as he navigates through a feud between different interstellar societies. The book is a science fiction classic, having won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, but it’s definitely a commitment to read. Don’t have time to read all 688 pages of Dune before the movie hits your theater? No worries, we’ll get you up to speed.
Where and When Does Dune Take Place?
Like I mentioned before, Dune takes place at least 20,000 years into the future. Technology has advanced since then, and society, as we know it today, looks incredibly different. Humanity has abandoned Earth and has taken to the galaxy to build their new homes.
Most of the novel takes place on Arrakis, which is essentially a desert home of sand dunes upon sand dunes. Throw some giant worms into the mix, and you have your new home sweet home! Everyone navigates their way to Arrakis because its dunes are the only source of Spice, which is known to give people psychic abilities and even the power to bend space and time to increase travel.
Who are the Main Characters in Dune?
Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides and heir to the House of Atreides, is the protagonist of Dune. We are introduced to Paul at age 15, but he has been training since infancy to fulfill his role of the duke. Duke Leto is the rightful ruler of Arrakis after he received it in exchange for his home planet, Caladan. Jessica, Paul’s mother, is Duke Leto’s partner. The two aren’t married, but she acts like a wife to Leto all the same. Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, which is an order of people who often practice what the other characters refer to as witchcraft. Baron Harkonnen doesn’t appear often throughout the story, but his character is of importance since he tries to murder the entire house of Atreides in an attempt to gain control of Arrakis. This plan, however, backfires and sends Paul on his way to becoming the leader of the Fremen and of the universe.
So, What Happens in Dune?
The galaxy is split between the Spacing Guild who controls travel, the Padishah Emperor who controls the military, the Bene Gesserit who are an order of witches, and the alliances of the noble Houses, where we see most of the interaction amongst characters.
House Atreides has been sent to Arrakis to manage the operations of mining Spice, which the entire galaxy depends on in order to survive. Once owned by House Harkonnen, House Atreides makes their new home on Arrakis and instantly encounters conflict. When House Harkonnen previously owned Arrakis, they enslaved the Fremen tribes of the planet, showing them no sympathy nor remorse, and House Atreides inherits this issue upon their arrival. Duke Leto is expected to move into his new leadership role while keeping the peace with the Fremen and managing the Spice production. Failure to accomplish this could result in his House being executed, which is what eventually propels Paul Atreides into action.
Dr. Yueh, a member of the Atreides House, betrays them by allowing the Harkonnens to arrive on Arrakis, which allows them to infiltrate the Atreides castle and kill Duke Leto. Jessica and Paul escape from the Harkonnens and flee to the desert, dodging wind storms and giant worms.
Dr. Kynes, leader of the Fremen, orders his tribe to find Jessica and Paul. They quickly capture and accept both Jessica and Paul as their new leaders — Jessica as their chosen mother and Paul as their prophet. This is when Paul adapts the name Muad’Dib, meaning mouse, and truly comes into the great powers he was born with.
A couple of years pass and Paul has become a powerful leader among the Fremen of Arrakis. He has a child with a Fremen woman, Chani, and Jessica has a daughter, Alia. Paul trains the Fremen to fight using the techniques of the Bene Gesserit. Baron Harkonnen still resides on Arrakis and is training his nephew to become ruler during this time. However, Baron ends up abandoning his nephew, leaving the Arrakeen capital free for Paul and the Fremen to take.
When the Emperor discovers the power of the Fremen, he brings it upon himself to come to Arrakis with his army of Sardaukar and the Harkonnens in tow. However, the emperor and his troops are no match for the Fremen, and Alia ends up killing Baron Harkonnen herself.
After a long battle, Paul asks the Emperor to step down and he requests to marry his daughter, Irulan, so that he can take the place of emperor himself. After a duel with Baron Harkonnen’s nephew, Feyd-Rautha, Paul is victorious. Dune ends with Paul marrying Irulan, thus becoming the new emperor of Arrakis.
If you feel like you want more than this ending gives, you’re not alone. There are actually six books in the Dune series, so don’t expect everything to be wrapped up with a bow right away. The good news? A sequel film is on the way.