Dune Universe Edit

The fictional Dune Universe, or Duniverse, is the political, scientific, supernatural and social setting of author Frank Herbert's six-book Dune series of science fantasy novels. The highly popular first book, 1965's Dune, was adapted into a film in 1984 and a televised miniseries in 2000; in 2003, its first two sequels appeared as a miniseries as well.

After Herbert's death, his son Brian Herbert and science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson produced a number of prequel books which have been highly successful commercially; however, whether they are part of the proper Dune canon is often hotly disputed by fans of the original series. Also, Brian Herbert and Anderson released a sequel to the original Dune chronicles entitled Hunters of Dune. An eighth and final installment in the series, entitled Sandworms of Dune, is due for release in 2007. These, like the prequels before them, are based on Frank Herbert's own notes, discovered a decade after his death.[1] Template:Tocleft

Brief synopsis of Dune historyEdit

Template:Spoilers The Dune universe, set in the distant future of humanity, has a history that stretches tens of thousands of years (some 16,000 years in total) and covers considerable changes in political, social, and religious structure and in technology. However, extant creative works set in the Dune universe are set in six different time periods:

  • The Butlerian Jihad
  • The Corrino-led Imperium
  • The ascension of the Atreides
  • The fall of the God Emperor
  • The return from the Scattering and the coming of the Honored Matres.
  • The fall of the Honored Matres and their joining with the Bene Gesserit.

A comprehensive Dune timeline is available on the Official Dune website.

The Butlerian JihadEdit

The Butlerian Jihad is a conflict that results in the total destruction of virtually all forms of "thinking machines". The causes and exact nature of this conflict are left rather vague in Frank Herbert's books, but in the Legends of Dune prequel trilogy, it is presented as a battle between humans and the sentient machines they created, who rise up and nearly destroy mankind.

The aftermath leads to a near-universal taboo on the creation of "thinking machines": Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind. Even the simplest computers and calculators are banned, having a profound influence on the socio-political and technological development of humanity. Specifically, the "human computers" known as Mentats are developed to replace the lost capacity for logical analysis.

The Corrino-led ImperiumEdit

In the ten thousand years following the Butlerian Jihad, a feudal empire spanning thousands of inhabited star systems develops, with power shared among the Padishah Emperor, the noble houses of the Landsraad, and the Spacing Guild, which possessed a monopoly over interstellar travel. While some communities exist on its fringes, paying exorbitant bribes to the Spacing Guild for their privacy and independence, by and large all of humanity lives within the empire's murky but largely stable civilization.

Imperial House Corrino and the LandsraadEdit

The Imperium has long been ruled by the noble House Corrino, which controls the brutally efficient soldier-fanatics known as the Imperial Sardaukar. Although none of the other Houses Major or Minor individually approaches the power of House Corrino, and the great houses are in constant competition for fiefdoms, political power, and Imperial favor, they are collectively represented in an assembly known as the Landsraad, which can balance the power of the Emperor and enforce the Great Convention against the use of atomic weapons against human targets. The Great Houses and the Emperor also grapple for financial power in the omnipresent CHOAM (acronym for Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles) Company, a directorship in which brings vast economic gains, and in which secret societies exercise a great deal of influence.

As a result of the Butlerian Jihad's ban on "thinking machines", several secretive societies have developed, using eugenics programs, intensive mental and physical training, and pharmaceutical enhancements to hone human skills to an astonishing degree.

Spacing GuildEdit

The Spacing Guild is the foundation of the interstellar civilization. Its Navigators use the spice drug melange to gain limited prescient abilities which enable them to successfully navigate "folded space" (created by the Holtzman Generator on board), and thus safely guide enormous Heighliner spaceships from planet to planet instantly. As its mathematical and pharmaceutical methods are secret and Guild Navigators interact with others only through intermediaries, the Guild has a monopoly on interstellar transport and banking, which it can leverage as absolute political and economic power over other factions when necessary to maintain its dominance.

Bene GesseritEdit

The Bene Gesserit is an organization of females with almost inhuman physical, sensory, and deductive powers developed through many years of conditioning. While the public motto of the Bene Gesserit is that they "exist only to serve," and indeed Bene Gesserit wives and concubines do provide advantages to many powerful men, the B.G. concept of service is not always what it appears to outsiders. The Bene Gesserit wish to better the human race, but do so by secretly tampering with the affairs of almost every group, religion, and institution in existence, altering the direction of organizations and ideologies to serve B.G. purposes. The Bene Gesserit have a millennia-long selective breeding program, with its Sisters being directed to produce children of specific sexes with specific males; the children may then be taken for Bene Gesserit training. Bene Gesserit outside of their chapter-houses may serve others, from those of the lowest status to emperors, but in the end their actions serve only the Bene Gesserit. However distrusted the Bene Gesserit "witches" may be, though, the services they can provide make them indispensable to most of the great houses.

  • After a Bene Gesserit student-acolyte has progressed far enough in her training, she may become a full Reverend Mother with complete command of her Other Memory, the collective body of the memories of all her (female) ancestors, which, in the Dune universe, all humans possess at the genetic-cellular level but cannot ordinarily access. This transformation is effected by an ordeal known as the Spice Agony, in which the potential Reverend Mother ingests lethal quantities of an awareness spectrum narcotic or illuminating poison (usually the Water of Life found on the planet Arrakis). Reverend Mothers, as women, are overwhelmingly terrified by the psychic space within themselves inhabited by the memories of their male ancestors, and as a result, the B.G. have instituted severe injunctions against attempting their recall.
  • The purpose of the Bene Gesserit eugenics program — in addition to 'improving' humanity by removing genetic defects and selectively breeding more intelligent and physically superior humans — is to develop a superhuman male, the Kwisatz Haderach, who can recall both his male and female ancestral memories, as well as the ability to see (and thus control) the future. The Bene Gesserit at the time of Dune 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 the Bene Gesserit ordered to produce a daughter (who would breed with the appropriate male to produce the Kwisatz Haderach) instead bore a son.


Mentats are "human computers" who have learned to enter a heightened mental state in which they can perform complex logical computations. Frequently working in the sworn service of the aristocratic great houses, mentats manage internal governance as well as external strategy in the shifting alliances and vendettas between the houses. Some mentats are also melange addicts, but it is not clear whether they use the spice for psychic enhancement or merely for the longevity and good health it confers (most of the nobility and the wealthy use tiny amounts of the expensive spice for such purposes, and some use the addiction to control their highest-level servants). Not as much a secret society or civilization as a way of life, mentats are trained in several schools, and the methods are used internally by other groups; notably, the Tleilaxu sell "twisted" mentats, psychopathic sadists that can only be controlled by their vices. It appears that, in contrast to several other groups, the genetic heritage of a would-be mentat is of almost no importance; the proper mental-physical training starting at a very young age, rather, can make almost any child a mentat. This idea was supported in the Legends of Dune trilogy by Erasmus the robot, who takes a human ordinary slave, Gilbertus Albans, and makes him the first known mentat; this boy has no known special genetic advantage.


On the fringes of Imperial control, law, and morality lie the patriarchal Tleilaxu, or Bene Tleilax, who have for millennia hidden an ancient totalitarian theocracy, and selective breeding program of their own, behind the guise of amoral merchants trafficking in genetically engineered slaves and depraved amusements. Their power rises as they master the creation of gholas, clones made from the cells of deceased individuals and possessing the full memories of the originals, and an artificial form of melange, which was previously found only on the planet Arrakis. The Tleilaxu are also known for their genetically grown foods such as sligs and their genetically grown organs such as "Tleilaxu eyes".


The Ixians produce cutting-edge technology that pushes the boundaries but seemingly complies with the prohibitions against "thinking machine" technology. They 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. House Richese is Ix's primary competitor; Richese is noted for miniaturization and mass production while Ix is notable for elegance, efficiency and innovation.

The ascension of the AtreidesEdit

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, and the Bene Gesserit breeding program is nearing fruition. Conflicts between the major powers eventuate a violent eruption in the long-simmering battle between House Atreides and House Harkonnen centering around control of the desert planet Arrakis, known as Dune, the only natural source of the all-important spice melange.

A planet apparently almost devoid of water and unsuited for human colonization, Arrakis would be of little use to the Imperium if not for melange. This "spice" drug prolongs life and protects against disease; it is essential to safe and reliable interstellar travel, and is used by the Bene Gesserit to enhance their abilities. Melange is also known to extend the powers of the mind by some unknown means, and prolonged usage often results in an individual with extraordinary mental capacity, including such otherwise uncommon qualities as total recall and an almost superhumanly deep awareness and control of one's own state of mind. Usage by the rich allows the privileged few cognitive and lifespan advantage over the masses, allowing easier social control. Necessary for all the powerful factions in the universe to function, melange is the most valuable commodity in the universe.

The spice can only be mined from the dangerous desert surface of Arrakis, where it is produced by an unknown biological mechanism. The treacherous environment and constant threat of giant sandworms (who can devour not only humans but harvesting equipment as well) make spice collection a risky endeavor, but they are risks that must be taken. This puts Arrakis in a rather peculiar situation within the universe: no one can live there, strange things happen there, but everyone needs it and everyone wants to control it. No administrative, productive, or military facilities of any significant kind exist on Arrakis.

The little-understood native population of Arrakis are the Fremen, long overlooked by the Imperium and the fief-administrators of the great houses. They are considered backward savages by House Harkonnen, but demonstrate subtle complexity and wield great power; they are an extremely hardy people, with a culture built around water on an extremely arid planet. Some of House Atreides' advisors also suspect that the Fremen could rival the Sardaukar as a fighting force, and their underestimated population later proves substantial. The Fremen await the coming of a prophesied messiah, not suspecting that this prophecy was hidden in their legends by the Missionaria Protectiva, an arm of the Bene Gesserit dedicated to religious manipulation, in order to ease the path of the Bene Gesserit on Arrakis, and the ascendance of the Kwisatz Haderach. The mystical and highly religious Fremen also have a connection to one of the few other successful inhabitants of Arrakis — the enormous, virtually indestructible sandworms, called Shai-Hulud by the Fremen and considered holy. And in a way unknown to all but the Fremen, the sandworms govern the ecology of Dune.

During the events of Dune, the so-called "Arrakis Affair" puts unexpected Kwisatz Haderach Paul Atreides in control of Arrakis; he deposes the eighty-first Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV and becomes ruler of the Known Universe.

The Golden Path of the God EmperorEdit

At the time of God Emperor of Dune, Paul's son, the God Emperor Leto Atreides II, has ruled the Empire for 3,500 years from the verdant face of a transformed Arrakis; melange production has ceased. The sandworms are gone, except for the sandtrout (a larval stage) with whom Leto forged a symbiosis, transforming him into something like a human-sandworm hybrid. Human civilization before his rule had suffered from twin Achilles heels: that it could be controlled by a single authority, and that it was totally dependent upon melange, found on only one planet in the universe.

Leto's prescient visions had shown that humanity would be threatened by extinction in any number of ways; his solution was to place mankind on "The 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. This creates a pent-up demand for freedom and travel. Leto also conducts his own selective breeding program among the descendants of House Atreides (the descendants of his sister, Ghanima), finally arriving at Siona, daughter of Moneo, whose actions are hidden from prescient vision.

After Leto's assassination (which he deliberately engineered), there is rebellion and revolt, but also an explosion in travel and colonization known as The Scattering, in which the number of inhabited planets comes to outnumber the old Empire by perhaps 100 to 1. The Scattering, combined with the invisibility of Atreides descendants to prescient vision, ensures that humanity will never again be threatened with total extinction. Leto's father, Paul Atreides, also saw the danger to humanity, and the necessity for the solution Leto forged, but Paul was unwilling to make the terrible sacrifice of his humanity that was necessary to create the Golden Path.

The return from the ScatteringEdit

At the time of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, the turmoil caused by the fall of the God Emperor and the Scattering of trillions of humans into the freedom of unknown space is settling into a new pattern. The balance of power in the Old Empire rests between the Ixians, the Tleilaxu, and the Bene Gesserit. The Spacing Guild has been forever weakened by the development of machines capable of navigation in foldspace, practically replacing Guild Navigators. However, this balance of power is shattered by a large influx of people from the Scattering, fleeing persecution by an as-yet unknown enemy. Among the returning people, the Bene Gesserit finds its match in a violent matriarchal society known as the Honored Matres. It soon becomes clear that joining the two organizations into a single New Sisterhood with shared abilities is their best chance to fight the approaching enemy.

Planets of the Dune universeEdit

File:Dune Movie Planets.jpg

Artistic works in the Dune universeEdit

File:FrankHerbert Dune 1st.jpg

The original seriesEdit

Prelude to DuneEdit

The prequel trilogy Prelude to Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson is set in the years leading up to the events in Dune.

Legends of DuneEdit

Brian Herbert and Anderson followed with a second prequel trilogy called the Legends of Dune. This series is set at an earlier time in the history of the Dune universe, when humans and sentient machines waged war with one another.

Completion of the original series (A.K.A. Dune 7)Edit

Brian Herbert and Anderson have released two out of a group of three more books. The first is The Road to Dune, a collection of Brian Herbert/Anderson short stories, and letters and unused chapters written by Frank Herbert. Hunters of Dune is the first of two novels based on an existing framework that Frank Herbert wrote prior to his death (the working title of that framework is known as Dune 7). The second, Sandworms of Dune, is due for release in 2007.

Short StoriesEdit

Frank Herbert wrote an illustrated short work set sometime between the events of Dune and Dune Messiah.

Brian Herbert and Anderson have written some Dune short stories, most of them accompanying their novels.

Proposed future worksEdit

In the foreword to Hunters of Dune, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson write that they plan to continue writing Dune novels based on Frank Herbert's notes after completing the Dune 7 project: "The saga of Dune is far from over!"

In the Dune 7 blog on the Official Dune website [2], Brian Herbert and Anderson announced a planned trilogy called Paul of Dune, with the working titles for the novels noted as Paul of Dune, Jessica of Dune and Irulan of Dune (Paul of Dune is also listed as a forthcoming title in both the UK and US versions of Hunters of Dune). This series would deal with the early years of Paul Atreides as well as the time between Dune and Dune Messiah.

Other artistic works based in the Dune universeEdit



See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

External linksEdit

Template:Extended Dune series Template:Dune universe

fr:Univers de Dune it:Ciclo di Dune hu:A Dűne pt:Universo de Duna ru:Вселенная Дюны

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