Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Dune, Part Ten

This week we’re going to pilot our way through a sandstorm after winning the loyalty of an Imperial Planetologist. We’re also going to combine our tribes’ water together.

Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.

*     *     *

BOOK TWO
MUAD’DIB

When my father, the Padishah Emperor, heard of Duke Leto’s death and the manner of it, he went into such a rage as we had never before seen. He blamed my mother and the compact forced on him to place a Bene Gesserit on the throne. He blamed the Guild and the evil old Baron. He blamed everyone in sight, not excepting even me, for he said I was a witch like all the others. And when I sought to comfort him, saying it was done according to an older law of self-allegiance, he sneered at me and asked if I thought him a weakling. I saw then that he has been aroused to this passion not by concern over the dead Duke but by what that death implied for all royalty. As I look back on in, I think there may have been some prescience in my father, too, for it is certain that his line and Muad’Dib’s shared common ancestry.

—“In My Father’s House,” by the Princess Irulan

Summary

Paul wakes following a storm and takes his first drink of recycled water from his stillsuit. Jessica is trying to avoid it, but she cannot go back to sleep because her dreams were disturbing. Paul is thinking about how he has to get to the spice to have any affect on his enemies. Jessica can sense a hint of bitterness toward her in his voice and thinks that he must hate her a little bit for being Harkonnen when he was raised to hate them. Paul insists that they have to start moving again, and uses tools from their Fremkit to punch a hole up through the sand (the tent was buried in the storm) and get them out. They look out on the landscape and see lasgun fire in the distance; the Harkonnens are searching for them. As soon as they step out onto the ledge, there are ornithopters above them.

Commentary

So, this has been brought up more than once in Irulan’s texts, this point that there is common ancestry between the Atreides line and the Emperor. We’ve talked a bit about the purpose behind Irulan’s writing and here is one of those places where I wonder at her separation from it, i.e. does she write about it because it interests her, or does she believe that it’s relevant to her father’s story? More importantly, does she write about it because it legitimizes her family in some way? This text in particular is clearly written to impart information on Irulan’s family, and has more of a memoir sheen about it. Even the title—“In My Father’s House”—conveys that brand of storytelling. Maybe when I’m done with this book I’ll collect all of the titles of Irulan’s writing in one place and try to figure out what each text is targeted toward? That sounds like fun.

Jessica is having nightmares, and one explicitly about her mother now that she knows her true heritage. This section makes a point of discussing two Bene Gesserit who had important expectations placed on them by the order, both in Jessica’s mother and Irulan’s mother. We don’t know precisely why the Emperor was forced to bow to Bene Gesserit desire to have one of their own on the throne, but we can hazard a guess that just as Jessica was told to give Leto no sons, Irulan’s mother was instructed to do the same.

As Paul is trying to pull everything together and set plans in motion, we spend this brief moment primarily in Jessica’s head, coming to understand how her view of the world is rapidly changing, revolving around her children. She also recognizes Paul’s distaste for her after learning that they are Harkonnen, which she knows comes from the fact that he was raised to hate the house. These next few sections really center around loyalty; how it is earned, taught, and learned. So it is relevant that Paul can feel such an anger toward what turns out to be his own heritage with the Harkonnen family. Not that they don’t deserve the disdain, but the idea that he can extend this however briefly to his mother by virtue of her connection.

Kinda wish we had a little more explanation around the Fremen tools that allow Paul to tunnel up through sand after the storm. I can’t quite picture the instruments, and when they’re so essential to survival, it would be nice to get just a little bit extra. It’s also important to note how Paul adopts the ways of the Fremen without hesitation, taking water from his stillsuit when he needs it, while Jessica doesn’t want to admit that they are truly trapped and give into the need.

*     *     *

My father once told me that respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality. “Something cannot emerge from nothing,” he said. This is profound thinking if you understand how unstable “the truth” can be.

—from “Conversations with Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

Summary

Thufir Hawat is waiting under a rock outcropping with a Fremen. He had been at a garrison village when the attack took place, and was astounded to find how many troops came in the attack. He realizes that he underestimated how much the Baron Harkonnen was willing to spend against them. He’s still certain that Jessica is the traitor. From the Fremen he learns that Gurney Halleck is still alive and safe among smugglers. Hawat has only twenty men left and half are wounded. He asks if the Fremen will help them, but the man insists that it’s time for him to make a “water decision” about the wounded for the good of their tribe. Hawat does not entirely understand, but he wants to stays with the Fremen for long enough to enact vengeance on Jessica. He learns that the duke is dead but Paul’s fate is unknown.

The Fremen wants information about the artillery that the Harkonnen brought, saying that they wrested one of the weapons from their forces and only lost two men. Hawat is astounded—they only lost two men at the hands of Sardaukar. It turns out that the didn’t just defeat them, they captured three of them to be questioned. The Fremen refers to Paul as the Lisan al-Gaib, and says that Hawat should not worry over him. Hawat explains that he is pledged to the boy’s service, and when the he confirms that he is pledged to his “water” the Fremen understands what he is asking for. One of the men dies, and the Fremen asks if he should call his own men and take the dead to a place for accepting water. Hawat agrees to bond their tribes’ water, and the Fremen men arrive to take the dead away. Hawat’s men are furious, knowing that the Fremen don’t treat the dead the same way, but Hawat insists that they still treat them with respect so it makes no difference. Now that they are bonded, the Fremen agree to outfit them and help. One of Hawat’s men asks if they are buying help with their comrades water, but Hawat insists that they are bonding their tribes together.

The Harkonnen approach, and the Fremen advises Hawat’s men to be silent, as there’s no guarantee that they are the only ones being hunted. A few of the Fremen overtake the Sardaukar manning the ‘thopter and take control of it. As more troops land, one of the stolen ‘thopters crashes into a bigger troop carrier purposefully. The Fremen at Hawat’s side calls it a reasonable exchange for what they received in return. Then more troops arrive and the Fremen is killed before Hawat is stunned into unconsciousness.

Commentary

“Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.” Huh. Well, that feels particularly relevant right now.

I love this section so much. It’s such a smart way of introducing the reader to Fremen culture more clearly while simultaneously moving the plot forward and highlighting the differences between the Atreides and their new bedfellows. Hawat is bothered by the Fremen tendency for bluntness and also counts them as naive, which is simultaneously accurate and a misunderstanding of a people whose needs are far different than his own. It also points us toward a Mentat weakness that continues to crop up; Mentats are great at computation, but not great at people. Bene Gesserit are great at people, but don’t always have all the data (or the data is deliberately kept from them). It takes Hawat a good long while to understand what the Fremen is telling him in regard to how they treat the wounded and what they do with water and how they will bond their people together. He was supposed to be on top of this, knowing that Leto was intent on getting their help—desert power, as he said. But Hawat is having a difficult time wrapping his mind around the sheer magnitude of the difference between them.

He does notice certain things that are important, such as the Fremen’s pause when he refers to the sandworm and his clear desire to call it something else. There are clues the Mentat can tap into, but his computation is somewhat limited by his perception. He is still certain that Jessica is the traitor. Moreover, he doesn’t really believe that Jessica is a whole person, rather just a tool of her masters; he thinks to himself “who knows what the Bene Gesserit witch thinks, if you can call it thinking.” He doesn’t believe that she has a mind of her own at all.

My favorite bit is actually this small exchange and revelation:

“Do you wish to go to the smugglers?” the Fremen asked.

“Is it possible?”

“The way is long.”

“Fremen don’t like to say no,” Idaho had told him once.

Such a key piece of information dropped in a very casual way. A culture that doesn’t set much store by the word “no.” That has gigantic implications for their philosophy and way of life. It both speaks to their determination and their refusal to acknowledge obstacles.

Other interesting point: the Fremen notes Hawat’s suspicion of them and says that the Mentat is wondering if they have the “Byzantine corruption.” My assumption is that this is a direct reference to the Harkonnens themselves rather than a turn of phrase, which directly correlates the family with late Rome, specifically the Eastern Roman Empire that was seat of Constantine’s power. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, as it doesn’t play so much into that late Western Roman emperor similarities.

*     *     *

Muad’Dib could, indeed, see the Future, but you must understand the limits of this power. Think of sight. You have eyes, yet you cannot see without light. If you are on the floor of a valley, you cannot see beyond your valley. Just so, Muad’Dib could not always choose to look across the mysterious terrain. He tells us, that a single obscure decision of prophecy, perhaps the choice of one work over another, could change the entire aspect of the future. He tells us “The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door.” And always he fought the temptation to choose a clear, safe course, warning “That path leeds ever down into stagnation.”

—from “Arrakis Awakening” by the Princess Irulan

Summary

The ornithopters above Paul and Jessica are being led by Duncan Idaho, and Kynes is with him. They cover their ‘thopters with cloth that makes them look like sand dunes. Paul asks about the lasgun fire in the distance the there’s an explosion—Duncan left a shield where the fighting was going on and turned it up to its highest setting. Duncan is calling Paul “Sire,” and offers him his shield, but Paul insists that Duncan’s right arm is shield enough. They are taken to a Fremen hiding place under the sand. Paul realizes that it’s one of the Imperial Ecological Testing sites that Leto had wanted to use for advance bases. Kynes wonders if helping them is the right move. Paul says that he would use a site like this to make Arrakis hospitable for human life. The Fremen call him “Liet.” Kynes begins without using Paul’s title, which Paul corrects.

Paul presents his own plan to Kynes, that he will make it clear what the Harkonnen have done, courting chaos and war between the Imperium and the Landsraad. He would then offer the alternative—taking the throne himself to prevent all out war. The Emperor would have to accept because if the Landsraad is provided with proof that he was involved in Leto’s murder, they would rise up against him as one, fearing for their own lives. Kynes is aghast, uncertain if he should side with him, but Paul promises to make Arrakis the paradise that he desires once he’s on the throne. Kynes rejects the idea of his loyalty being bought, so Paul apologizes and offers instead his complete loyalty to Kynes and his cause, to willing give his life for him. Kynes is immediately taken, and Jessica is impressed by Paul’s Atreides-given ability to win loyalty so effortlessly.

There’s a skirmish suddenly outside, and Paul and Kynes close and bolt the door just after Paul sees Duncan get cut down by Sardaukar. Kynes directs them to a passage down a bolt hole, saying that there’s a ‘thopter at the end of the passage and a storm beyond. He advises them to ride the storm to evade capture, and promises that the Fremen will find them after. Then they go separate ways and Paul and Jessica find the ‘thopter. Paul is suddenly hesitant, realizing that he had not seen this path in any of his prescience visions. He recognizes his mistake in relying too much on his new ability and resolves never to do it again. He takes the controls of the ‘thopter and heads out into he storm with Harkonnen forces on their tail. The storm is raging and Jessica is scared for their lives. Paul knows they have to ride it out as Kynes said. He recites the litany against fear.

Commentary

The core of this section deals primarily with how Paul wins the loyalty of Kynes, who we now know is called Liet by the Fremen. Herbert has clearly put a lot of thought into this, keen to break down how loyalty to a single man or cause works and why. For Paul Atreides it seems to be an intersection of brashness, honesty, and abiding loyalty to those who place their faith in him. He doesn’t pull his punches in his conversation, but as Kynes notes, he acknowledges when he makes a faux pas and apologizes.

But in the end, it’s his loyalty given in return that gives him allies. Herbert aligns Paul more with an Alexander the Great in this moment, the popular image of a conqueror who fights alongside his loyal troops, asking no more of them than he is willing to give himself. This manner of alignment can win someone loyalties that can far outstrip an enemy. The Emperor has the Sardaukar, brainwashed and trained to his purposes. But the real loyalty that Paul is already learning to command? That can reorder the universe.

Jessica is currently taking a backseat, watching how Paul handles situations and mostly chastising in her head when she doesn’t agree with how he’s going about things. As she’s normally a pretty proactive person, I’d actually put a lot of this down to her grief; the choice to recenter on her children and trust Paul to steer them straight is a manner of coping that people who have lost someone might recognize all too well. She is uncertain of the future, but she’s determined to follow through with her son and come out the other side. Since he’s adamant about taking charge, she lets him and spends more of her time feeling her way through things.

The opening section here gives more explanation for how Paul’s future sight works, and we see it bottom out for him here when he suddenly realizes that he relied too heavily on it. While it doesn’t always work perfectly in the narrative, this particular explanation does a good job at accounting for a main character who has incredible prescience without making him all-knowing (which is actually pretty tough and often doesn’t carry off). Paul learns here that he cannot spend every moment looking to this ability to guide his actions.

This section ends with the Litany Against Fear, pointedly being the first time we’ve come back to it since the start of the book. It is now when this litany becomes its own method of survival, something to hang onto in times of turmoil, it’s religious aspect suddenly pushed to the fore like a prayer.

And here is our weekly audio excerpt!

Emily Asher-Perrin may actually use the Litany Against Fear to calm herself down sometimes. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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