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Names play a significant role in the development of the characters and cultures of the imaginary worlds envisioned by science fiction and fantasy authors. Rather than creating new languages, as J. R. R. Tolkien does in The Lord of the Rings, Frank Herbert accomplishes his world-building in Dune by choosing existing names that evoke a recognizable medieval, feudal setting and depict a desert planet inhabited by a quasi-Arabic and Islamic tribal people. Although names serve to juxtapose the Fremen as an exotic Other with the Western Atreides family, they also gesture towards a possible re-envisioning of this polarized relationship.
NAMES, Vol. 64 No. 2, June, 2016, 99–108
© 2016 American Name Society
Epic World-Building: Names and
Cultures in Dune
Kara Kennedy
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Names play a significant role in the development of the characters and cultures
of the imaginary worlds envisioned by science fiction and fantasy authors.
Rather than creating new languages, as J. R. R. Tolkien does in The Lord of the
Rings, Frank Herbert accomplishes his world-building in Dune by choosing
existing names that evoke a recognizable medieval, feudal setting and depict
a desert planet inhabited by a quasi-Arabic and Islamic tribal people. Although
names serve to juxtapose the Fremen as an exotic Other with the Western
Atreides family, they also gesture towards a possible re-envisioning of this
polarized relationship.
KEYWORDSFrank Herbert, Dune, Edward Said, Orientalism, world-building, literary 
names, science fiction.
When J. R. R. Tolkien published his fantasy work The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955),
he demonstrated that the immersive experience of reading about an imaginary world
with its own history, languages, and customs could be quite powerful. A decade later,
Frank Herbert proved that the science-fiction genre could also accommodate engaging
world-building: still the best-selling science-fiction novel, “Dune is to science fiction what
The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy: the ultimate created world” (Pierce, 1987: 123). Yet
little research has been done on the process which writers go through when building
their worlds, and how some succeed at creating a three-dimensional, immersive world
for their readers while others fail. Nor has the significance of names — which play an
important role in readers’ perceptions of characters, places, and cultures — been fully
explored as a part of the world-building process.
One of the main goals of world-building is to make the new world strange and dierent
to readers, but still believable enough that they can and want to immerse themselves in it.
As Tolkien says, story makers are successful sub-creators if they can design a secondary
world which the reader’s mind can enter into and believe to be true (1975 [1964]: 40–41).
Unlike most other genres of fiction where the general setting is a given, science fiction
contains a new world that is “built with every word” (Delany, 2005: 104). Thus, names
must fit with the rest of the features of the imaginary world if it is to be believable. In one
DOI 10.1080/00277738.2016.1159450
sense, authors who generate secondary worlds take on the role of Adam, giving a name
to all of the items in their domain (Carter, 1973: 192–193). This “inventing of names —
the finding of ‘the Proper Name’ — is of the very first importance” and can distinguish
a skillfully created world from an ordinary one (1973: 192–193). Often, beginner authors
overenthusiastically choose unusual names “beginning with Z’s or Q’s or X’s” without
careful consideration of the alienating eect this will have on the reader’s understanding
of the imaginary world (1973: 206).
To avoid this kind of alienation and yet still develop a world dierent from real-
ity, Herbert deliberately chooses names that already exist or are slightly altered and so
evoke recognizable time periods, environments, religions, and cultures, and construct the
illusion of a universe that exists beyond the borders of the story itself. Names help to
establish Dune’s medieval, feudal setting and its depiction of a desert planet inhabited
by a quasi-Arabic and Islamic tribal people, the Fremen. Because of the strong historical
link between names in the Fremen culture and real-world Middle Eastern societies, the
narrative can also be criticized for containing an Orientalist perspective which juxtaposes
the Fremen as an exotic Other with the Western, ruling-class Atreides family. Certainly
Dune can be viewed on one level as another romanticized and harmful vision of Arabic
societies, as Hoda M. Zaki (1994) decries in “Orientalism in Science Fiction.” Or Herbert
may be judged for capitalizing on “the ignorance and ethnocentrism of his American
audience” by using “foreign neologisms to create exotic eects” (Csicsery-Ronay Jr,
2008: 41). In the Fremen, though, Herbert creates an oppressed people whose values are
not all that dierent from those of the Atreides. By the end of Dune, the Atreides’ iden-
tity is inextricably bound with that of the Fremen, just as Paul Atreides becomes Paul
Muad’Dib, gesturing towards the idea that West and East might be able to be reconciled
or re-envisioned beyond the Middle Eastern stereotypes that Edward Said critiques in
Orientalism (1978).
No matter the simplicity or complexity of the world-building, it involves a certain
balancing act, as features like language “must be dierent enough from the reader’s ordi-
nary language to suggest otherness, but near enough to still be understood” (Mandala,
2010: 30). Authors must choose which aspects of the real world to keep the same in their
stories, and which to change to develop their new, or secondary, world. The changes
made to the real world can be divided into four realms: nominal, cultural, natural, and
ontological, with most dierences to be found in the first two realms (Wolf, 2012: 35–36).
The cultural realm involves changes like “new objects, artifacts, technologies, customs,
institutions, ideas,” etc., and such imagined cultures “are often modeled after real cul-
tures, using dierent combinations of their traits that an audience might find familiar,
but in new configurations” (2012: 35–36). In the nominal realm, authors give new names
to existing objects, which “may call attention to dierent aspects of familiar things, or even
define new concepts, since language bears an inherent cultural worldview within it” (2012:
35). Thus, the new cultures and names in a work of science fiction play a significant role in
how readers understand the secondary world and its relation to their own world. If an author
can produce changes in the nominal and cultural realms that gesture towards an even larger,
more expansive, universe than is described in the story, world-building can successfully set
up the illusion of completeness and allow readers’ pre-existing knowledge to fill in the gaps.
These changes need not be limited to the main storyline either. Names referenc-
ing historical, literary, or mythic figures and cultures, as well as other details, provide
“background richness and verisimilitude” and may appear “outside of the story itself, in
the form of appendices, maps, timelines, glossaries of invented languages, and so forth”
(Wolf, 2012: 2). In a similar vein to Tolkien, Herbert includes appendices in Dune such
as the Almanak en-Ashraf (Selected Excerpts of the Noble Houses) and Terminology of
the Imperium, which define dozens of names and items and contain frequent references
to events and people not mentioned in the text. This extra information can arouse the
curiosity of readers who then desire to extrapolate beyond the text itself (2012: 61).
In the choice of names to facilitate the world-building process, Herbert relies on exist-
ing names or variations of them — each one being “chosen with care” — rather than
inventing languages (O’Reilly, 1981). The first names in Dune appear in an epigraph and
immediately make clear that this world is not Earth. The names Bene Gesserit, Muad’Dib,
Shaddam IV, Arrakis, Caladan, Dune, and Irulan set the stage for a journey into an
unfamiliar time and place. However, the opening scene concerns a mere boy named Paul
and his mother named Jessica. Paul is derived from the Latin Paulus, meaning “small,”
and carries a link with Saint Paul, the first-century Roman Jew who helped found the
Christian Church through his missionary work (Knowles, 2005). Jessica means “one
who looks forth” and is also Biblical; the name was popularized by Shakespeare who
used it for the Jewish character Shylock’s daughter in The Merchant of Venice after
likely finding it in Genesis (Hanks et al., 2006; Net Bible, 2006). Paul and Jessica’s sur-
name, Atreides, recalls the mythic Greek figure of Atreus, “father of Agamemnon and
Menelaus” (Roberts, 2007). Such legendary figures “abound in subcreated mythologies,
their deeds shaping their worlds and their histories” (Wolf, 2012: 191). Although Paul’s
father, Duke Leto, dies early on, his name also reinforces the link with Greek mythol-
ogy: Leto is the name of Artemis and Apollo’s mother (Knowles, 2005). The Atreides
family thus links with Greco-Roman as well as Jewish and Christian names, and its
standpoint becomes more noticeably Western when its members encounter others with
dierent names and viewpoints, such as the villain Vladimir Harkonnen — marked by
his Russian name in the Cold War era in which Herbert writes — or the Fremen with
their Arabic-based names (O’Reilly, 1981). Indeed, several critics have noted the parallels
between Paul and T. E. Lawrence, the British military ocer who liaised with the Arabs
during World War I and whose book Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1935) and its related film
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) were “immensely popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s”
(Csicsery-Ronay Jr, 2008: 271).
The use of proper names is also a “particularly ecient way to create a sense of place
without resorting to lengthy descriptions” (Ryan, 2001: 127). As opposed to pictures or
film, writing only “discloses its geography detail by detail, bringing it slowly into the
reader’s mind” (2001: 122). Therefore, names are a type of shortcut to “capture the feel
of a place” or a certain time period “without losing the reader in a descriptive thicket”
(2001: 125). Herbert quickly lays the foundation for the setting of Dune through names
and so facilitates the world-building process. In the first chapter, readers are introduced
to the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild, as well as the Emperor Shaddam IV. Bene
means “well, rightly,” and Gesserit sounds similar to Jesuit, the Order of the Catholic
Church in which Herbert was raised (Morwood, 2012; Roberts, 2006: 235). The Order
was founded at the tail end of the medieval period, with Jesuits “known for their work
as missionaries” and “support of controversial theological, missionary, and political doc-
trines” (Maryks, 2013). The first two women introduced, one being Jessica, are both Bene
Gesserit — essentially, good Jesuits — so the reader can begin to interpret their behavior
and speech in light of this historical religious connection. When the other woman blames
her tiredness on the “abominable Spacing Guild and its secretive ways,” the name rein-
forces that this world is set in a feudal paradigm, when guilds were “a salient institution
in much of Europe during the medieval Commercial Revolution” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]:
6; Ogilvie, 2011: 1). The presence of an emperor recalls the “political organization of the
Holy Roman Empire” or the Ottoman Empire, also prominent features of the medieval
period (Gunn, 2009: 161–162; Ower, 1974: 131).
Above all else though, the name that etches itself into the reader’s mind is Dune, signi-
fying a hot, sandy environment starved of moisture. However, to be a believable part of
an imaginary world, such a desert planet must have more than sand and heat. It is both
the “arid terrain and its extraordinary wildlife that catches the reader’s imagination,” as
well as tribal inhabitants whose culture is intimately connected with their environment
(Jones, 2003: 169).
The most extraordinary organism of the desert wildlife is the great sandworm with
its many names: Shai-Hulud, Old Man of the Desert, Old Father Eternity, Grandfather
of the Desert, and the Maker. It is testament to Herbert that his world-building ability
“provides firm grounding for even so unnatural a creature as a sandworm” (Miller, 1980:
10). The appendix calls Shai-Hulud the “earth deity of Fremen hearth superstitions,” and
Herbert bases its name on the Arabic sai’, meaning “thing,” and kulūd, meaning “immor-
tal” (1984 [1965]: 529; Wehr, 1979: 579, 294). Names indicate the sandworm’s position
as more than another desert creature; it is a divine being to the Fremen, who maintain a
strong reverence for it even as they use it for transportation and ritual ceremonies. When
the Fremen leader Stilgar urges Paul to face the test of riding a sandworm, it is clear that
he is invoking a deity: “You must ride the sand in the light of day that Shai-hulud shall
see and know you have no fear” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 384). On other occasions, the
sandworm is referred to as the Maker, which references the fact that the sandworms make
the spice and comprise an essential part of an environmental life cycle which the Fremen
fit into without disrupting. Indeed, the Fremen have a distinctive culture as the indigenous
inhabitants of the planet Dune. In terms of successful world-building, the construction
of believable cultures is one of the most important features. Culture “not only helps to
unite other structuring systems (like geography, history, nature, and so forth), but gives
them a context that relates directly to the experience of its characters, and gives them
meaning” (Wolf, 2012: 183). It ties the world together. Often, authors invest in fictional
cultures which are “constructed or cobbled together from various aspects of aesthetics
of existing real world cultures” (2012: 183). This is the path Herbert chooses to take in
Dune, using Islamic and Arabic cultures to construct Fremen society (Jones, 2003: 170).
Recognizing that language is an aspect of culture “that immediately gives a sense of a
culture’s aesthetics and worldview,” Herbert includes a significant number of Arabic
and Arabic-based names throughout the novel (Touponce, 1988: 26; Wolf, 2012: 183).
The strong association with real-world Arabic and Islamic societies then helps to
construct the Fremen’s identity as a religious people with a history of persecution, which
leads to their desire for retribution and, ultimately, a jihad against o-worlders. In Dune,
the first time the people of this desert culture are mentioned, there is already a sense that
they are outside of the bounds of society: “The planet sheltered people who lived at the
desert edge without caid or bashar to command them: will-o’-the-sand people called
Fremen, marked down on no census of the Imperial Regate” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 4–5).
Their name, Fremen, echoes the surname some African-American slaves gave themselves
once free and foreshadows the revealing of their historical oppression. Later, Herbert uses
specific names from Islam to forge a clear connection with Islamic societies. The Hajj is
defined as a “holy journey,” similar to the real-world pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims
take (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 520; Kueny, 2004: 529–530). Ramadhan is virtually the same
inside and outside the text: a time of fasting during the “ninth month of the solar-lunar
calendar” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 527; Netton, 1992: 211). The ritualistic words of one
of the religious leaders confirm the link with Islam: “‘We are the people of Misr,’ the
old woman rasped. ‘Since our Sunni ancestors fled from Nilotic al-Ourouba, we have
known flight and death’” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 351). Misr is another name for Egypt,
Sunni is one of the branches of Islam, and Nilotic al-Ourouba is a combination of “the
Nile region” and “Arabness,” prompting readers to believe that other names must be
historically based as well (Amin and El Kenz, 2005: 44; Esposito, 2003; Stevenson, 2010).
In fact, the name of the Fremen’s survival handbook/religious manual, the Kitab al-Ibar,
is the same as that of a world history book by Ibn Khaldun, a fourteenth-century Arab
historian (Jaques, 2004: 335–336). Yet Herbert also uses names to undercut the purity of
the Fremen culture and religion, showing how heavily they have been influenced by the
schemes of the Bene Gesserit organization. This serves to explain why women are given
a larger role in Fremen religious life compared to real-world religions known for their
exclusion of women from higher positions of authority (e.g. Islam, Christianity, and
Judaism). It also makes it believable that the Bene Gesserit-trained Jessica and Paul are
able to integrate with the Fremen community in their quest to regain control of the planet.
The name Shari-a is a clear reference to Islamic law (Brockopp, 2004: 618). But in Dune
it takes on a new meaning as part of the prophetic legends spread by the Bene Gesserit
should they ever need protection. After exposure to some of the Fremen’s religious beliefs,
Jessica reflects on the Shari-a spread by “a Bene Gesserit of the Missionaria Protectiva
dropped here long centuries ago,” immediately conveying the fact that the Fremen religion
has been manipulated by outside forces (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 55). The name Missionaria
Protectiva carries an easily understood meaning both on the surface — protective mis-
sion — and in relation to what readers know of the Bene Gesserit: that it masquerades
as a religious organization but is actually interested in political maneuvering. The Bene
Gesserit mission to the Fremen’s ancestors is so successful, in fact, that the people still
retain the same names in their religious practices: “The prophetic legends had taken
on Arrakis even to the extent of adopted labels (including Reverend Mother, canto and
respondu, and most of the Shari-a panoplia propheticus)” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 47).
Such names make it easier for Jessica to understand their culture and, ultimately, exploit
it to ensure her and her son’s survival.
With the background of the Bene Gesserit’s involvement explained, it becomes easier
for readers to accept the fact that an otherwise patriarchal, tribal society has such strong
female religious leaders and would accept Jessica as one. Once she proves her worth to
the Fremen, she is formally named Sayyadina, meaning a female religious leader. This
name comes from the Arabic sayyid, meaning “to be lord over, to rule” and can “signify
a holy person” (Gleave, 2004: 611). The highest religious position and name, however,
is that of Reverend Mother, which Jessica soon assumes. Because of earlier statements,
readers know that the name comes directly from the Bene Gesserit, and is also markedly
dierent from the other Arabic-based religious names of Sayyadina and “Auliya, the
Friend of God” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 294 [italics added]). With his choice of a name
used in Catholic/Christian communities, Herbert positions the Reverend Mother as a
Western influence in contrast with the religious culture that pre-existed the Bene Gesserit’s
missionary work. This potentially expands on the world-building experience for readers
as they wonder about the extent of the Missionaria Protectiva and how the Bene Gesserit
implanted such prophecies.
One problematic aspect of Herbert’s creation of the Fremen culture by using Arabic
and Arabic-based names is the potential for the Fremen to be viewed as a monolithic,
backwards society trapped by archaic religious and cultural beliefs. Their alternative
name, Ichwan Bedwine, carries multiple meanings. Ikhwān can mean “brethren” as a gen-
eral term for an Islamic group, or, more specifically, the Society of the Muslim Brothers,
the “first modern Islamic mass movement” (Johnston, 2004: 345; Netton, 1992: 118).
Whether or not Herbert intends to position the Fremen as imitators of the Brothers, who
embrace “Western ideas and technology as a tool to advance Islam,” is unclear but adds to
the interpretive potential (Johnston, 2004: 345). Bedwine allows for the association with
a likely more familiar name, Bedouin. Bedouin comes from the Arabic badawīn, meaning
“dwellers in the desert” and describes Arab nomads who have traditionally “maintained
rigorous codes of honor, revenge, loyalty, and hospitality” (Keough, 2010; Knowles,
2005). Use of the name Ichwan Bedwine distances the Fremen from other city-dwelling
societies, as Otherness is “represented through the perspective of a tribal culture based
on the medieval Bedouin, for whom any person or thing from outside the tribe was to
be treated with suspicion and even hatred” (Roberts, 2000: 43). The potential appears
for confirmation of an “absolute and systematic dierence between the West, which is
rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, undeveloped,
inferior” (Said, 2003 [1978]: 300). “Lurking behind all of these images is the menace of
jihad” and the persistent “fear that the Muslims (or Arabs) will take over the world” (Said,
2003 [1978]: 287). The Fremen thus appear as a quasi-Arabic and Middle Eastern people
bent on jihad to avenge their historical oppression, unable or unwilling to think rationally
and modernize their way of living. To be fair, Herbert’s depiction of the Fremen is a far
cry from popular mid-twentieth-century views of Arabs as “terroristic, hook-nosed,
[and] venal” (Said, 2003 [1978]: 108). Nevertheless, Paul and Jessica’s manipulation of
the Fremen’s religious beliefs towards their own ends does show the Western rulers taking
advantage of the oppressed Others.
Paul’s multiple names are a powerful reflection of his changing attitudes and roles
within Fremen society, and the extent to which he is willing to “go native” in order to
achieve power. While Herbert ostensibly introduces Paul with his Latin name, as dis-
cussed earlier, in the first sentence of Dune, he actually introduces him as Muad’Dib
in the opening epigraph. Paul continues to be named Muad’Dib in the epigraphs that
open each section, allowing the reader to speculate how and why he changes his name.
When Paul first arrives on Dune, some people “recalled the legends and the prophecy and
they ventured to shout: ‘Mahdi!’ But their shout was more a question than a statement,
for as yet they could only hope he was the one foretold as the Lisan al-Gaib, the Voice
from the Outer World” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 97). Here, two more names are added to
those of Paul. Lisan al-Gaib is a combination of the Arabic lisān, meaning “tongue” or
“language,” and aib, meaning “invisible” or “supernatural,” derived from the myth
sown by the Bene Gesserit that an outsider would arrive to help the Fremen (Wehr, 1979:
1016, 806–807). Madhi, which resembles Muad’Dib, means “the guided one” and is the
“honorary title of the expected deliverer or messianic figure in Islam” (Hermansen, 2004:
421). Having someone representing the West take on these names and roles perhaps indi-
cates a cynical attitude towards religious savior figures, but also portrays the relationship
between the West and the Orient as one “of power, of domination, or varying degrees
of a complex hegemony” (Said, 2003 [1978]: 5). Paul does not dissuade the people from
their speculations. In fact, his father encourages him to use these names and beliefs to
his advantage as a ruler when he tells him that “they call you ‘Mahdi’ — ‘Lisan al-Gaib’
— as a last resort, you might capitalize on that” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 105).
Paul’s choice of Muad’Dib as his name among the Fremen signals his transition into a
position of strength and leadership. It is the name of the resourceful desert mouse on
Dune, foreshadowing Paul’s ability to adapt to his environment as well as providing an
additional tie-in to the aforementioned Latin meaning of his name, “small.” Muad’Dib
also means “teacher” both in the text and in Arabic (Wehr, 1979: 12). Herbert explains
this for readers in Stilgar’s remarks to Paul:
“I will tell you a thing about your new name,” Stilgar said. “The choice pleases us. Muad’Dib
is wise in the ways of the desert. Muad’Dib creates his own water. Muad’Dib hides from
the sun and travels in the cool night. Muad’Dib is fruitful and multiplies over the land.
Muad’Dib we call ‘instructor-of-boys.’ That is a powerful base on which to build your life,
Paul-Muad’Dib, who is Usul among us. We welcome you.” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 307)
Paul’s name among Stilgar’s tribe is Usul, meaning “the base of the pillar” (Herbert, 1984
[1965]: 532). Yet Paul’s roles as teacher and foundation of the tribe are soon overshadowed
by his role as the prophet, and the names Muad’Dib and Lisan al-Gaib become associated
with violence, connecting Paul and his fighting abilities with the Fremen religion and
desire for jihad. In their eagerness for jihad, many of the Fremen are portrayed with
“[n]o individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences” but instead with “mass
rage and misery” (Said, 2003 [1978]: 287). When they ask Paul if he is the one foretold
in the legends, he “sensed the jihad in their words” and heard “the wildness in their
voices — ‘Lisan al-Gaib,’ they said. ‘Muad’Dib!’” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 350, 360). The
Fremen accept him not as Paul but with these Arabic-based names, and he in turn accepts
such names to become one of them and ultimately gain their loyalty. His reputation as a
fierce leader steadily grows, and there are “stories told of Muad’Dib, the Lisan al-Gaib —
how he had taken the skin of a Harkonnen ocer to make his drumheads, how he
was surrounded by death commandos” (1984 [1965]: 417). Through the use of names,
Herbert shows Paul’s morphing from a boy to a leader and a fighter, someone whose
name connotes ferocity and fanatic loyalty. He essentially becomes one of the Fremen
and capitalizes on the propaganda of the Bene Gesserit’s Missionaria Protectiva in order
to control the Fremen and regain his rule of the planet.
Therefore, while the Fremen call him Muad’Dib and Lisan-al Gaib, he remains
grounded in his identity as Paul. In fact, Herbert always refers to him as Paul in the
main text; the epigraphs and Fremen refer to him by his other names. The emphasis on
his identity as the ruling-class duke in exile, who must teach and guide the tribal people
around him, continues the problematic dichotomy between the Atreides family and the
Fremen, who must rely on “the equivalent of an enlightened American or European” for
liberation (Higgins, 2013: 238). Even as the Fremen’s leader, Paul does not return full
ownership of the planet to them but seeks to rule it himself. He uses his multiple iden-
tities to his advantage to keep others o-balance, allowing him the freedom to operate
strategically in both worlds:
Paul promises as an Atreides Duke that Shaddam and his party will be unharmed, but as
Muad’Dib sends the Emperor and his retinue o to permanent exile on Salusa Secundus.
Correspondingly, as Duke Paul, he promises an earldom, a CHOAM directorship, and the
fief of Caladan to Gurney Halleck, yet as the Prophet reserves the right to dispense titles and
rewards to his Fremen. (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 324)
His own right-hand Fremen commander, Stilgar, remains unsure of who Paul is, voicing
this uncertainty by listing Paul’s many names as markers of his changing identities:
“‘Usul, the companion of my sietch, him I would never doubt,’ Stilgar said. ‘But you are
Paul-Muad’Dib, the Atreides Duke, and you are the Lisan al-Gaib, the Voice from the
Outer World. These men I don’t even know’” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 406). Stilgar cannot
entirely trust this many-faced person, but he is not in a position to free his people on his
own; the Fremen depend on Paul in his identity as Muad’Dib and the Lisan al-Gaib to
enable their jihad and freedom from oppression.
Yet, over the course of the novel, Paul Atreides is fundamentally altered by his expe-
rience becoming Paul Muad’Dib, just as Jessica is significantly changed by her experi-
ence becoming Sayyadina and then Reverend Mother to the Fremen. Their identities as
Atreides can no longer be separated from their identities as Fremen, and so they occupy
a hybrid position where their attitudes, behaviors, and worldview are a combination of
their previous training and beliefs and those of the Fremen community. Indeed, while
living with the Fremen, Jessica gives birth to a daughter and names her Alia, which
encapsulates this hybridity: in Latin it means “another,” and in Arabic it signifies “the
Most High” as the feminine form of Alī, one of the 99 names of God (Ghazālī, 1995:
50; Sheard, 2011: 47). By the end of Dune, the Orient and Islam no longer stand for the
“ultimate alienation from and opposition to Europe,” but form an important part of
these characters’ new fused identities (Said, 1983: 6). Paul may gain power as an Atreides,
but he retains two Fremen, Chani and Stilgar, in his inner circle of advisors, along with
his mother. Moreover, Paul struggles and fails to escape the path of the jihad, showing
his inability to actually control the Fremen or redirect their power: “He had thought
to oppose the jihad within himself, but the jihad would be. […] They needed only the
legend he already had become” (Herbert, 1984 [1965]: 482). Thus, through the bringing
together of these two cultures, Herbert seems to be indicating that there is no clear sep-
aration between the West and the East and each has something to learn and gain from
the other. Ultimately, using names as a large part of his world-building strategy, Herbert
is able to create an immersive, engaging world and invite readers along for the journey,
in the process prompting them to think dierently about their often polarized world.
Kara Kennedy
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Notes on contributor
Kara Kennedy is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Canterbury, focusing
on Frank Herbert’s Dune saga as well as digital humanities in relation to science fiction.
Correspondence to: Kara Kennedy, English Programme, School of Humanities,
University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8041, New Zealand. Email:
... Kara Kennedy (2016)discusses the use of language and its orientalist themes in Dune in her paper when she talks about epic world-building as a process including language, character, places, and cultures to make the world believable for the audience. In this regard the author -take[s] on the role of Adam, giving a name to all of the items in their domain‖ (p. ...
... 99).Instead of a whole new language invention like we see it in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001)(2002)(2003), Dune borrows familiar words from real, natural languagesnamely semitic languages like Arabic and Hebrew, but also ancient Greek-and adjusts them to fit them to the desert planet, creating a familiarity for the audience.Thus, the main language is English, but the names of things, places and people areborrowed, making it a -posteriori language‖ (Wolf, 2012, p. 229). According to Kennedy (2016)‗Orientalism is established with the juxtaposition of the Middle East with the West. This occurssincesome Fremen characters as well as their items and places (specifically the sacred items and animals)are then associated with Arabic or Arabic sounding names and words to create exotic effects, while House Atreides and the main characters are endowed with Ancient Greek and Christian names'(p. ...
The discourse about Orientalism, first mentioned by Edward Said has as long history and changed over time by drawing from discoursesin different fields. In this paper, Denis Villeneuves cinematic adaptation of Dune in 2021 was analysed through the lens of Orientalism and through the lens of identity in construction of the self and the other. Firstly, main orientalist themes in Dune that were identified before by other scholars have been discussed. Secondly, the relationship between self-and other was explored by drawing from literature about identity in culture and memory and relating it to scenes in the film. It can be observed that the discourse mentioned in the first half the paperfocuses on binary ideas of the Orient and Occident. The second half of the paper proposes a complex and interwoven view of self and other that stand in relationship as rather dynamic and changing complements than as binaries only, and are made visible through the young heros journey.
... Kitap'ta "İslam" ya da "Müslüman" sözcüğü geçmese de Muad'Dib Paul'ün önderliğindeki yeni Fremen dininde belirgin İslami göstergeler yer almaktadır. Dune serisine yönelik yabancı kaynaklarda Fremenler "Arap" olarak betimlenmekte ve Batılı araştırmacılar bu şarkiyatçı söylemi açıkça ifade etmektedir (Carter, 1973;Jones, 2003;Csicsery-Ronay Jr, 2008;Kennedy, 2016). ...
This study analyses the Turkish and German translations of Herbert’s Dune, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, with a comparative point of view within the concept of cultural translation and Orientalism and thus, evaluates the translations of Orientalism within the Eastern and Western perspectives. The prominent Arabic culture in the Fremen language and the Arabic words describing the Fremen social identity are the most obvious indicators of Herbert’s orientalist discourse in the novels. The way Turkish and German translators transfer these words to their translations and the effect they could create in parallel to their social identities, are to be evaluated within Edward Said’s “Orientalist Discourse Analysis” and Taijfel and Turner’s “Social Identity Theory”, in order to bring a fresh perspective in the translation of the other. In the study, the translations of the Arabic words have been analysed within the translation strategies suggested by Newmark for the translation of cultural words, and the effect the translators have created in the target texts as the “in-group” or “out-group” have been compared relatively. The most common translation strategies used in the translation of the Arabic-inspired Fremen words are Transference and Naturalization. In the Turkish translations of Dune Series in 1995, the rates of these translation strategies are 41% and 58%, while 75% and 22% in 2015. In German translations, these rates are 2% and 95%. The Arabic words have been translated into Turkish not as a part of a fictional language, but like loan words from Arabic with an adapted phonetics, which has led to the loss of the Fremen language in the Turkish translated texts. On the other hand, Fremen words have been transferred exactly the way they are in the source text into German and Herbert’s image of the Orient has been transferred to the target readers with the intended foreignness within the target culture.
This concluding chapter provides an overview of other interesting avenues of interpretation of Dune, some of which have not yet been well-explored in the scholarship. Perspectives that have received some attention include those from philosophy, classical studies, and comparative literature, while emerging areas of study include world-building, linguistics, translation studies, postcolonialism, and posthumanism. The chapter concludes by discussing Dune’s ambiguity and openness to multiple interpretations, which make it ripe for new critical perspectives and debates.
This chapter discusses issues of power, politics, and religion in Dune, with a focus on the interplay between feudalism, imperialism, and Machiavellianism. It shows how these features are important in the development of a universe that focuses on humans rather than technology, which allows Herbert to highlight the corruption in the strategies of groups seeking control. The chapter also examines the Catholic, Islamic, and Arabic influences on the depiction of religion and the characterization of the Bene Gesserit and Fremen in the book. It discusses these in relation to Herbert’s criticism of the potential for religion to be used as a political tool.
Frank Herbert's influential science fiction novel Dune (1965) is usually understood as a prescient work of environmentalism. Yet it is also concerned with empire, and not merely in an abstract way. Herbert worked in politics with the men who oversaw the United States’ overseas territories, and he took an unusually strong interest in Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest, particularly the Quileute Nation. Conversations with Quileute interlocutors both inspired Dune and help explain Herbert's turn toward environmentalism. This article recovers the neglected imperial context for Herbert's writing, reinterpreting Dune in light of that context.
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Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) is considered to be one of the most successful Science Fiction novels of the 20th century. It introduces its readers to a future universe, in which the production of the most valuable resource of the universe – ›spice‹ – is only possible on one vast desert planet called Arrakis. Dune offers many different motifs, including a hero that eventually turns into a superhuman being. However, the novel is also rich of orientalist semiotics and relates to a sign system existent when Herbert wrote his book. Frank Jacob discusses these semiotics in detail and shows how much of Lawrence of Arabia is present in the story’s plot.
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The characterization of spice in Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune plays a significant role in world-building and focusing readers' attention on natural enhancements to the human mind. Herbert uses historical and social contexts relevant to real-world spices to create layers of meaning by tapping into emerging trends in ecology, psychology, and politics. These include the historic spice trade, drugs in the countercultural movement, the disciplines of ecology and psychology, and foreign interference in the Middle East. Such linkages help position spice as a valuable commodity as well as a psychoactive substance that various characters must consume to accomplish extraordinary feats. In the world of Dune, everything is dependent on one substance, and although spice may give advantages, it also takes its toll. The consequences of spice consumption on an individual level then mirror the larger ecological disruptions in the novel in the realms of politics and the environment. In this way, spice represents a key feature of world-building that assists in tying the threads of the novel together and driving through to readers the ecological message about the interconnectedness of life.
Preface Definitions Science Fiction and the Ancient Novel Interlude: AD400 - AD1600 Seventeenth-Century Science Fiction Eighteenth-Century Science Fiction Early Nineteenth-Century Science Fiction Science Fiction 1850 - 1900 Jules Verne and H.G. Wells The Early Twentieth-Century: High Modernist Science Fiction Golden Age Science Fiction: 1940-1960 The Impact of New Wave Science Fiction: 1960s - 1970s Science Fiction Screen Media 1960s - 2000: Hollywood Cinema and TV Prose Science Fiction: 1970s - 1990s Late Twentieth Century SF: Multimedia, Visual Science Fiction and Others Postscript: Twenty-First-Century Science Fiction Chronology of Key Titles in Science Fiction and Developments in Science Notes Further Reading Index
Science fiction was reborn in one year, 1600, the year that the Catholic Inquisition burned Giordano Bruno the Nolan at the stake for arguing in favour of the notion that the universe was infinite and contained innumerable worlds. Bruno’s was a fundamentally science-fictional conception.