Dune, a large-scale space opera, contains many disturbing similarities to Star Wars. Focus on the influence of Frank Herbert’s work on George Lucas in his creation of Star Wars.
A major work of science fiction literature, Dune was published in 1965. Created by Frank Herbert, the saga left its mark, influencing many artists. Among them, a certain George Lucas, who will borrow certain elements of Dune to shape his Star Wars.
In 1977, Herbert’s novel is still in everyone’s minds, unlike our time, when it had fallen back into oblivion before Denis Villeneuve dusted it off. As the memory of the Dune book was present in American memories, the similarities between the two universes jumped out in the public eye.
Journalists from the Associated Press then put the question to the American writer. Is Star Wars Dune Plagiarism? Herbert, bewildered, does not believe it. Besides, he has not seen the George Lucas feature film. Shortly after its release, the author, fanned by curiosity, takes his ticket for a screening of Star Wars. The writer’s blood then only turns! The latter, furious, threatens to sue George Lucas. He will eventually give it up.
With the release of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation, wouldn’t it be time to look at some disturbing similarities between the two sagas? Moreover, for the Canadian, “most of the great ideas in Star Wars come from Dune“, he confided to the site Fandom in 2018.
Paul Atreides and Luke Skywalker
Luke and Paul, hero of Star wars and Dune, have a fairly similar path. They carry great power which must be revealed through training and meditation. The two young men are also considered elected officials or messiahs, supposed to bring peace and prosperity to their respective universes. Tormented and melancholy, Paul and Luke will have to go out of their way to embrace their destiny and rebel against an all-powerful Empire.
Arrakis and Tatooine
Arrakis (Dune) and Tatooine (Star Wars), are two similar planets. They are both desert, arid, and covered with sand and rocks. These two worlds conceal many secrets and hold a central place in the two sagas.
Bene Gesserit Order / Jedi Order
In the universe of Dune, the order of Bene Gesserit is an organization comprising only women. The latter have exercised political and religious influence for centuries within the society of the Imperium. The Jedi Order has a much similar function within the Galactic Republic. On the other hand, acting in the shadows like a Deep State, the Bene Gesserit seeks to lead humanity towards its own goals.
The group members train their body and mind drastically in an effort to gain superhuman abilities. The Jedi do the same, trying to master the Force to perfection. The two communities also share a common taste for outfits that camouflage the face, such as long capes topped with hoods. The Bene Gesserit also uses Voice, an ability that allows them to manipulate people. The Jedi Knights also have the power to command weak spirits by means of the Force, with a hand gesture well known to fans.
Baron Harkonnen and Darth Vader
The villains of Dune and Star Wars have disturbing similarities. Absolutely black, the two men seem as fragile and physically ill as they are mentally powerful. Their powers are terrifying and their determination unwavering. They reign as a tyrant over their respective empires, obeying an evil figure above them: Emperor Shaddam IV for Harkonnen and Emperor Palpatine for Vader.
“The two emperors are driven by the same ambition: to retain their power, whatever the cost”, underlines Nicolas Allard in Dune: a masterpiece of science fiction. That said, Vladimir Harkonnen’s evil aura may also match that of Emperor Palpatine. His imposing physique also evokes Jabba the Hutt, Han Solo’s nemesis.
Galactic Empire and Imperium
Just like in Star Wars, the universe of Dune is centered on a gigantic galactic empire. In the story of Frank Herbert, it is named the Imperium. It is headed by Emperor Shaddam IV of House Corrino. Arrakis is the hub of the Imperium because it is the only planet to produce the famous Spice.
Shaddam IV and Palpatine
Desperate to retain power, Emperors Padishah Shaddam IV and Palpatine are the two great antagonists of Dune and Star Wars. Their cruelty is matched only by their thirst for tyranny. In David Lynch’s adaptation, Padishah is played by José Ferrer (see illustration). We do not yet know who will play this character in part 2 that we reserve Denis Villeneuve.
Fremen and Tusken
The Fremen are the pioneer people of Dune. They form tribes that have mastered the harsh living conditions in the Arrakis desert. In Star Wars, the Tuskens have adapted to the arid climate of Tatooine and also live far from cities, wary of strangers. Nicknamed the Men of the Sands, they are very good warriors, just like the Fremen. However, the Tuskens don’t have a very important place in Star Wars, unlike the Fremen of Dune.
The test of the box / The test on Dagobah
In Dune, the Bene Gesserit order subjects Paul Atréides to the terrible ordeal of the box. The young man must face great suffering without removing his hand from the box or else he will die instantly. Master Yoda puts Luke Skywalker through an almost identical test on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. The future Jedi must enter a cave in order to face his greatest fears and increase his mastery of the Force.
Duncan Idaho and Obi Wan Kenobi
Duncan Idaho, fencing master of House Atreides, is also Paul’s mentor. The two have forged a very strong relationship, as have Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi. These great sages, who are also skilled warriors, have taught their disciples everything and are ready to do anything to protect them and enable them to fulfill their destiny.
Towards giant sands and Sarlacc
The Shai Hulud, a giant worm roaming the endless desert of Arrakis, has several equivalents in Star Wars. First of all, the Sarlacc, a giant creature present on Tatooine. She comes out of the sand and swallows everything in its path, including Boba Fett. The Exogorth, a sort of space worm, also resembles Shai Hulud. You can see it in The Empire Strikes Back. Finally, in season 2 of The Mandalorian, the hero must fight a Krayt dragon on Tatooine, a sort of sandworm mixed with a reptile, quite similar to that of Dune.
Krys and lightsaber
In the Dune universe, the Krys is a sacred weapon for the Fremen. It is made from a tooth of Shai Hulud, the giant sand worm. This notion of noble and unique sword is also present in Star Wars with the famous lightsaber, manipulated by the Jedi and the Sith.
Sardaukars and Stormtroopers
The Sardaukars of Dune are fanatical soldiers subservient to Emperor Shaddam IV. They undergo ruthless military training that develops their ferocity while eliminating the instinct of self-preservation. From childhood, they are taught the use of cruelty and terror. Each Sardaukar is the equivalent of ten ordinary Landsraad fighters. Even if the Stormtroopers of Star Wars are less formidable warriors (and less good sights), the two militias share the same military organization, a characteristic armor and are subjected to their respective emperors.