What Is DUNE’s Litany Against Fear?

“Fear is the mind-killer.”

Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides utters this sentence in the first trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. It’s part of what are probably the best known collection of words in Frank Herbert’s entire novel: the Litany Against Fear. The litany is a kind of signature of Dune, if you will. Paul embraces the litany in trying moments, almost as a mantra of sorts, and so do fans of the book. To speak or think the Litany Against Fear is to practice a moment of mindfulness. The words bring the mind into a singular focus. If one is in danger or experiencing any kind of turmoil in the world of Dune, they speak this litany that comes from a Bene Gesserit rite.

The full Litany Against Fear

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

These words from Dune bring courage to the front. They push out everything else. The mantra labels fear for what it is and pushes it aside. As it does originate with the Bene Gesserit, the litany tends to be spoken by people of the noble houses and upper classes. They’ve received more instruction and perhaps even had a Bene Gesserit teacher or member of their house. Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit, taught the litany to her son Paul, for example.

Paul Atreides screaming

Warner Bros./Legendary

And it ties right into the trailer as well. We see the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam test Paul with the gom jabbar. In the book, as the Reverend Mother holds the poisoned needle to Paul’s neck and makes him put his hand in the gom jabbar, he recites the litany. It helps Paul block the absolute agony at hand. Later in the book, Lady Jessica thinks of the litany when she’s in Arrakis’ unforgiving desert and in a dangerous situation.

A Dune teaser Warner Bros. and Legendary shared on Tuesday featured Paul speaking the entire Litany Against Fear, so I’m sure we’ll hear the whole thing in the movie. Maybe more than once. Until then, learn it and try repeating the litany when you’re feeling uncertain and scared.

Be sure to check out all our Dune content from glossaries, to explainers, to character breakdowns, and more.

Featured Image: Warner Bros./Legendary

Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of The Jedi Mind, available for pre-order now. Follow her on  Twitter and Instagram.

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