Star Wars is one of the biggest and most beloved pop culture franchises of all time. It’d be impossible to name every bit of art influenced by the galaxy far, far away since the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. But George Lucas’s space fantasy series wore its own influences pretty boldly on its sleeve. From science-fiction serials like Flash Gordon to the films of Akira Kurosawa, Star Wars is essentially an amalgamation of many things that came before.
One of the biggest pieces of media to impact Star Wars was Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune. The two share an enormous amount of similarities, from their galactic setting to their character journeys and more. In fact, the two share so much DNA that Herbert complained that Lucas stole from him. “I’m going to try very hard not to sue,” Herbert told an Oregon newspaper back in the ‘70s, before adding that he found the first Star Wars film “boring.”
So what are those similarities? Ahead of the release of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Herbert’s novel, out this December, we compiled all of the major things Star Wars borrowed from Dune.
It is hard to discuss some of the likenesses without entering spoiler territory for both sagas; we’ll put the rest of the post below a spoiler warning to be safe.
Spoilers for Star Wars and Dune.
Tatooine / Arrakis
Let’s start with the most obvious one. The most famous planets in both Star Wars and Dune are incredibly similar. In the former, Luke Skywalker hails from a desolate and nearly inhabitable desert planet on the far reaches of the galaxy called Tatooine. In the latter, Paul Atreides and his family move to a desolate and nearly inhabitable desert planet on the far reaches of the known universe called Arrakis. Both sandy planets feature centrally to the plot of their stories; they’re where our respective heroes recieve the call to destiny.
Moisture farmers / dew collectors
On Tatooine, Luke’s uncle is a moisture farmer, who implants devices in the desert to draw moisture from the atmosphere. On Arrakis, a device a called dew collector has the same function.
Another similarity between Tatooine and Arrakis? Both are home to vehicles known as sandcrawlers. In Star Wars, the Jawas use these large vessels “left over from a forgotten mining era long ago.” In Dune, people on Arrakis use sandcrawlers to mine the drug spice melange.
Sarlacc / Sandworm
In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, we meet a giant, sand-dwelling creature with a massive and many-toothed mouth called a Sarlacc. These bear a striking resemblance to the giant sandworms in Dune. The Sarlacc lives on Tatooine, and the sandworms live on Arrakis.
Spice is a popular commodity in both universes. In Star Wars, the mines of Kessel contain loads of “spice,” which is a dangerous drug. In Dune, spice melange is the most powerful and desired substance in the known universe; a drug that gifts its taker with prescient abilities among other mental and physical advantages.
The Empire / The Imperium
In the original Star Wars trilogy, the ruler of the galaxy is an evil galactic Empire. In Dune, the known universe is run by an evil interstellar Imperium. Both of these have an emperor as the head. Both sagas are eventually about the collapse of this totalitarian system of government.
Princess Leia / Princess Alia
We all know and love Princess Leia from Star Wars. As we learn in the series, she is the sister of Luke Skywalker. The two share a powerful spiritual and psychic connection. This recalls Princess Alia of Dune, Paul Atreides’s sister with whom he shares a powerful spiritual and psychic connection.
Descended from a Villain
In Star Wars, Luke and Leia eventually learn of their secret lineage. They are the children of the saga’s main villain, Darth Vader. In Dune, Paul and Alia learn they are the grandchildren of that saga’s main villain, Vladimir Harkonnen.
The Force / The Voice
In Star Wars, there exists a mystical and transient power called the Force, that allows certain characters to perform Jedi mind tricks. People can use this for persuasion and manipulation of another person. In Dune, the Bene Gesserit use something called the Voice, a use of powers they’ve acquired through mental conditioning that allow them to mind control another person.
Han Solo / Duncan Idaho
Jason Momoa, who portrays House Atreides swordmaster in Villeneuve’s Dune, recently described his character as “Han Solo-esque.” It’s not hard to see why we made the comparison. In the novel, Idaho is pledged to House Atreides, but exists a bit on the margins. He becomes an ambassador to the Fremen to unite the people of Arrakis with the Atreides. He’s a renegade and a ladies’ man, and we can see how there’s room for him to become the Han Solo of the new Dune movie franchise.
Jedi Bendu / Prana-Bindu
In George Lucas’s original rough draft of Star Wars, the Jedi were referred to as the “Jedi Bendu,” the carriers of the Force—a connection to all life in the universe. In the script, they are also referred to as “the most feared warriors in the universe”. Eventually, Star Wars canon repurposed the term Bendu in the animated series Rebels, where we meet Force-sensitive entities of the same name who represent the center of the Force. In Dune, Prana-Bindu is a method of training that leads to the complete control of one’s nerves and muscles which aids in combat. It’s a major principle of the Bene Gesserit.
Both terms are derived from the symbol Bindu, from the Sanskrit word meaning “dot.” Bindu is associated with chakra and also means “the point at which creation begins and becomes unity.”
In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, we see the life of Jabba the Hutt, a slug-like creature carried on a dais who lives like a king on Tatooine. In the Dune universe, the son of Paul Atreides, Leto II Atreides, slowly transforms into a sandworm-like creature carried on a dais who is quite literally royalty.
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These are just a few of the majority similarities. If you’re familiar with Star Wars but want to know more about Dune, follow along with Nerdist Book Club! They have just begun a read-through of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel. We’re moving ahead today with a discussion of all of book one; we will finish the entirety of the first novel in June. See more about the event and join us for live discussions here.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm / Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures
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