Dune Messiah

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Dune Messiah
First edition
AuthorFrank Herbert
Audio read by
Cover artistJack Gaughan
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherPutnam Publishing
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback)
LC ClassPZ4.H5356 Du PS3558.E63
Preceded byDune 
Followed byChildren of Dune 

Dune Messiah is a 1969 science fiction novel by American writer Frank Herbert, the second in his Dune series of six novels. A sequel to Dune (1965), it was originally serialized in Galaxy magazine in 1969, and then published by Putnam the same year. Dune Messiah and its own sequel Children of Dune (1976) were collectively adapted by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2003 into a miniseries entitled Frank Herbert's Children of Dune.


Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides has ruled as Emperor for 12 years. By accepting the role of messiah to the Fremen, he has unleashed a jihad which has conquered most of the known universe, but is powerless to stop the lethal excesses of the religious juggernaut he has created. Although 61 billion people have perished, Paul's prescient visions indicate this is far from the worst possible outcome for humanity. Motivated by this knowledge, Paul hopes to set humanity on a course that will not inevitably lead to stagnation and destruction, while at the same time acting as ruler of the empire and focal point of the Fremen religion.

The Bene Gesserit, Spacing Guild, and Tleilaxu conspire to dethrone Paul, and the Guild Navigator Edric is able to use his own prescience to shield the plot from Paul's prescient visions. The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Mohiam has enlisted Paul's wife, the Princess Irulan, daughter of the deposed Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. Paul has refused to father a child with Irulan, but he and his Fremen concubine Chani have also failed to produce an heir, causing tension within his monarchy. Desperate both to secure her place in the Atreides dynasty and to preserve the bloodline for the Bene Gesserit breeding program, Irulan has secretly been giving contraceptives to Chani. Paul is aware of this fact, but has foreseen that the birth of his heir will bring Chani's death, and does not want to lose her.

Edric gives Paul a gift he cannot resist: a Tleilaxu-grown ghola of the deceased Duncan Idaho, Paul's childhood teacher and friend, now called "Hayt". The conspirators hope the presence of Hayt will undermine Paul's ability to rule by forcing Paul to question himself and the empire he created. Furthermore, Paul's acceptance of the gift weakens his support among the Fremen, who see the Tleilaxu and their tools as unclean. Chani, taking matters into her own hands, switches to a traditional Fremen fertility diet, preventing Irulan from tampering with her food, and soon becomes pregnant. However, Chani's extended use of Irulan's contraceptive has weakened her, and endangers the pregnancy.

Paul learns of a Fremen conspiracy against him, but sees the strands of a Tleilaxu plot. As Paul's soldiers attack the conspirators, other conspirators set off an atomic weapon called a stone burner, purchased from the Tleilaxu, that destroys the area and blinds Paul and others. By tradition, all blind Fremen exile themselves in the desert, but Paul shocks the Fremen and entrenches his godhood by proving he can still see, even without eyes. His oracular powers have become so developed that he can foresee everything, so by moving through his life in lockstep with his visions, he can see even the slightest details of the world around him.

The dwarf servant Bijaz, actually a Tleilaxu agent, uses a specific humming intonation to implant in Hayt a command that will compel him to kill Paul under certain circumstances. Chani dies in childbirth, and Paul's reaction to her death triggers Hayt, who prepares to kill Paul. Hayt's ghola body reacts against its own programming and Duncan's full consciousness is recovered, simultaneously making him independent of Tleilaxu control.

Chani gives birth to twins who, like Paul, have full access to both their male and female ancestral memories. The son is a total surprise for Paul, who had only foreseen the birth of their daughter. The Tleilaxu Face Dancer Scytale offers to revive Chani as a ghola, revealing the full purpose behind Hayt/Duncan's presence and the restoration of his memories. Paul refuses, considering the possibility that the Tleilaxu might program a Chani ghola in some diabolical way. Scytale threatens the infants with a knife, demanding all of Paul's CHOAM holdings in return for his children's lives. By successfully escaping the oracular trap and setting the universe on a new path, Paul has been rendered completely blind, yet he is able to kill Scytale with an accurately aimed dagger due to a psychic vision from his son's perspective. Later that evening Bijaz approaches Paul and repeats Scytale's offer, but is killed by Duncan on Paul's order, lest Bijaz continue to tempt Paul. Now prophetically and physically blind, Paul chooses to embrace the Fremen tradition of a blind man walking alone into the desert, winning the fealty of the Fremen for his children, who will inherit his empire.

Paul leaves his sister Alia, herself worshipped by the Fremen and now romantically involved with Duncan, as regent for the twins, whom he has named Leto and Ghanima. Alia orders the execution of Edric, Mohiam, and others involved in the plot against her brother, going against his wish that none of them should be harmed. Alia spares Irulan, who in grief for Paul has renounced her loyalty to the Bene Gesserit and vowed to dedicate her life as a teacher to Paul's children. Duncan notes the irony that Paul's and Chani's deaths have enabled them to triumph against their enemies: the Spacing Guild and the Bene Tleilaxu have been discredited, Irulan's defection from the Bene Gesserit removes the sisterhood's last lever against the Atreides, and Paul has escaped deification by walking into the desert as a man, while guaranteeing Fremen support for the Atreides line.

Publication history[edit]

Parts of Dune Messiah (and its sequel Children of Dune) were written prior to the completion of Dune itself.[1] The novel appeared initially as a five part serial in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine published from June (cover dated July) to October (cover dated November) 1969 with illustrations by Jack Gaughan. A Putnam hardback edition also appeared in October 1969. The American and British editions contain different prologues which summarized the events of Dune. Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were published in a single volume by the Science Fiction Book Club in 2002,[2] and in 1979 by Gollancz with Dune as The Great Dune Trilogy.


Herbert likened the initial trilogy of novels (Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune) to a fugue, and while Dune was a heroic melody, Dune Messiah was its inversion. Paul rises to power in Dune by seizing control of the single critical resource in the universe, melange. His enemies are dead or overthrown, and he is set to take the reins of power and bring a hard but enlightened peace to the universe. Herbert chose in the books that followed to undermine Paul's triumph with a string of failures and philosophical paradoxes.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Galaxy Science Fiction called Dune Messiah "Brilliant ... It was all that Dune was, and maybe a little more."[4] Spider Robinson enjoyed the book "even as [he] was driving a truck through the holes in its logic, because it had the same majestic rolling grandeur of the previous book."[5] Challenging Destiny called the novel "The perfect companion piece to Dune ... Fascinating."[4]


David Lynch had planned to adapt sequels to Dune during the film's production in 1983–1984, with a script tentatively-titled Dune II. Based on Dune Messiah, the film had some differences from the novel's story, much like the first film had. After the critical and commercial failure of Dune, the sequel did not proceed. The partial script developed by Lynch with notes by Frank Herbert was discovered in summer 2023 at Herbert's archives at California State University, Fullerton.[6][7]

Dune Messiah and its sequel Children of Dune (1976) were collectively adapted by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2003 into a miniseries entitled Frank Herbert's Children of Dune.[8] The first installment of the three part, six-hour miniseries covers the bulk of the plot of Dune Messiah. The second and third installments adapt Children of Dune.[9]

Prior to the release of his 2021 theatrical adaptation Dune, director Denis Villeneuve confirmed at the 2021 Venice Film Festival that a film based on Dune Messiah was planned, and it would serve as the third film in a trilogy.[10] After Dune: Part Two (covering the second half of the first novel) was officially greenlit in October 2021, Villeneuve reiterated his hope to continue the series with a third film focusing on Dune Messiah.[11][12] Screenwriter Jon Spaihts confirmed in March 2022 that Villeneuve still planned on a third film, and TV series spin-offs to continue the Dune saga.[13] Villeneuve began writing a script for a Dune Messiah film in 2023.[14] In February 2024, Villeneuve said the script was "almost finished" but also said he "[doesn't] want to rush it," citing Hollywood's tendency of focusing on release dates over a film's overall quality.[15] Composer Hans Zimmer had already begun working on the film's score to assist Villeneuve in creating the film.[16] In April 2024, following the critical and commercial success of Dune: Part Two, Legendary Pictures confirmed that Dune Messiah was in development with Villeneuve returning as director.[17]


  1. ^ Herbert, Frank (1976). "When I Was Writing Dune". Children of Dune (2008 ed.). Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9781440630514. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  2. ^ Herbert, Frank (2002). Dune Messiah and Children of Dune (1st SFBC Printing ed.). Science Fiction Book Club. ISBN 0-7394-2399-1..
  3. ^ Herbert, Frank (July 1980). "DuneGenesis". Omni. FrankHerbert.org. Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2014. Of course there are other themes and fugal interplays in Dune and throughout the trilogy. Dune Messiah performs a classic inversion of the theme. Children of Dune expands the number of themes interplaying ... That fits the pattern of the fugue.
  4. ^ a b Herbert, Frank (1976). "Praise for the Dune Chronicles". Children of Dune (2008 ed.). Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9781440630514. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  5. ^ Robinson, Spider (September 1976). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction: 110.
  6. ^ Evry, Max (January 10, 2024). "I Found David Lynch's Lost Dune II Script". Wired. Archived from the original on January 10, 2024. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  7. ^ Prestinary, Patrisia. "LibGuides: Frank Herbert's Dune - A guide for further study" – via Libraryguides.fullerton.edu.
  8. ^ Fritz, Steve (December 4, 2000). "Dune: Remaking the Classic Novel". Cinescape. Archived from the original on March 16, 2008. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  9. ^ Asher-Perrin, Emmet (September 19, 2017). "SyFy's Children of Dune Miniseries Delivers On Emotion When Philosophy Falls Flat". Tor.com. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Casey, Dan (September 3, 2021). "Dune Director Denis Villeneuve Teases Trilogy Plans". Nerdist. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  11. ^ Davids, Brian (October 28, 2021). "Denis Villeneuve on Dune Success and the Road to Part Two". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Jolin, Dan (January 10, 2022). "Denis Villeneuve talks 'taxing' Dune shoot, identifying with Paul Atreides, sequel plans". Screendaily.com. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  13. ^ Ellwood, Gregory (March 10, 2022). "Jon Spaihts on a Potential Dune Trilogy & Collaborating With Park Chan-Wook [Interview]". ThePlaylist.net. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  14. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (31 January 2024). "Denis Villeneuve Refuses to Let Hollywood Shrink Him Down to Size". Time. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  15. ^ Bythrow, Nick (2024-02-26). ""The Danger In Hollywood": Dune 3's Release Delay Plan Defended By Denis Villeneuve". ScreenRant. Retrieved 2024-02-29.
  16. ^ Zee, Jazz Tangcay,Michaela; Tangcay, Jazz; Zee, Michaela (2024-02-29). "'Dune 2': Hans Zimmer Talks Composing Paul and Chani's Love Theme, Co-Writing Gurney's Song With Josh Brolin and Prepping for 'Messiah'". Variety. Archived from the original on March 1, 2024. Retrieved 2024-03-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Thompson, Jaden (April 4, 2024). "Denis Villeneuve and Legendary Developing Dune 3 and Nuclear War: A Scenario Film Adaptation". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2024.

Further reading[edit]

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