|First appearance||Children of Dune (1976)|
|Last appearance||Paul of Dune (2008)|
|Created by||Frank Herbert|
|Portrayed by||Susan Sarandon (2003 series)|
Princess Wensicia is a fictional character and member of House Corrino from the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. She was introduced in Herbert's 1976 novel Children of Dune—the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field—and appeared decades later in the 2008 novel Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
As established in the appendix of Dune (1965), Wensicia is the third daughter of the 81st Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV and Anirul, a Bene Gesserit of Hidden Rank. Her oldest sister is the Princess Irulan; her three other siblings are sisters Chalice, Josifa and Rugi. Wensicia accompanies her father into exile on Salusa Secundus after he is deposed by Paul Atreides in Dune.
Children of Dune
In Children of Dune, Wensicia is described as "fair-haired" with a "heart-shaped face," and said to have learned "shifty trickiness" from her sister Irulan but not herself been trained by the Bene Gesserit. She notes, "Irulan once divulged to me some of the things she'd learned. She was showing off at the time, and I saw no demonstrations. Still the evidence is pretty conclusive that Bene Gesserits have their ways of achieving their ends." Shaddam IV's heir is Wensicia's son Farad'n, whose deceased father, Dalak, is noted to be related to Count Hasimir Fenring, a close friend of Shaddam's since childhood.
As the novel begins, Shaddam is dead and Wensicia plots from exile to restore House Corrino to its former glory and wrest control of the Empire for Farad'n. She attempts to assassinate Leto II and Ghanima Atreides, the heirs to deceased Emperor Paul Atreides, by sending mechanically controlled Laza tigers to hunt them in the desert. Leto's growing prescience allows him to thwart the attack on himself and his twin sister; he pretends to be dead to escape the increasingly murderous ambitions of his father's sister Alia. Farad'n — newly trained in the Bene Gesserit ways by Paul and Alia's mother Lady Jessica — accepts an arrangement brokered by Jessica for him to marry Ghanima and share the throne; his part of the deal is to "denounce and banish" Wensicia for Leto's murder, which he does. Leto later returns and ascends the throne himself.
Wensicia is portrayed by Susan Sarandon in the Sci Fi Channel's 2003 miniseries Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, which is an adaptation of both Dune Messiah (1969) and its sequel Children of Dune. Sarandon told The New York Times, "One of the reasons I always loved the books was because they were driven by strong women, living outside the rules." She added that the Dune series "is very apropos to some of what's going on in the world today. It's about the dangers of fundamentalism and the idea that absolute power corrupts." The actress said of Wensicia, "She's just evil, evil, evil. I'm practically unrecognizable. It was a blast."
Laura Fries of Variety wrote, "it’s Susan Sarandon and Alice Krige [as Lady Jessica] who steal the thunder as opposing matriarchs of the great royal houses. Although the two never catfight, their ongoing struggle to rule the Dune dynasty gives this mini a real kick." Observing that Sarandon and Krige were "clearly relishing their roles", Fries added that "Sarandon makes a formidable enemy". Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted, "[Sarandon's] exiled princess may be the villain, cooking up deadly schemes, but we're right along with her in having a good time." Sarandon herself said, "it's always fun to play a smart villain." Not impressed overall with the acting in the miniseries, Ron Wertheimer of The New York Times wrote:
The exception is the piece's token movie star ... Susan Sarandon, having a high old time as the villain. Looking swell in slinky gowns and a collection of outer-space-deco headgear fitted with sensual silver antennas, Ms. Sarandon nearly winks into the camera. Her body language, her purring tone, the gleam in her evil eye, the curve of her evil eyebrow all declare, "Isn't this a hoot?" In another film, such a jarring note from a principal would sink it. But she's right; this is a hoot. Her mugging is part of the fun.
In the miniseries, Wensicia orchestrates the Dune Messiah conspiracy to assassinate Paul using a pre-programmed Tleilaxu ghola of his deceased friend Duncan Idaho; she is not involved in this plot in the original novel. After her assassination attempt on the twins, Wensicia negotiates the match between Ghanima and Farad'n, who soon betrays his mother by implicating her in Leto's presumed death.
- Touponce, William F. (1988). "Herbert's Reputation". Frank Herbert. Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers imprint, G. K. Hall & Co. p. 119. ISBN 0-8057-7514-5.
When Herbert completed the third book of the series, Children of Dune (1976), it became an authentic hardcover best-seller with seventy-five thousand copies sold (not including book club sales). It was the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field.
- Herbert, Frank (1965). "Appendix IV: The Almanak en-Ashraf (Selected Excerpts of the Noble Houses): SHADDAM IV". Dune.
- Herbert, Frank (1976). Children of Dune.
- Herbert, Frank (1965). "Appendix IV: The Almanak en-Ashraf (Selected Excerpts of the Noble Houses): COUNT HASIMIR FENRING". Dune.
- Berger, Warren (March 16, 2003). "COVER STORY: Where Spice of Life Is the Vital Variety". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
- Leve, Ariel (May 31, 2003). "Susan Sarandon: Still angry after all these years". The Guardian. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
- Fries, Laura (March 11, 2003). "Review: Children of Dune". Variety. Archived from the original on August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
- McFarland, Melanie (March 13, 2003). "Familial drama and effects power Children of Dune". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
- Wertheimer, Ron (March 15, 2003). "TELEVISION REVIEW; A Stormy Family on a Sandy Planet". The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2015.