Frank Herbert: Dune (1965) Book III The Prophet

It is Saturday once again and time for the third and last Dune readalong post. I’m so glad I participated despite the initial feeling of “What have I gotten myself into?”. I can still not say, I loved Dune, that would be a lie but I can say I loved the readalong. It was a great experience, the dedication and the discussions were great and I’m looking forward to the next readalong. The readalong is hosted by Carl V from Stainless Steel Droppings,  The Little Red Reviewer and Grace from Books without any Pictures. This weeks questions have been sent by Grace. Here are the other links.

What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?

I wanted to “meet” her from the beginning and was very intrigued by her character. The parts quoted from her manuals and books stand out style wise. I was not surprised that she was the Emperor’s daughter but saddened about the plans they had for her. She strikes me as too special to be handled like some goods.

Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

I still don’t think it feels like a standalone novel. For me the story is just about to start, I also think that this third part felt rushed. There were some fastworwarding moments that did not feel right to me. Comparing it to the first parts, there were much more things that were just mentioned but we did not see them happen.

On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself.  Was this convincing?  Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?

I thought that it was very well done how ecology and characters of the different cultures were interwoven and for me this was the special appeal of Dune. I’m fascinated how surroundings influence and form cultures or how one thing that is meaningful because it is scare in one place, becomes unimportant in another to an extent that it isn’t even appreciated anymore.

There certainly is a possibility that Paul would destroy the spice but I’m sure he will find a solution not to do it. Someone who gets married to a woman for purely political reasons doesn’t strike me as someone who will give up a pricey resource.

Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?

This ties back to answer no. 1. I found this quite horrible, horrible for the concubine and, in Paul’s case. also for the future wife and I have also a feeling that this will not work and this is also why I thought the book ended at an awkward moment. I can’t imagine that Paul will use the Princess Irulan purely for breeding or, I hope, she will not let him do that to her.

What was your favorite part in this section of the book?

I enjoyed it when they rode the worms. I was fascinated by these creatures the whole time and thought it showed so well to what extent the Fremen are capable of mastering their hostile surroundings.

One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert’s use of the word “jihad.”  What do you think of Herbert’s message about religion and politics?

I said it in the last posts and the discussion that I found the use of the word jihad problematic but I also found the use of the word messiah problematic and I can’t see Paul as a Messiah figure. He has some superior mental faculties but that isn’t enough for me to see a saviour figure in him. What Herbert does, is mix a lot of elements from all sorts of religions, it is a real religious hodgepodge what he offers.  I am not sure what he wants to tell us with this. That all religions are equal? That the elements are interchangeable? The religious world he created has no new elements, that’s for sure. Maybe the most striking is that he created a world in which everything is tied to politics and religion. And politics and religion are once more tied together, something the West has overcome. There is no laicism on Dune, their political system is far from secular which will always be problematic.

34 thoughts on “Frank Herbert: Dune (1965) Book III The Prophet

  1. I have said it before but it bears repeating: I am so glad that you participated, and did so by jumping in with both feet, despite this book not being to your liking. Your answers both here and on the other sites are always interesting and generate interesting conversations. Thank you so much. It is people like you who have made this a success and made it so enjoyable. I was afraid we would all be reading the book and doing our own thing and not communicating with any degree of depth and I am thrilled that that has not been the case at all.

    I was initially surprised that the third part of the book skipped ahead a few years, though I am not sure why I was because I knew all of the events that had to play out in that third part and it would never have worked otherwise. Your points about the book are well taken. At this time, and prior to this time, a lot of the “classic” science fiction novels were first published in magazines and had to be written to fit that format and were later pieced together and sometimes reworked a bit to be made into novels. And moving from that it was more common for books to be shorter rather than longer. At 500+ pages Dune was a monster science fiction book for its time and I suspect both Frank Herbert and his editor/publisher were looking for it to stay at a certain length, which meant that some sacrifices had to be made.

    I think the strength of Dune is that it shines despite those (presumed) constraints. If Dune was written today, even if it was written as a “stand alone” novel, it would be one of those thousand page monsters. I have yet to decide which is better. I personally prefer shorter books and I enjoy the “classic” style of science fiction (when done well). I don’t need every jot and tittle to be examined to the nth degree like some books seem to want to do today. I think Dune is fantastic as is. It does make me (on some level) want to read the next one and yet I am satisfied with filling in the blanks and using my own imagination to decide how I would like to see the rest of the story played out.

    Part of what makes Princess Irulan such a powerful figure is what you touched on. By the time we actually “meet” her we get to see that she has to step into the role of pawn for political reasons. If Herbert had never written any other stories we can see by both Jessica and Paul’s statements that there would have been no physical relationship at all. Paul’s heirs would come through Chani, the same way that Paul inherited his Dukedom even though born of a concubine. His marriage ensures him the rulership and that title would be passed on to his blood heir, or perhaps even to Alia. I think these circumstances as we see them at the end of Dune make Irulan both a tragic figure and yet a figure to admire, because she willingly lays down her own life and happiness for a future that she sees is necessary. Yes, it is a terrible way to live and I am thankful that most cultures now don’t operate that way, but given that this is the culture Herbert created/emulated both Irulan and Chani (and Jessica) end up being as much of the heroes of the piece as Paul as all of them choose to do what they feel is right, not just what they “want” to do.

    As I said in my answers I am not certain there is any one message Herbert is trying to convey regarding religion and politics. I think he shows us a wide array of the good and the bad in both and leaves it up to the reader to interpret. And I liked that. I didn’t feel like I was being “preached” to nor did I feel that he was putting down religion or politics in a wholesale manner. It is refreshing to read a book so filled with both and not come away feeling like an attempt has been made to “convert” me one way or the other.

    • Thank you Carl, for your kind words. I really enjoyed being a part of it and am glad I read it finally. I always like to bring in my full attention to something that is why I decline to particiapte when I cannot guarantee this. I liked to see others points of view and the dicussions were so great. I feel this was the right moment and the right combination of people to read this book with. I had Dune on my shelves for a very long time and always feel tempted. I’m glad I could read it with others, I’m not sure I would have read all of it on my own, it heleped me to get so much input and try to appreciate it.
      I’m not someone who likes long books (although I have finally ordered Game of Thrones… Will I ever read it?) at all, still I thought part III felt rushed and I see now why this happened. I think, looking back, most science fiction that I read which were all “classics”, Bradbury, some Russians, Sheri Tepper, they were all short. I hadn’t thought of the magazine format.
      I was wondering whether Chanis’s children would give him the heir. It does not sound logical, I can’t imagine that once he is married his “bastard” children would really be accepted? The way the Princess writes about him led me to believe that they will have a special relationship…. I’m almost tempted to go on reading.
      I think, to fully grasp this novel, especially the philosophical aspects, i would have to read it again…. But that isn’t going to happen very soon. Maybe you noted I did not write “never”…
      Although it wasn’t smooth reading, I found it highly fascinating.

      • Not knowing how their relationship progresses in the other books (and please no spoilers from those who do know as I, like Caroline, may want to read more one day) I can only go by what was said at the end of Dune, which is that there is no intention for Paul and Irulan to produce offspring. Like Andrea (Little Red) indicated, this would be just one more way for Paul to get back and the Bene Gesserit, whose tampering and whose treatment of his mother are both things he is adamantly opposed to.

        Of course we are just swapping opinions here, but I don’t see anything illogical about Paul’s bastard children being his heir. He had already talked about his (now dead) son Leto being his heir and Paul himself is a bastard child. Count Fenring and his wife were trying on their own to create a bastard heir and possible Kwisatz Haderach through Feyd-Rautha, and looking at the other houses as examples, we see the Baron who obviously had a child once, Jessica, but who did not produce his own heir the traditional way but instead was choosing Feyd-Rautha to be that. Just a theory. I do have to admit that it would be surprising to me, given that Princess Irulan sounds like a pretty amazing and beautiful person, if Paul, as her rightful husband, would be able to resist having a sexual relationship with her if not also an intimate personal relationship. Guess we’ll both have to read on some day to find out!

        The world is very harsh, you are correct. On the other side there is some hope, springing from the seeds of the vision of Pardot Kynes and his son Liet-Kynes. It is that hope for a changed face of Arrakis that puts the harshness of the present time into a different perspective. And it is the little things like this which make me so impressed with what Herbert did here.

        In regards to the ending, I find the rushed ending pretty common among the classics in SF. I’m not sure if that too had to do with page count/word constraints, but it sure isn’t unique to Dune. I often wonder if these authors were alive now if they would feel that George Lucas temptation to go back and tweak their works.

        • I’m amazed that I actually consider the idea to read the next one and just realized that it has far less pages! If the next one really is Dune Messiah?
          It is perfect payback if Paul will not have a child with Irulan and it is quite possible. We can assume that they have other rights for non-legitimate children than we have.
          Maybe Irulan doesn’t want to be more than a chronicler. In any case, I’m curious.
          The transformation of Arrakis is another thing I would like to read about. I love the idea of a desert that becomes a garden and how this would change the people who live in it.
          Since I’m not that familiar with sci-fi, I take your word for it. I just do not understand why they squeezed in so much in the last part…

    • I actually had to do a doubletake when I started reading book three, because I wasn’t expecting the time jump.

      I agree with you that it seems from reading Irulan’s segments that she and Paul do develop some sort of relationship. I really wonder how the three of them work out.

  2. Do you think Paul will need to produce an heir with the Princess? His mom was a concubine. But his father never married, so “legitimate” children were not present to claim or fight Paul for the right to rule. I felt bad for the Princess since it was so obvious that she meant nothing to Paul. And Chani also had to accept the facts. I’m not sure how I feel about the role of women in this novel. On one level they all seem strong. On another level, they are still being controlled by the fact that they are women. Princess Irulan was from a powerful family so she had no choice who she could be with. Chani could be with Paul but couldn’t marry Paul. And Paul’s mom was a concubine, but he could still rule. Yet the men were also confined. Leto loved Jessica but couldn’t marry her because of his position. And the same happened to his son. Maybe the whole problem is with power and how people let the desire and need for power to dictate.

    • I hadn’t read your comment when I answered Carl’s. This is exactly my point, Paul’s father was not married. I’m not sure that with Paul being married Chani’s children would be legitimate and the Princes is a Bene Gesserit, is she not? And quite attractive… I think it would be interesting to read how it goes.
      I think Fence was the first one to point out that she had a problem with the depiction of the women. I thought at first that they were strong. The men are also used.
      I wrote German posts in parallel and when I wrote this morning I realized that nothing is ever left unplanned on Dune. Everything is planned to the last detail. This world is too harsh in too many ways to just let people do things withouth a plan.
      And so both men and women are not very free.

      • I don’t think being strong and also being used/controlled have to be mutually exclusive. I think you both point out a very interesting fact that I had not thought much about and that is that so very many of the male and female characters seem to be controlled by what we might call ‘fate’ or their ‘destiny’ vs. making their own choices. I think the men and women were strong, intelligent and often heroic characters and yet most if not all of them were not truly free to do whatever they wanted to do. Sure, they could have made different choices at various moments but that would have been so out of their character, as we know it, that it would have not been plausible.

        Makes for an interesting comparison to the type of society we now live in, where people get bent out of shape if they feel that anyone is telling them what to do, how to live their life, etc.

        • I never compared Dune to our society I was always hunting the allusions. I had a feeling that he took many elemenst of different cultures and I tried to solve the riddle and find out which part comes from where.
          Lack of freedom is a trait of many cultures but what really struck me is the planning.
          Some cultures were waiting for a Messiah for thousands of years but these people go and say, we need one, let’s breed him.
          I often think that we live in an illusion of freedom. People want free choice but often that can be reduced to consumer choices. In most things, at least how I perceive it, we are not that free. If you don’t comply, you will pay some sort of price for it.

          • I agree, I think some of our perceived freedoms are truly an illusion but I also think some of our freedoms we feel entitled to are actually counterproductive to a functional society and true happiness. I think that is what I was getting to in other responses where I was talking about duty. One of the things that has been a product of Western society and, in my eyes, is ever-increasing is “me’ consciousness. We are all so worried and concerned with standing up for “our” rights and not having others dictate what we should do that we don’t realize that a) like it or not some level of control is happening to all of us. It isn’t all bad, nor is it all good and b) people far too often abdicate their own responsibility for themselves, their community, and their nation to others in the name of being “free”.

            • Yes, this is a very good point, I would also like to add that indulging in every whim at someoneelse’s expense isn’t really being free. There is a lot of confusion regarding freedom in our society, I would say. For many an act there is just one fitting word and that is “selfish”. When you live in such precarious conditions like the Fremen you have to start to think of others because you depend on them and you know you do.

              • Amen!

                Looking at the way the Fremen learned to make the best of every situation by increasing efficiency and by having a group mindset is one thing we can take from Dune and try to apply to our lives. There was never a “good” time to be selfish, but in the world we live in now it is more incumbent upon all of us to be “self-less”.

  3. It’s good to expand your reading horizons even if you discover the book is not something you really loved. I need to do more of that myself! (Read outside my comfort zone that is).

    • But there has to be something rewarding in it when it is such a bulky book like this one. Without the great discussions (and the timelines!) I am not that sure I would have been able to get through it.

  4. Pingback: Dune (round iii) – Susan Hated Literature

  5. I was kind of cheering inside when Paul said that Princess would only have his name and nothing else, but then Chani said, “So you say now.” I thought maybe that was a bit of foreshadowing of something that may come about in the next book. I hope not, but otherwise I don’t know why Herbert would put that in there. The fact that he puts that in the last few paragraphs is one of the things that will propel me to read the next one. I also have so many questions about the origins of the Fremen and Selusa Secundus. I’m not sure if I didn’t understand everything, or if there is more to be revealed.
    The riding of the worms was pretty majestic! I thought all of that was such an original concept, and an image that will stay with me even after I forget the details of the plot (again.)
    I kind of felt like Paul was trying his hardest to not be the Messiah figure that he is believed to be. I was more impressed by his kindness and respect for others (like Gurney, Chani and Stilgar) than his other powers. But he is also has a ruthless side. Just like his dad.

    • I could cheer for the idea, it is so cunning, but I thought it was also sad for the Princess. She is just an instrument. That sentence Chani utters is a bit of a cliffhanger and it is something I would like to find out… Chani could also die… We really don’t know. That would change a lot, I guess.
      I almost think, I shouldn’t watch the movie now, because it would spoil the pictures I created. Like the riding of the worms.
      Paul being a Messiah isn’t so convincing yet. This will only be properly developped in the next book.

      • I have to side with Chani on the “so you say now” feelings. I have no idea what happens in the other novels, but I tend to have a dim enough view of my sex to believe that regardless of how much Paul is in love with and committed to Chani, the fact that he is legally married to a beautiful and intelligent woman and by all rights could have intimate relations with her would be a temptation too great to resist for long. Unless he heads back out into the desert and thus removes himself from the source of that temptation, I cannot imagine that they don’t eventually get close on some level. Then again, we’ll see. I know Herbert has surprised me many times already.

        • I didn’t want to say it like this but I agree, that given the opportunity it would be hard for many a man not to be tempted. That’s why I found it so painful to read about this. I think she is much more realistic than he is. But who knows, we could be wrong.

  6. I’m gad you stuck with the book, Caroline. I am just now reading through everyone’s posts. I think Herbert took many elements from human cultures to create his Empire in ways that really worked for this novel. And, like you, was struck by the planning of the Bene Gesserit.

    • I’m glad as well. Sometimes you need to finish a book to fully appreciate it. It was painful at times but it got much better. The Bene Gesserit are amazing. Their minds are far stronger than any technology could ever be. I still have a few post I need to read as well.

  7. First of all, the cover is interesting.
    Second, the last question intrigue me the most. In what way does the author refers Jihad to?
    Jihad is a word that freely interpreted by people, even though they are all Muslim. Some turn it into something extremist.

    • It is my favourite cover. He takes jihad as a synonym for religious war and insofar I found it problematic. If you use the word jihad like this, from my persepctive, that means you say religious war is limited to the Islam although Christians have initiated and fought many bloody wars. I think taken out of context it’s a bit dangerous to use, misleading.

  8. Yes Jihad is a religious war…but at the Prophet time it is to defend the religion but nowadays, even terorist used Jihad as an excuse. I feel sad about that 😦

    Although the word Jihad is used mostly by Muslim but you are right, it can also works for all religions.

    • Nowadays we have to be a bit careful, I guess. In the 60s he could use it without giving it too much thought. There is quite some confusion as to the meaning. many believe it menas that Muslim’s have to fight a war against everyone who believes in something else and maybe that is not true.

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