The collective Dune universe, as described by its creator Frank Herbert or in works authorized by Herbert or his heirs, is comprised of the six original novels by Frank Herbert, the prequel novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and the Dune Encyclopedia by Dr. Willis E. McNelly. Despite their official and authorized nature, these works contain numerous discrepancies, both within particular works by the same author, and between the works by different authors.

In the specific case of the Dune Encyclopedia it should be noted that, while Dr. McNelly was a close friend of Frank Herbert's, and his work written and published with Herbert's knowledge and permission, Frank Herbert did not consider it canon and did not hesitate to specifically contradict it in his later works.

In the discussions below, the term "rationalization" simply refers to explanations which are not explicitly found within any of the primary texts.

Discrepancies within the Original Novels

Ancestral Memories - Alia: In Dune, Jessica endures the spice agony and receives the memories of a Fremen Reverend Mother who had, in turn, received the memories of the Reverend Mother who came before her. As a result, Jessica inherits the memories of countless generations of Reverend Mothers. Jessica's unborn child, Alia, also inherits these memories and is born with the awareness and memories of an adult in the body of a child. In Children of Dune, however, Alia instead possesses the memories of her ancestors (including the Baron Harkonnen).

  • Rationalization: Alia gives herself a massive spice overdose in Dune Messiah. It is possible that this spice overdose triggers her ancestral memories.

Ancestral Memories - Bene Gesserit: The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers in Heretics of Dune are possessed of ancestral memories. However, this ability is not possessed by any Bene Gesserit in the earlier novels. When Jessica endures the spice agony in Dune, for example, she gains access to the memories of all the Reverend Mothers who came before her, but she doesn't gain ancestral memories.

  • Rationalization: The events of Heretics of Dune take place 1500 years after God Emperor of Dune. During that time, the Bene Gesserits have all been explicitly bred to inherit the genes of Siona Atreides. Siona briefly gained ancestral memories as a result of enduring the spice agony. Siona's father, Moneo, also briefly gained ancestral memories as a result of enduring the spice agony. It seems likely that ancestral memories are a trait inherited from Ghanima, bred for by the God Emperor, and triggered by the spice agony. It is possible that the Bene Gesserit further strengthened this trait through their breeding program. Or it may be that the Bene Gesserit's endurance of the spice agony is simply more prolonged, intense, and/or prepared for than those endured by Siona and her father.

Duncan Idaho - Ghola Memories: In Heretics of Dune, the Duncan Idaho ghola is initially awakened with his memories only up to the point of his original death in Dune (before Paul becomes Muad'dib). However, he later speaks, prior to gaining the memories of his later incarnation, of being taught how to resist the Voice control of the Bene Gesserits: "I learned the way of that from Paul Muad'dib himself."

  • Rationalization: It's possible that Paul taught Duncan how to resist the Voice before they came to Arrakis and that Duncan is simply referring to him as Muad'dib due to his earlier training and study of history. It's also possible, perhaps even likely, that this is deliberate foreshadowing that Duncan's memories include his later incarnations.

Farok's Arm: In Dune Messiah a minor character named Farok is initially described with a missing arm: "Scytale returned his gaze to the old man [Farok], noted the empty sleeve dangling from the left shoulder and the lack of a stillsuit." Only a few paragraphs later, however, Farok has mysteriously regained his arm: ""Thrice blessed," Farok said, folding his hands into his lap in the ritual clasp. They were old, heavily veined hands."

Prescience - Seeing Guildsmen: In Dune, Paul's prescience allows him to see the Guildsmen: "He saw [people] in such swarms they could not be listed, yet his mind catalogued them. Even the Guildsmen." In Dune Messiah, however, guildsmen are capable of shielding not only themselves but others from Paul's prescience: "Paul consulted his memory of the vision: in it, he'd left here with the names of the traitors, but never seeing how those names were carried. The dwarf obviously moved under the protection of another oracle."

Scytale: In Dune Messiah Scytale is a Face Dancer. In Heretics of Dune, Scytale is a Tleilaxu Master. Heretics of Dune also establishes that Face Dancers are the servants of the Masters, who are not Face Dancers themselves.

  • Rationalization: The Scytale appearing in Heretics of Dune is not, in fact, a ghola-descendant of the Scytale in Dune Messiah - although this is unlikely, as Scytale the master also met Paul. Also, Masters with serial lives, as they are known in Heretics and beyond, was a Tleilaxu political development that came after the discovery of how to make gholas remember past lives in Dune Messiah. Maybe Scytale was a Facedancer who became a master.

Shaddam's Birthdate: In the very first chapter heading of Dune, Princess Irulan write: "[Paul Atreides was] born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV." However, in the appendices of Dune it states that: "SHADDAM IV (10,134-10,202) The Padishah Emperor, 81st of his line (House Corrino) to occupy the Golden Lion Throne, reigned from 10,156 (date his father, Elrood IX, succumbed to chaumurky) until replaced by the 10,196 Regency set up in the name of his eldest daughter, Irulan." This would indicate that Paul was born in 10,191. However, this is the same year that the novel begins (with Paul already 15 years old). Similar confusion over Shaddam's age can be found in another passage from Dune: "My father, the Padishah Emperor, was 72 yet looked no more than 35 the year he encompassed the death of Duke Leto and gave Arrakis back to the Harkonnens." (Although this later date is consistent with the claim that Paul was born in Shaddam IV's 57th year.)

  • Rationalization: The prequels resolve this inconsistency by subtracting fifteen years from the birth dates of Shaddam IV and Count Hasimir Fenring.

Discrepancies between the Original Novels and Prequels

Discrepancies between the original novels by Frank Herbert and the prequels written by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert are frequently used by critics of the prequels. Criticism of the prequels also extends to a perception of poor quality and a negation or misrepresentation of Frank Herbert's original points and themes. For example, John C. Snider wrote in his review of Dune: House Harkonnen:

"If any criticism could be made about the prequels, it's that they just don't have the Byzantine mystique of Frank Herbert's original novels. The characters within the prequels would fit well within any of the old pulp dramas - driven by vengeance, driven by justice, driven by love - you get the picture. The Harkonnens, for example, are so ridiculously evil it stretches believability that they could control a thriving empire for millennia! Frank Herbert was a master at plunging you into strange, alien worlds of the far-flung future. The prequel novels, while satisfying, will just never attain the artistry of the original."

These are, ultimately, matters of opinion and taste.

Bene Gesserit Psychic Powers

In the original Dune books, Frank Herbert presents the Bene Gesserit as a secretive sisterhood whose members train their bodies and minds through years of physical and mental conditioning to obtain powers and abilities that can easily be seen as magical to the uninitiated. It is an important aspect of their place in the Dune universe and thematically within the books that their powers are not supernatural and mystical, but based on a thorough understanding of their physical body and the body politic. Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserit were consummate politicians who understood the use of body, mind and spirit in pursuit of power. Still, they do have some powers which maybe classed as supernatural within the context of the created Duniverse. In example, the "genetic memory" or remembering the direct experiences of an ancestor or individual with whom they have "shared", most commonly via a spice-trance.

In Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert, however, endow their predecessors, the Sorceresses of Rossak, with telepathic and telekinetic abilities, changing not only the Bene Gesserit but the metaphysical rules of the Dune universe. Later, in Dune: House Harkonnen, they give the now fully formed Bene Gesserit the ability to hide in shadows, close to invisibility. In none of the six original books does any Bene Gesserit give any hint of knowing of any such abilities of invisibility, telekinesis or telepathy.

  • Rationalization:It is quite possible, especially in the case of the telekinetic powers which were only used to kill machines and resulted in the sorceress' death, that the Bene Gesserit in the original novels had these powers but a situation never arose where they needed to use them. It is never explicitly stated that they do not have these powers, they are just not expressed in the writing, much like the existence of face dancers and gholas were not mentioned in the original Dune, and yet play a significant role in its sequels.
  • Discrepancies to rationalization. Bene Gesserits engage in life or death combat dozens of times throughout the novels. They also plot and scheme on a way to remove Paul from the scene for decades. At no point is the option of telekinetic attack mentioned or portrayed in any fashion. Even more so even Paul and his descendants themselves never show this ability or knowledge of anything like it.

The Butlerian Jihad

In Dune and subsequent books by Frank Herbert, the Butlerian Jihad is described as a human religious (and/or philosophically) grounded revolution, a great war in which all thinking machines were banned, and then purged. This Holy War cleverly set the scene for a futuristic universe without computers, which allowed the organic growth of both the Bene Gesserit and the Mentat schools which focused on development of the human being. The Butlerian Jihad further thematically served to make points about the dehumanizing dependence on automation, while highlighting questions of determinism vs. human free will. Frank Herbert explored the question of free will by showing how Paul Atreides' became captured by his dependence on seeing the future to the point that he is determined by it. So too prior to the Butlerian Jihad, humanity had become so dependent on computers ("thinking machines") that they did not control their own fate.

In the prequels by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert, the Jihad is described as a war between humans and machines, and started by a slave rebellion. The difference is not so much whether there was human vs. machine fighting (which is entirely plausible within the accepted context of Frank Herbert's universe), but how and why the conflict started. According to the prequels, humans were enslaved firstly by rebels (the Titans), then Omnius enslaved all, having the Titans serving him and rule the humans. The humans were enslaved physically by machines and the Titans, held in pens and tortured, and then rebelled.

  • Rationalization: "The target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines." This quote from God Emperor of Dune suggests that the war was started for many reasons. It was a religious, philosophical and physical war all wrapped into one, but the lesson to be passed down was the philosophical one, and thus that is how it is portrayed 10,000 years later.

There is some controversy over Frank Herbert's view of the Jihad, as he only referred to it indirectly. There are quotes spread out over the original six books which should add up to a relatively clear image, although still open to individual interpretation. The characters of these books speak of machines as perversions and something that can 'trap' you into a sense of complacency, while this seems like a non-physical thing it does not rule out that possibility.

  • Then came the Butlerian Jihad -- two generations of chaos. The god of machine-logic was overthrown among the masses and a new concept was raised: "Man may not be replaced."
  • Its possession was the shibboleth of this age, but it carried also the taint of old immorality. Once, they'd been guided by an artificial intelligence, computer brains. The Butlerian Jihad had ended that, but it hadn't ended the aura of aristocratic vice which enclosed such things.
  • The human-computer replaced the mechanical devices destroyed by the Butlerian Jihad. Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind! But Alia longed now for a compliant machine. They could not have suffered from Idaho's limitations. You could never distrust a machine.
  • One moment he felt himself setting forth on the Butlerian Jihad, eager to destroy any machine which simulated human awareness. That had to be the past -- over and done with. Yet his senses hurtled through the experience, absorbing the most minute details. He heard a minister-companion speaking from a pulpit: "We must negate the machines-that-think. Humans must set their own guidelines. This is not something machines can do. Reasoning depends upon programming, not on hardware, and we are the ultimate program!" He heard the voice clearly, knew his surroundings -- a vast wooden hall with dark windows. Light came from sputtering flames. And his minister-companion said: "Our Jihad is a 'dump program.' We dump the things which destroy us as humans!"
  • "The target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines," Leto said. "Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed."

Another suggestion that the Butlerian Jihad was originally intended to be a philosophical struggle, rather than a literal war between factions, may lie in the very name 'Jihad'. While jihad can refer to political and military combat akin to the war portrayed in Brian Herbert's books, it can also refer to 'inward spiritual struggle'. References to the need for humans to transcend the need for 'thinking machines' in the original books (in the absence of any reference to combat with the machines) suggest that Frank Herbert employed the term 'Jihad' not simply for the sake of exoticism, but to suggest that the Butlerian Jihad was chiefly conducted in the minds and practices of the population, rather than on any physical battlefield. However, the fact that the word Jihad was used to describe what followed Paul Muad'Dib's ascension to the throne, which was a massive war in the physical sense, could indicate that this use was meant to indicate the same type of conflict.

Commission Meeting Place

"The Religion of Dune" (Dune, Appendix II) states that after the Butlerian Jihad (201-108 B.G), at a time when the Spacing Guild "was beginning to build its monopoly over all interstellar travel", the "Commission of Ecumenical Translators convened on a neutral island of Old Earth, spawning ground of the mother religions". The basis of the Imperial dating system in "the genesis of the Spacing Guild's monopoly" (Dune, "Terminology of the Imperium") implies that the Commission convened sometime during the 108 years before that event. This is confirmed by the "Brief Timeline of the Dune Universe" in the sequel Hunters of Dune, which includes this at the end of its entry for 1. A.G., "Council of Ecumenical Translators releases the Orange Catholic Bible, meant to quell all religious divisions." In the Legends of Dune prequels, Earth is sterilized early in the Jihad by Atomics, making it uninhabitable for an indeterminate amount of time.

  • Rationalization:The date when this commission convened is not told, so there could have been some recolonization of Earth in the time since the end of the Butlerian Jihad thanks to the possible use of terraforming technology or other means. The use of the term "Old Earth" gives a little more credence to this belief.

Mentat origins

Another supposed discrepancy related to the Butlerian Jihad regards the origin of the mentats. Frank Herbert clearly states the Mentat arise from humanity's need for a computer-like ability to process information, just as the Spacing Guild is a response to the need for space travel. In the prequels the mentat are the product of the independent computer Erasmus's experiment to make humans "better" in the computer's view, and thus are a sort of by-product of the machine-enslavement of humanity.

This appears to run directly counter to Frank Herbert's point that the mentat far exceeds computers because they are not limited to raw, deterministic number crunching. Frank Herbert's mentat is able to make deductions and leaps of logic which a machine-mind cannot. Thus, mentats are not computer-like humans, but humans who are trained to be better than computers, because humanity saw the need to evolve beyond such machines.

  • Rationalization: The establishment of the mentats is not explicitly told in the Legends saga, it is only hinted at. The experiments which produce the mentat Gilbertus Albans, that are conducted were probably changed into a full-fledged school after the war was over due to the new need for such a school. Also, the mentat being better than a computer is not something that is trained into them, but merely a fact about humans that cannot be erased. The mentat is trained to think like a computer, but then has the skills of a human.

"This will be your first time off planet" - Paul's Early Years

In Dune, shortly before the move to Arrakis, Paul asks his father, "Are the Guild ships really big?" Duke Leto then replies, "This will be your first time off planet," before explaining some of the intricacies of Guild travel. Leto's statement, coupled with Paul's lack of knowledge and general uncertainty, make it clear that Paul has never been offworld before.

In addition, Paul reflects that "This world of Castle Caladan, without play or companions his own age, perhaps did not deserve sadness in farewell." This, coupled with other information, paints a fairly vivid picture of Paul's life as the only child of a Landsraad Noble.

In Paul of Dune, in 10,187 AG, Paul travels to both Ecaz and Grumman. In the second Heroes of Dune novel, The Winds of Dune, in 10,188 AG, Paul joins a travelling Jongleur troupe with his friend Bronso "Bronso of Ix" Vernius (also aged 12 at the time), which takes him to Chusuk and Balut.

  • Rationalization: Dune paints a picture about the three critical years 10,191 AG to 10,193 AG of the Imperium. Kevin J. Anderson explained that Paul of Dune "is about the inaccuracies and liberties taken in Irulan’s purported histories of Muad’Dib." The following is an excerpt from Paul of Dune:
One morning she [Irulan] went to Paul's Imperial office to talk with him, holding a copy of the first volume in The Life of Muad'Dib. She dropped the deep blue book on his desktop, a plane of polished Elaccan bloodwood. "Exactly how much is missing from this story? I've been talking with Bludd. In your accounts of your life, you left out vital details."
He raised his eyebrows. "Your publication has defined my life's story."
"You told me you had never left Caladan before your House moved to Arrakis. Whole parts of your youth have been left out."
"Painful parts." He frowned at her. "But, more importantly, irrelevant parts. We've streamlined the story for mass consumption..."

Discrepancies to rationalization: The clear implication of these statements and rationalisations made in Paul of Dune and by Kevin J. Anderson, is that Dune is the aforementioned Life of Muad'Dib. That any inaccuracies are made within an in-universe document by a narrator who did not have full information. That the sources for discrepancies found in the main text suggests that Frank Herbert's original Dune should, or could, be read as propaganda.

More so because the theme of inaccuracies in history is already made in Dune, both in Irulan's epigraphs, and when the smuggler/Sardaukar reveal themselves in-seitch, and Paul thinks to himself: "I didn't even draw my knife, but it'll be said of this day that I slew twenty Sardaukar by my own hand."

Rationalization: Once again, nothing in Paul of Dune or The Winds of Dune contradicts the years 10,191 AG through 10,193 AG, the main focus of The Life of Muad'Dib or the original novel Dune. Nothing about the advent of the Fremen, and their helping of Paul and Jessica, is changed. Nothing about the destruction and revenge against House Harkonnen is changed, or the exile of House Corrino. Those central elements and cores remain the same.

What is changed are the words of Leto the Just saying that Paul had never been 'off world'. It is obvious that Paul's above quote in Paul of Dune shows that Paul's first autobiography wished to focus solely on Paul's life-changing story on Arrakis with the Fremen. Since the Fremen would be doing the fighting in the initial years of the consolidation of Atreides power and of the Jihad, the Fremen would need this focus to spur them onward.

Afterwards, after the Jihad was well established -- and after Irulan uncovered the "truth". Paul could allow the complete non-Fremen story to be told of his youth on Grumman, Chusuk, and Balut.

Other Discrepancies

  • In Dune it is established, in the very first paragraph of the novel, that Paul was born on Caladan: "Do not be deceived by the fact that he [Paul] was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there." This is verified further into the novel, and also in Dune Messiah. In Dune: House Corrino Paul is born on Kaitan.
    • Rationalization: Paul was only on Kaitain for a few days, and then was transferred to Caladan where his naming ceremony took place, thus it is seen as the place of his birth much like what would happen to a baby if he were born while his family were on vacation.
    • Rationalisation 2: This particular inconsistency is directly referenced in Paul of Dune where it is explained that Irulan "streamlined the story for mass consumption" in order to "eliminated unnecessary complications, cut off unnecessary questions and explanations"
  • In Dune, Duke Leto sends agents to buy Jessica: "Not since the day when the Duke's buyers had taken her [Jessica] from the school had she felt this frightened and unsure of herself." In House Harkonnen, the Bene Gesserit send Jessica to Duke Leto without his consent and he allows her to stay.
  • In Dune Duncan Idaho claims he first killed on Grumman: "He lifted his face toward the ceiling, bellowed: "My sword was firs' blooded on Grumman!"" This is contradicted in the prequels.
    • Rationalization: Duncan was referring to the first use of his current sword - which was given to him shortly before the assault on Gumman in Paul of Dune. (10,187 AG)
  • In Dune: House Harkonnen Liet Kynes meets up with the rogue elements of House Vernius who have also enlisted the services of one Gurney Halleck. During this period the two become close comrades with a strong component of mutual respect. In the original "Dune" novel however Kynes' meeting with Halleck gives no reference to this past contact, in fact Halleck's manner is brusque and formal, whilst Kynes is notably resentful of Halleck's presence.
    • Rationalization: This was answered on the official Dune website: "More than fifteen years have passed. Gurney met Liet then on a different planet, when he was using a false name, and his appearance was different. It¹s not surprising he would not recognize Dr. Kynes"
  • In Dune: House Atreides it is general knowledge that the Tleilaxu are religious fanatics, however in Heretics of Dune this fact is a major revelation for the Bene Gesserit. The same is true when the nature of the Axlotl tanks are revealed in House Corrino
  • The planet Harmonthep, a "no longer existent satellite of Delta Pavonis" (Caladan also orbits Delta Pavonis) is mentioned several times in House Atreides.
  • Fixing a crysknife is explained as "keyed to the body of the owner so it would dissolve upon his death" in this book. In Dune "Fixed knives are treated for storage" - the opposite.
  • In Dune the Baron is shown to be a "seeker of sensations," Moneo in God Emperor of Dune explains it well, "The fat was a side-effect, then perhaps something to experience for itself because it offended people and he enjoyed offending." However in House Atreides his weight is revealed to be the result of a disease given to him by Mohiam when he raped her. This does not explain why Alia begins to put on weight in Children of Dune.
  • In Dune Gurney explains that Duke Leto was "the man who rescued me from a Harkonnen slave pit, gave me freedom, life, and honor." In House Harkonnen he escapes all by himself.
  • In House Corrino Yueh explains how, following an industrial accident, he found a specialist to replace "Wanna's hips, spleen, and uterus with synthetic parts, but she could never have children." But in Dune he wonders why Wanna never gave him children - he knows as a doctor "there was no physical reason against it."
    • Rationalization: This was answered on the official Dune website: "Yueh later learns that Wandra's injury did not, in fact, make her incapable of bearing children -- but the Sisterhood had commanded her not to conceive."
  • In Paul of Dune, when planning the 'Great Surrender' ceremony, Paul orders all each representatives to come to Arrakis with his frigate's cargo hold filled with water as a gift. From Dune: "Many, not understanding the prohibitive mass-ratio problem, may even think we'll bring water from some other planet rich in it."

Discrepancies Between Prequels

  • In the House Atreides prequel (p551 Hodder & Stoughton publication) House Ecaz is led by Duke Prad Vidal who is noted as being an avowed enemy of the "Old Duke" Paulus Atreides. In the subsequent House Harkonnen and House Corrino prequels (written by the same authors) however House Ecaz is led by Archduke Armand Ecaz whose actions are continually cordial (to the extent of proposing a marriage alliance) in regard to House Atreides. The time frame between these novels is in the vicinity of 10 years and no attempt is made to explain Ecaz's change of leaders or their apparent about face on all matters relating to House Atreides over this period.
    • Rationalization: In Paul of Dune, it is explained that Duke Prad Vidal is a sub-leader who overseas House Ecaz's holdings on their home planet of Grumman, especially in the capital city. The Archduke Armand Ecaz overseas all of House Ecaz's vast holdings, which span over various star systems.
  • In Hunters of Dune it is revealed that Hasimir Fenring once stabbed Paul in the back. In Paul of Dune he stabs Paul in the chest.
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