The Fremen were humans, who consider the planet Arrakis their home. They formed an integral part in the establishment of the Atreides Empire and Muad'Dib's Jihad launched by Paul Atreides, their adopted leader.
Despite their keen sense of oral history, the history of the Fremen prior to their arrival on Arrakis was distorted and partially lost over the millennia. They concluded that Arrakis was the final stop on the migration of the Zensunni Wanderers, a journey that they mistakenly believed started on the planet Poritrin.
To the Fremen, the fight for survival had long dominated their cultural identity. The brutal environment of Arrakis necessitated the frugal use of energy and resources, especially water. Additionally, their history with cultural persecution mandated the need for combat knowledge. These two aspects saw them emerge as efficient and hardy warriors, who used their skills and the environment of Arrakis to fend off off-world opponents who often possessed far superior technology and formal training.
The Fremen typically lived in patriarchal collectives, known as sietches, which were led by a Naib. Each sietch resides within one of the numerous rocky formations that dot the sands of Arrakis. Collectively, all Fremen belonged to the Ichwan Bedwine, or broad brotherhood. Polygamy was commonplace in Fremen society, with more prominent men having several wives and children with each of them. Also integral to their community was their Reverend Mother, who was created after drinking the water of life and sharing the regurgitated bile with her sietch members.
Water was a central part of Fremen culture. Indeed, for Fremen, water was life. To conserve against the unnecessary loss of water in the desert, Fremen wore complex full-body filtration systems called stillsuits, which reclaimed the body's moisture. Additionally, specialized headgear prevented most of the normal loss through the scalp and forehead via perspiration, while masks and noseplugs reclaimed moisture from the wearers' breathing. Gloves were also available, too, but many Fremen opted instead to rub the juice of the creosote bush on their hands to inhibit perspiration. With a Fremen stillsuit in proper working order, the wearer lost only about a thimbleful of water per day.
The Fremen rule was that one's water belongs to the tribe. Thus when a Fremen died or was killed in combat, rather than being buried or cremated, he or she was rendered down into water. In the case of amtal, or ritual combat to the death between two disagreeing Fremen, since they fought without stillsuits, the water of the loser went to the victor to replenish him. What remained was measured and allocated to him, but the water itself was turned over to the watermasters.
Due to living on Arrakis, the typical Fremen appeared as a sinewy human with leathery tanned skin. These effects were less pronounced on those Fremen who live in cities such as Arrakeen. In addition, Fremen eyes were colored entirely blue ("Eyes of Ibad"), due to their excessive ingestion of the Spice Melange.
Religiously, the Fremen were deeply spiritual, to the point of being superstitious. Over the centuries they had adapted their blend of Zensunni faith to their desert environment, and adopted the Sandworm of Arrakis (or Shai-Hulud as they called it) as a physical manifestation of God. This, combined with the sparse natural resources on Arrakis led to the Spice Melange becoming an integral part of their diet and culture.
Evolution of the Fremen and The role of the Lisan al Gaib
In the Standard Year 10,191 A.G., Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV ordered House Atreides to replace their enemies House Harkonnen in the administration of Arrakis. Upon arrival on Arrakis, House Atreides, lead by Duke Leto Atreides I sought to befriend the Fremen. However, because of years of harsh Harkonnen rule and dealings with Imperial agents, the Fremen were at first distrustful of the Atreides. After a short while however, the Fremen came to develop a relationship with the Duke through his even-handedness and generosity. Moreover, the Duke sent his Warmaster Duncan Idaho as an ambassador. Through Duncan's abilities as a warrior the Atreides managed to gain the trust of the Fremen, and the Duke quickly learned that the Fremen were a powerful force with which to align his House. However, when the Harkonnens and Corrinos invaded Arrakis, House Atreides went renegade and sought refuge with the Fremen. After their adoption of the Duke's son Paul Atreides and his mother, the Fremen saw a rapid and dramatic change in their fortunes. Upon determining that Paul Atreides was their Mahdi - or prophetic savior - they readily followed his leadership and engaged in guerilla warfare against Imperial elements on Arrakis. The Fremen had developed such formidable fighting abilities through years of surviving both the harsh environment and attrition wars against the Harkonnens that they were deemed superior even to the Corrino Sardaukar forces. Within a few years they had gone from being perpetually harassed by elements within the Corrino Empire (most notably House Harkonnen) to being the foot soldiers of the Atreides Empire and Paul Atreides powerful jihad. In twelve Standard Years the Fremen overran the Imperium.
From the time of the God-Emperor onwards the cultural impact of the Fremen ebbed, thanks in no small part to the terraforming of Arrakis. By the time of the God Emperor's death, the Fremen were relegated to being no more than 'museum' pieces, their ancient and purposeful traditions diluted into honorary forms without meaning. After The Scattering and during the time of the Honored Matres, the Fremen possessed little of the distinct identity of their past, although a few individuals, such as Sheeana, continued to adhere to some of the old Fremen attitudes and traditions.
It is believed that most, if not all of the Fremen (excluding Sheanna) were killed during the Honored Matre attack on Rakis that essentially destroyed the planet, approximately 1500 Standard Years after Leto II's death.
List of Known Fremen
- Assan Tariq
- Keke the Lame
- Liet Kynes
- Son of Farok
Appearances in adaptations
- Dune (1984)
- Frank Herbert's Dune (2000)
- Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (2003)
- Dune (2021)
- Dune: Part Two (2023)
Images of Fremen
Some of the screen adaptations also use particular themes or leitmotifs to represent the Fremen.
Behind the Scenes
Though further details are not chronicled by Frank Herbert, the prequel novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson give a detailed explanation of how the Fremen came into being. In these novels they are an amalgamation of at least two separate groups: the Zenshi'a, who came during the rise of the Evermind or possibly during the Time of the Titans, and the Zensunni, who arrived during Butlerian Jihad after events on Poritrin led to the second slave uprising. Both fled to Arrakis to escape slavery brought on by the harsh reaction of the free humans to the Buddaislamics refusal to fight the thinking machines as they further encroached on humanity.