In today’s media landscape, few sci-fi franchises are as revered as Dune and Star Wars. The original Dune novels from the sixties went down as one of the first massive sci-fi sagas in literature. As such, author Frank Herbert stands alongside Vonnegut and Asimov as one of the best sci-fi authors of his era.

Of the many many works Dune inspired, few are as significant as George Lucas’ Star Wars. It’s no secret that Star Wars‘ universe and story were heavily influenced by works such as Akira Kurosawa’s films. However, one of the largest was also the Dune series. Here are some of the biggest ways in which Dune inspired its successor.

The Setting Dune Inspired

The first parallels to be found are with the setting. Both Dune and Star Wars have the lion’s share of their stories set on a desert planet dominated by sand-dwelling Kaiju (the Krayt Dragons in SW’s lore) and inhabited by nomadic tribes. Simply looking at an image from either The Mandalorian or Vilinueve’s Dune will expose the parallels between Arakkis and Tatooine.

Outside of their “central” planets, their universes have other similarities. In both, the galaxy is overseen by a massive, intergalactic empire. Furthermore, Dune’s empire is overseen by a collection of regional governors from noble houses in favor of a more democratic system, inspiring the “Moffs” of Star Wars. Finally, both universes have a revered religious organization at the right hand of the government, with the Bene Gesserit serving as an inspiration for the fallen Jedi Order of the original trilogy.

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The Magic System and Culture

Paul Atreides in Fremen gear in Dune Part 2

As shown by author Brandon Sanderson, the key to any good speculative fiction setting is a proper and consistent magic system. As for both Dune and Star Wars, both of them have a central magic system. In both, there is a single, unifying force that binds all of its mysterious elements, those being The Force and “the spice.” In Herbert’s work, the spice Melange was the source of all psychic powers, granted heightened physical abilities, and even gave clairvoyance.

The Force itself is a very similar in how it is a universal energy within Star Wars, providing the source of all supernatural elements. Similarly, much of the combat in Dune revolved around the “Weirding Way,” a form of enhanced martial arts that gave superhuman speeds. With the Jedi’s ability to block lasers and use extraordinary aiming, it’s once again hard to miss the parallel.

The Legend of Star Wars

Finally, at the core of both Lucas and Herbert’s work is the legend at the heart of their stories; the heroes journey. Both of these geniuses took heavy inspiration from the heroic myths that came before. At the heart of Dune lies the prophecised “Chosen One” who would go on a grand journey and decide the fate of the galaxy. Lucas himself looked to the work of Joseph Campbell, who coined the idea of the “Hero’s Journey” in various legends.

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However, where they diverge is who their heroes become. Paul Atreides starts out well intentioned, but slowly becomes darker over the years and brings war across the Known Universe. Luke, on the other hands, holds onto his values, brings balance to the force, and ends the tyranny. In the pre-disney expanded universe, he would go on to become a paragon of virtue and legendary Jedi Master.

Conclusion

In general, there are likely many who believe that Star Wars’ influence from Dune is a sign of its originality. However, this fundamentally misunderstands storytelling, which is about learning from one’s experiences and creating something new. While the two share many elements, viewers can also see how the two foil one another in how they portray ideas such as revolution, heroism, spirituality, and optimism. What made Star Wars such a game-changer was how it brought idealism into the cynical trends of contemporary sci-fi.

For an example of this done wrong, take Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon once again. This story took the stories of Seven Samurai and Star Wars itself, yet did virtually nothing with either. Both of these works, however, show how a person can learn from previous stories and build off of them.

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