Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Dune and the Making of a Messiah

Art by bumhand

Art by bumhand

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of those books that appears on every serious science fiction lover’s bucket list (or, at least, it should). It’s a winner of both a Hugo award and a Nebula award, and it deeply influenced the whole science fiction genre. I could make a strong argument that without Dune and its two sequels, there would be no Star Wars, though I’ll save that for another time. Yet Dune doesn’t occupy that kind of place in pop culture; we don’t often hear “Herbert” accompanying names like “Asimov” and “Bradbury” (although we should).

Dune is the story of Paul Atreides and his ascendancy to the Messiah-like Muad’Dib during a geopolitical conflict known as the “Arrakis Affair”. That may sound pretty dry; I assure you it’s not. It’s more like dropping Warrior Jesus into A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones for you HBO peeps), set on Tattooine. There are many things I can say about Dune. But since today is the day Western Christians celebrate Easter, I want to examine how Paul grows into his role as a Christ figure, limited to the first book of the trilogy. In fact, it’s the ways in which he breaks the stereotype that make Dune so interesting.

Spoilers for Dune after the jump, of course.

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