Study This Cheat Sheet About Frank Herbert's 'Dune' to Prepare for the Film

With the arrival of Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' film, fans who haven't read the book need all the info they can get to immerse themselves in the story.

Allison DeGrushe - Author

Oct. 20 2021, Published 3:53 p.m. ET

Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune.

Frank Herbert's Dune is the world's best-selling science fiction novel of all time. The story is one of the most influential publications ever, with several modern sci-fi works, such as Star Wars (1977–), owing their existence to Dune.

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There have been many failed attempts at adapting Dune, but the latest version is sure to be a success. From acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve, the film hit theaters on Oct. 22, 2021. Dune is the first of a proposed two-movie adaptation of Frank's novel and will focus more on the first half of the tome.

If you didn't get the chance to read all 600+ pages of Frank Herbert's Dune, or you couldn't get through its complexity, no worries. We'll get you up to speed on everything you need to know.

Timothée Chalamet and Josh Brolin in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.
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Where and when does 'Dune' take place?

Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune takes place in a complex, fictional world set in the distant future, specifically in 10,191. Technological advances have surpassed anything we've seen before, and society looks much different than it does today. All of humanity has abandoned Earth and scattered across the galaxy to build their new homes.

Most of the novel takes place on the planet Arrakis, a harsh desert planet home to thousands of sand dunes, hence the planet's alternative name, Dune. Also on this planet? Giant sandworms.

In the novel, House Atreides takes over Arrakis and its Spice production. At the time, their rivals, House Harkonnen, were already brutally occupying Arrakis and managing Spice operations for some time.

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Sandworm in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

Who are the main characters in 'Dune'?

The novel has over 20 characters, but we'll mention the ones at the forefront of the story.

Paul Atreides, the protagonist of Dune, is the son of Duke Leto Atreides and the heir to the House of Atreides. When we meet Paul, he is just 15 years old, but he has been training his entire life to fulfill the role of the duke. He is very observant and has quite a strategic thinking capacity.

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Lady Jessica is Paul's mother and Duke Leto Atreides' partner. She is a member of the Bene Gesserit, which, per the Dune Wiki, is "a pseudo-religious organization of all-women spies, nuns, scientists, and theologians who use genetic experimentation, galactic political interference, and religious engineering to further their own agenda of ascending the human race with the advent of their chosen one, the Kwisatz Haderach."

Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, and Timothée Chalamet in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.
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Duke Leto Atreides is Paul's father and the head of the House of Atreides. When the emperor exchanged Arrakis for Leto's planet of Caladan, he became the lawful ruler of the desert planet. He cares deeply for his family and is willing to do anything to keep them safe.

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is the leader of House Harkonnen and the dire enemy of the House of Atreides. Though he rarely appears, we know he is severely overweight, and he has to be held up by electric suspenders at all times.

Other characters include Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat, the right-hand men to Duke Leto and Paul's trainers. There's also fan-favorite Duncan Idaho, who is Duke Leto's loyal and skillful swordmaster.

Last but not least, there's Chani. She is a Fremen who possesses some power of the Bene Gesserit. Chani is Paul's age and appears in his dreams.

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Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

What is the gist of 'Dune'?

To put it simply, Dune follows a feudal galactic society in which several noble houses control terrestrial domains. The novel tells the story of teenager Paul Atreides, heir to the House of Atreides, as he and his family relocate from Caladan to the Arrakis, where its dunes are the only source of the Spice Melange.

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Melange, often referred to as "the Spice," is a drug that bestows many benefits on consumers, including a prolonged life, increased endurance, and greater awareness. Also, it can unlock foresight in some humans, depending on the dosage and the individual's anatomy.

Rebecca Ferguson and Timothée Chalamet in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.
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Arrakis, home of Spice production, is a pretty hostile and desolate environment. It's home to the Fremen, who survive by wearing moisture-preserving stillsuits and living underground. The tribe isn't too keen on outsiders, but Stilgar, their leader, chooses to help Paul and his companions.

The process of harvesting Spice is a life-or-death situation due to the sandworms occupying the land. Now, we're not talking about minuscule beings; no, these creatures are HUGE. They live beneath the sand, but with any sort of vibration, they ascend to the surface. You certainly don't want to be anywhere near them when that happens.

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Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in 'Dune'
Source: Warner Bros.

The Spice is astonishingly valuable in Dune. It's critical to interstellar trade, and no one is willing to look for or produce any alternatives. The mining operation is conducted by the Spacing Guild, the Landsraad, and the Padishah Emperor.

The Spice is the source of all significant conflicts in the film, including political, theological, ecological, and technological interactions. The central plot point of the book is that each house in the empire battles for the control of Arrakis and its Spice concoction.

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How does the ending of 'Dune' go? (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Battles and fights ensue between the Fremen and the Sardaukar (the elite military force of the Padishah Emperor). In the end, the Fremen defeat the Sardaukar and the Harkonnens.

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen meets his demise at the hands of Paul's sister Alia, and Paul is victorious in a duel with Baron's nephew, Feyd-Rautha. Paul then marries the emperor's daughter Irulan and becomes the new emperor.

'Dune' poster
Source: Warner Bros.

The Warner Bros. Dune film is titled Dune: Part One and covers the first half of Frank Herbert's novel. Don't worry — a sequel is already in early development, with the stars expressing interest in returning.

Watch Dune in theaters on Oct. 22 or stream it on HBO Max, starting Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. EST.

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