100 DUNE Quotes To Get Ready For The Movie

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A.J. O'Connell

Staff Writer

A.J. O’Connell is the author of two published novellas: Beware the Hawk and The Eagle & The Arrow. All she’s ever wanted to do in life is read and write books, and so, is constantly writing at least one novel. She holds an MFA in creative fiction, but despite the best efforts of her teachers at Fairfield University's low-residency program, remains a huge dork for sci-fi, fantasy and comic books. She is a journalist and has taught journalism to college students. She blogs about feminism, the writing life, and whatever else comes into her head at Blog: A.J. O'Connell Twitter: @ann_oconnell

Frank Herbert’s Dune is less than 500 pages long, but somehow is a never-ending treasure trove of quotes, from Bene Gesserit mantras to the flowery prose of the underappreciated Princess Irulan. Every time I read the novel I find a new quotable passage, and I’ve been reading the book since I was young enough to identify with Paul. (Now I’m old enough to identify with his parents.)

Every adaptation makes these quotes their own—Virginia Madsen’s Irulan introducing 1984’s Dune by intoning “A beginning is a delicate time” or William Hurt’s extreme gravitas as Duke Leto in 2000, telling his son that the Atreides need “desert power.” Judging by the trailer, the new film will be no exception.

In honor of the new film—now coming in 2021—here are 100 of my favorite quotes, in order, with page numbers, according to my battered 1990 paperback copy of Dune. (Your page numbers may vary, depending on what edition you have.)

The Best Dune Quotes

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows.” —from the Manual of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan, p. 3

Arrakis—Dune—Desert Planet, p. 4

“Teaching is one thing. The basic ingredient is another.” pp. 6–7

“I hold at your neck the gom jabbar,” she said. “The gom jabbar, the high-handed enemy. It’s a needle with a drop of poison on its tip. Ah-ah! Don’t pull away or you’ll feel that poison.” p. 8

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” p. 8

“What’s in the box?”
“Pain.” p. 9

“You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove the threat to his kind.” p. 9

“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”
“Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind,” quoted Paul. pp. 11–12

“Given the right lever, you can move a planet.” p. 19

Thus spoke St. Alia-of-the-Knife: “The Reverend Mother must combine the seductive wiles of a courtesan with the untouchable majesty of a virgin goddess, holding these attributes in tension so long as the powers of her youth endure. For when youth and beauty have gone, she will fine that the place-between, once occupied by the tension, as become a wellspring of cunning and resourcefulness.” —from “Muad’Dib, Family Commentaries, by the Princess Irulan, pp. 21–22

In a low voice, she said: “I’ve been so lonely.”
“It should be one of the tests,” the old woman said. “Humans are almost always lonely.” p. 24

“That which submits rules.” p. 26

“A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.” p.32

“What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises—no matter the mood! Mood’s a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It’s not for fighting.” p. 35

“Polish comes from the cities; wisdom from the desert.” p. 38

“When one has lived with prophecy for so long, the moment of revelation is a shock.” p. 55

“It is so shocking to find out how many people do not believe that they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.” pp. 65–66

“Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test that it’s a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain.” p. 69

“The proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.” p. 72

“O you who know what we suffer here, do not forget us in your prayers.” p. 82

“The whole theory of warfare is calculated risk.” p. 82

“We make our own justice. We make it here on Arrakis—win or die.” p. 87

“We thank you, Stilgar, for the gift of your body’s moisture. We accept it in the spirit with which it is given.” And Idaho spat on the table in front of the Duke. p. 93

“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man—with human flesh.” p. 102

“Nothing wins more loyalty for a leader than an air of bravura.” p. 104

On Caladan, we ruled with sea and air power,” the Duke said. “Here, we must scrabble for desert power. This is your inheritance, Paul.” p. 104

“That honorable banner could come to mean many evil things.” p. 105

“You never talk of likelihoods on Arrakis. You speak only of possibilities.” p. 108

“With a Fremen suit in good working order you won’t lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day.” p. 110

“Arrakis could be an Eden if its rulers would look up from grubbing for spice!” p.113

“You see, my climate demands a special attitude towards water. You are aware of water at all times. You waste nothing that contains moisture.” p. 113

“Bless the Maker and all His Water. Bless the coming and going of Him, May His passing cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.” p. 124

“When God hath ordained a creature to die in a particular place, He causeth that creature’s wants to direct him to that place.” p. 126

Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never persistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man. p. 126

“Do not make the error of considering my son a child,” the Duke said. p. 137

“The human body is composed of some seventy per cent water by weight. A dead man, surely, no longer requires that water.” p. 137

“Growth is limited by the necessity which is present in the least amount. And naturally, the least favorable condition controls the growth rate.” p. 138

“There is no escape—we pay for the violence of our ancestors.” p.146

“Anything outside yourself, this you can see and apply your logic to it. But it’s a human trait that when we encounter personal problems, these things most deeply personal are the most difficult to bring out for our logic to scan. We tend to flounder around, blaming everything but the actual, deep-seated thing that’s really chewing on us.” p. 154

“If desired a puppet, the Duke would marry me,” she said. “He might even think he did it of his own free will.” p. 156

“There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times to develop psychic muscles.” p. 162

“Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife—chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: ‘Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here.‘” p. 172

One thought remained to him. Leto saw it in formless light on rays of black: The day the flesh shapes and the flesh the day shapes. The thought struck him with a sense of fullness he knew he could never explain. p. 183

My father once told me that respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality. “Something cannot emerge from nothing,” he said. This is profound thinking if you understand how unstable “the truth” can be. p. 207

“A man’s flesh is his own; the water belongs to the tribe.” p. 215

“If you rely only on your eyes, your other senses weaken.” p. 227

“What do you despise? By this are you truly known.” p. 230

“This is a Mentat you speak of,” growled the Baron. “One doesn’t waste a Mentat.” p. 232

“Never obliterate a man unthinkingly, the way an entire fief might do it through some due process of law. Always do it for an overriding purpose—and know your purpose!” p. 236

“Drink all your water,” Paul said. “Axiom: The best place to conserve your water is in your body. It keeps your energy up. You’re stronger. Trust your stillsuit.” p. 246

“There existed no need on Caladan to build a physical paradise or a paradise of the mind—we could see the actuality all around us. And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life—we went soft, we lost our edge.” p. 255

“A stone is heavy and the sand is weighty; but a fools wrath is heavier than them both.” p. 256

“Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and it has power,” Tuek said. “You might find the line between life and death among the Fremen to be too sharp and quick.” p. 257

“Most intruders here regret finding the Fremen!” p. 269

The real wealth of a planet is in its landscape—how we take part in that basic source of civilization—agriculture. p. 271

“The highest function of ecology is understanding consequences.” p. 272

“No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.” p. 276

“…it occurred to Kynes that his father and all the other scientists were wrong, that the most persistent principles of the universe were accident and error.” p.277

“My duty is the strength of the tribe.” p. 280

“To save one from a mistake is a gift of paradise.” p. 286

“The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called ‘spannungsbogen’—which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing.” p. 288

“When your opponent fears you, then’s the moment when you give the fear its own rein, give it the time to work on him. Let it become terror. The terrified man fights himself. Eventually, he attacks in desperation. That is the most dangerous moment, but the terrified man can be trusted usually to make a fatal mistake. You are being trained here to detect these mistakes and use them.” p. 304

“How do you call among you the little mouse, the mouse that jumps?” Paul asked, remembering the pop-hop of motion at Tuono Basin. He illustrated with one hand. A chuckle sounded through the troop. “We call that one muad’dib,” Stilgar said. p. 307

God created Arrakis to train the faithful. p. 309

On Arrakis, water was money. p. 311

“He gives moisture to the dead.” p. 314

“Tell me about the waters of your birthworld, Paul Muad’Dib.” p. 320

The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future. p. 321

“A killer with the manners of a rabbit—this is the most dangerous kind.” p. 323

“Guilt starts as a feeling of failure.” p. 339

“Do not count a human dead until you’ve seen his body. And even then you can make a mistake.” p. 339

And Paul recalled the stories of the Fremen—that their children fought as ferociously as the adults. p. 348

“To accept a little death is worse than death itself.” p. 354

“I am like a person whose hands were kept numb, without sensation from the first moment of awareness – until one day the ability to feel is forced into them. And I say “Look! I have no hands!” But the people all around me say: “What are hands?” p. 359

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.” p. 373

“But it’s well known that repression makes a religion flourish.” p. 379

“When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong—faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.” p. 382

“Nothing about religion is simple.” p. 383

“Give as few orders as possible,” his father had told him once long ago. “Once you’ve given orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject.” p. 387

“Everyone knows a Fremen baby must get his crying done at birth, if he’s in sietch because he can never cry again lest he betray us on hajr.” p. 394

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic. p. 401

“What you’ll summon for your test is a wild maker, an old man of the desert. You must have proper respect for such a one.” p. 402

“Remember that we work together. That way we’re certain.” p. 403

“Ways change.” p. 423

How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him. p. 424

“Prophets have a way of dying by violence.” p. 425

“Hard tasks need hard ways.” p. 427

“One of the most terrible moments in a boy’s life,” Paul said, “is when he discovers his father and mother are human beings who share a love that he can never quite taste. It’s a loss, an awakening to the fact that the world is there and here and we are in it alone.” p. 433

“The greatest peril to the Giver is the force that takes. The greatest peril to the Taker is the force that gives. It’s as easy to be overwhelmed by giving as by taking.” p. 445

“He who can destroy a thing has real control of it.” p. 446

“The test of a man isn’t what you think he’ll do. It’s what he actually does.” p. 451

“How little the universe knows about the nature of real cruelty!” p. 456

I have seen a friend become a worshipper, he thought. p. 469

There should be a word for memories that deny themselves. p. 470

“Isn’t it odd how we misunderstand the hidden unity of kindness and cruelty?” p. 470

“The universe is full of doors.” p. 474

“The eye that looks ahead to the safe course is closed forever.” p. 476

“But this being has a human shape, Gurney, and deserves human doubt.” p. 481

Treachery within treachery within treachery. p. 486

“Think on it, Chani: the princess will have the name, yet she’ll live as less than a concubine – never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she’s bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine—history will call us wives.” p. 489