Star Wars and Dune: Is One Just a Copy of the Other?:

"If at any time during this production you are reminded of Star Wars, remember that Dune was first published in 1965 - and count how many years it took Lucas to file off the serial numbers."
-Paul, Science Fiction Weekly

Star Wars: One of the top grossing movies of all time, one of the biggest money-making franchises ever, and one of the most famous pieces of science fiction ever to hit the big screen. Dune: the best selling science-fiction novel ever. Winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. A revolutionary novel. Considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments of the human imagination. The father of a multi-million dollar franchise. However, since the day the first Star Wars movie was released to the public (in fact, before it was even released to the general public) there have been debates and discussions over whether or not Star Wars is in fact an original piece of sci-fi, or just a thinly disguised carbon copy of Dune. In order to discover the truth behind this, this article will examine the characters/factions, weapons/tech, "powers", similarities in plots, quotes from science fiction authorities and from people involved in both Dune and Star Wars, and the original reasons behind the initial rejection of Star Wars by motion picture studio's.

Luke Skywalker = Paul Maud'dib Atreides
Han Solo = Duncan Idaho/Stilgar
Obi-wan Kenobi = Gurney Halleck/Stilgar
Yoda = Thufir Hawat
Owen = Duke Leto Atreides
Leia = Chani/Irulan/Alia
Darth Vader = Baron Vladimer Harkonnen
Emperor Palpatine = Emperor Shaddam Corrino
Tuskan Raiders/Jedi = Fremen
Storm troopers = Sardaukar
Jedi = Bene Gesserit
The Empire = The Empire
Dune = Tatooine

Luke Skywalker and Paul Atreides: Two very similar characters, two different works of sci-fi. Luke lives on a Desert planet with two Suns. Paul lives on a desert planet with two moons. Luke's adopted parents die on a desert planet. Paul.s father dies on a desert planet. Luke begins to discover his powers on this planet. Paul begins to discover his powers on this planet. Both are the sons of powerful, important men. Both are biologically linked to the "bad guy" of their respective series.. Both are thought to be the chosen ones. Both share very similar powers. Both are great pilots. Both fight with "swords". Both fall in love with a mystery girl they do not know before they meet her. Both rebel against the current rulers of the universe. Both win.

Han Solo and Duncan Idaho/Stilgar: Duncan and Han are both the good "bad boys" of their respected series.. Both are best friends to Luke and Paul. Both are great pilots. Both are ladies men. Both look similar. Han Solo helps teach Luke how to survive in the big bad universe run by the emperor. Stilgar helps teach Paul how to survive in the big bad planet run by the Baron. All three are people Luke and Paul look up to.

Obi-wan Kenobi and Gurney Halleck/Stilgar: While having little screen time in Star Wars, Obi-wan correlates to two characters in Dune. Gurney Halleck is Paul's mentor, Obi-wan is Luke.s. Obi-wan is Luke's first teacher, Gurney and Stilgar are Paul.s teachers. Obi-wan, although dead, continues to help/teach/advise Luke throughout the movies. Gurney, thought to be dead, returns to do the same with Paul after he learns that Paul is still alive. Stilgar becomes Paul's teacher after he fleas to the Desert. Both Obi-wan and Stilgar save their young charges in the desert before taking them under their protection. Both had been watching Paul/Luke before this event. Both had met Paul/Luke before this event. Both were known to Paul/Luke's parents. All three are expert fighters. All three will do anything for their young charges, including die.

Yoda and Thufir Hawat: Both, in there prime, were the best fighters around. Both had great mental abilities. Both were major influences in the hero's life. The hero in both actually witnesses the deaths of both. Both are older, grandfatherly-like teachers. Both taught the hero's other teacher as well.

Owen and Duke Leto Atreides: Both are the "fathers" of the main characters. Both are very much in love with their wives. Both are very protective of there children. Both only have one son as a child. Both are killed by the enemy early on in there respective works.

Leia and Chani/Irulan/Alia: Leia and Chani are both strong women characters who are great fighters and can hold there own against any other character in there respective works. All three are related to the main characters of their stories, all three in some romantic way. Two of them are Princess's, and the third is the Daughter of the most powerful Fremen and niece to the second most powerful (daughter of Liet, niece to Stilgar). Leia and Alia are both sisters of the hero's. Both fall in love with the good "bad boys" of their series (Leia with Han, Alia with Duncan). Both have similar sounding names. Both are just about (and possibly more) powerful than there chosen one brothers. Both are captured by there father/grandfather and tortured by him.

Darth Vader and Baron Vladimer Harkonnen: Both are the "big baddies" of there universes. One is the father and the other is the grandfather of the hero of both works. Both "capture" and torture one of the important female leads in both works (Harkonnen captures and tortures Alia, Vader captures and tortures Leia). Both of the captured women are the sisters of the main character, and are the daughter/granddaughter of the villains who capture them. Both end up dying in the end. Both are servants of a great and powerful Emperor.

Emperor Palpatine and Emperor Corrino: Both are Emperors and bad guys in there respective universes. Both rose to power through manipulation and murder. Both try and fail to kill the hero of there works. Both have relatives of the hero as there followers. Both end up losing to the "chosen one". Both of there empires fall.

Tuskan Raiders/Jedi and Fremen: Both are Desert Dwellers. Both are conscious-less beings who have no qualms about killing people who stumble into there territories. Both try to kill the main hero (although in Dune they eventually adopt him). Both wear similar clothing. The Fremen and Jedi also have quite a bit in common. They are both the greatest fighters in there respective empire. They are both oppressed societies with the ruling class enacting programs of genocide. From both cultures come the "chosen one" who defeats the corrupt empire. Both are ancient societies with great importance put on philosophical matters.

Storm Troopers and Sarduakar: Both are the Emperors soldiers. Both are supposed to be elite. Both are the main tool of the bad guys in the books. Both meet a superior force lead by the hero of the series. Both are responsible for the deaths of the heroes parents.

Jedi and Bene Gesserit: Both are ancient societies which exist only to serve mankind. Both are expert fighters. Both are incredibly selective when it comes to there members. Both have the ability to detect truth. Both have the abilities to control minds. Both give the training which results in the chosen one they are both searching for, both of which are outside of there direct control and end up defying there respective orders (Paul defies the Bene Gesserit, Luke deifies Yoda).

The Empire and The empire: Both are feudal-type systems, run by a powerful Emperor. Both are corrupt. Both fall to the hero of there respective works. the relative of the hero in both works have high places in both Empires.

Dune and Tatooine: Both are desert planets. One has two moons, the other two suns. Both are the homes of the hero and his teacher. Both are under the control of the big bad guy. The fathers of the hero's both die on these worlds. Dune has sandworms. A part of Tatooine called "The Dune Sea" has a creature which resembles sandworms called the sarclac.

Similarities in weapons/technologies:

Lightsaber and Crysknife: In both Dune and Star Wars there exists and ancient and semi-mystical weapon wielded by the hero and others of his people that only a select few are aloud to bear. In Dune that weapon is the Crysknife, which only Fremen can have. In Star Wars it is the Lightsaber, which only the Jedi can have. Both are not just weapons but symbols of status. Both are incredibly effective weapons, the sharpest in there respective universes.

Shields: Both universes have shields. In both universe these shields have major flaws: In Dune, a slow moving object can pass through them. In Star Wars, a relatively small object (to the size of the shield) can pass through the shield.

Glowglobes: Both have "lights" called glowglobes which are exactly the same.

Spice and the Spice: Both universe contain a which becomes important to the plot (Han's dumping of the spice is responsible for the price on his head, the Spice gives Paul his powers).

The major difference here is that in Dune it is illegal to create Artificial Intelligence, which is a common thing in Star Wars.

The Force:

Using the force, you can control peoples minds by telling them what to do, think, and say. This same power is possible in Dune. It is called the voice. Using the force, some people can tell whether or not someone is lying. This power exists in Dune. It is called truth-sense. Using the force, some few people are able to see the future, and all Jedi's are able to have glimpses of it. In Dune, some few people have prescience (the ability to see the future) and all Fremen have glimpses of the future. Using the force, some people can read minds to an extent. In Dune, Alia can implant messages in peoples minds and Paul, as he can see the past, present, and future can also read minds to an extent. The Bene Gesserit can also tell what people are thinking through great training in observation. With the force, the use of the Force, especially the darkside, clouds the future. In Dune, the use of prescience clouds the future. Using the force, you can sense other people who also have in. In Dune, people with prescience can sense others with it. Both the Force and the traits which allow you to become a Bene Gesserit are mostly hereditary.

Similarities in plots:

Both have the same basic plot. A young boy is/goes on a desert planet. The boy sees a vision of a girl and falls in love with her. His father is killed. He is nearly killed by desert dwellers. He is saved. The man who saved him becomes his teacher and teaches him the way of his people. The boy meets the girl. The boy discovers his powers and saves his people. The boy joins a rebellion and becomes an important figure in it. The climax has the hero killing/being responsible for the death of a member of his own family, who is one of the big bad guys, using a "bladed weapon". The evil, corrupt empire he is fighting against then falls. Twins play a major part in both. See below.

The importance of Twins:

In both series., twins are a major part of the plot. In Star Wars, Luke and Leia are twins (one boy and one girl). In Dune Messiah, Leto and Ghanima are twins (one boy and one girl). In both of these sets of twins, the male child is responsible for the death of his father. Each twin in both works is incredibly powerful, with the male, however, becoming more powerful and sacrifices part of himself (in Star Wars, Luke's hand, in Dune Leto becomes part sand-worm).

Multiple other similarities exist in the plot/characters/technologies, but these are the major ones. When looking at each point alone, it seems easy to dismiss the possibility that Star Wars is derived from Dune, but taken all together there seems to be a very strong argument.

In the world of sci-fi, the idea that Star Wars is a copy of Dune is not an uncommon one. So far this paper has just listed one persons opinion and comparisons relating to this matter. The next section contains a few selected quotes from people in the sci-fi business addressing the issue of Dune/Star Wars (such as the quote at the top of this article).

"David [Lynch] had trouble with the fact that Star Wars used up so much of Dune. We found sixteen points of identity between my novel and Star Wars. That is not to say this was other than coincidence, even though we figured the odds against coincidence and produced a number larger than the number of stars in the universe."
-Frank Herbert, author of Dune

"I guess I would think that George Lucas would acknowledge Herbert's contribution to the epic quality of the genre. And while Star Wars has had more commercial success and more broad-based exposure than Dune, I believe anyone who would study both Star Wars and Dune would have to acknowledge the small debt that Star Wars owes to Dune."
-John Harrison, director of Frank Herbert.s Dune

"Of course, complicating the question, can there be any doubt that the FIRST movie verson of DUNE was actually STAR WARS?..."These are not the droids you want" He uses The Voice on them! And there's a sandworm skeleton in the background! To say nothing of "The Sand People.""
-Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's science fiction

"It really was, because Lucas realized you couldn't really make a movie of Dune"
-Rick Austin, Vic-President of on-air for the Sci-Fi Channel (intersting side note: Austin is a major Star Wars fan, going to such lengths as to dress up as Darth Vader for the opening of The Empire Stricks Back)

"Star Wars was heavily influenced by Dune."
-Kevin J. Anderson, author of numerous Dune and Star Wars novels

"Isn't it obvious that some things in Star Wars were derived from Dune?"
-Dr. Willis E. McNelly, author of the Dune Encyclopedia

Perhaps most damning of all though, is not the simularities in plot. Nor the simularities in the characters, the powers, or the techs. The most damning peice of evidence that Star Wars is derived from Dune is that the original script was rejected by the studio because it was almost exactly the same as Dune. Gary Kurtz was hired to help re-write the script, and many drafts later they finally had a version which the studio beleived wouldn't result in there being sued for plagiarism by the Herbert Partnership.

After reading over all the simularities between the characters, plots, technologies/weapons, the reason why the first Star Wars script was rejected, and the opinions of some influential people in the sci-fi business, I believe that Star Wars was in fact derived from Dune. However, I encourage you to read both the Dune chronicles and then watch the Star Wars trilogy before coming to your own decision over this matter. For many of the things that truly give this impression can only be seen by doing this. Anyone the "evidence" presented in this article can be disputed standing alone. However, together, they put up a very convincing argument.

Site created January 15, 1998.
© Jesse Reid, All Rights Reserved, 2017.