Study Guide

Dune What's Up With the Ending?

By Frank Herbert

What's Up With the Ending?

So, if you're like us, you probably read the ending of Dune, turned to a blank page, and thought, "Wait! That's it?" Yep. The novel certainly ends at an abrupt point, but there are reasons why it stops right where it does, and we're here to suggest a few.

But before we discuss the ending, let's have a quick refresher on it. So, Paul finally defeats Feyd-Rautha and ends the Harkonnen line. He then forces the Emperor to let him marry his daughter Irulan. This marriage will ensure Paul the throne, making him the most powerful man in the universe, and it will also ensure that his legend will spread throughout the stars. One problem: his true love, Chani, can only be his concubine. That's when Lady Jessica tells her:

"Think on it, Chani: that 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." (48.364)

Notice how it's history that will call them wives. Dune is obsessed with time—the past, the present, and the future. And in a lot of instances, the timelines are just plain wrong about a lot of stuff. Paul can see the future, but the future comes to him in possibilities, meaning it can be changed. The Fremen often exaggerate Paul's victories. In one scene, Paul notes: "I didn't even draw my knife, but it'll be said of this day that I slew twenty Sardaukar by my own hand" (43.272). In short, the past and the future are liars with their pants set to flaming.

But here, in this last scene, we finally see history getting something right. Chani may not receive Paul's name or title or anything like that, but she will be a wife to him in everything but name. And history will record this exactly as it is. To add to the irony, the person recording that history will be Irulan, Paul's wife in title only.

This may be Paul's only victory against time. Paul couldn't stop his visions from happening. His father was murdered, and the jihad will eventually spread into the universe bearing his flag. The legend of Muad'Dib seemed to wipe Paul from the history books as even a friend like Stilgar became a "creature" in service to the myth (48.56). But with this small victory, the novel ends on a hint of hope for Paul and Chani. History—and, by extension, Paul—will at least get a few things right.