Study Guide

Dune Tradition and Customs

By Frank Herbert

Tradition and Customs

Dune just can't make up its mind about traditions and customs, can it? Take Duke Leto, for instance. He stops the Harkonnen tradition of selling slop water to the beggars and institutes a tradition where the needy get clean, fresh water instead. Seems like a good idea, right? But Duke Leto doesn't learn Fremen customs quickly enough, and it eventually leads to his downfall. On the other hand, Paul succeeds where his father failed by doing just that: learning Fremen customs. So are traditions and customs good or bad in Dune? Then again, maybe this subject is just too complicated for terms like good or bad? Maybe the book is suggesting that we judge traditions and customs by their usefulness in the moment, always willing to throw out what no longer works for us in the here and now. Just maybe…

Questions About Tradition and Customs

  1. Pick a moment in the book where following a tradition or custom helped a character. What does this moment suggest about the theme of traditions and customs? If you couldn't find such a moment, then consider what this absence says about the theme.
  2. Pick a moment in the book where following a tradition or custom hinders a character. What does this moment suggest about the theme of traditions and customs? If you couldn't find such a moment, then consider what this absence says about the theme.
  3. Pick a planet from the novel. How are the traditions and customs similar to our own? How are they different? What does this suggest to you about the nature or purpose of traditions and customs in culture?

Chew on This

Paul changes certain Fremen traditions and customs, but since he could not alter their religious customs, he could do nothing to stop the jihad in the end.

All the characters who are unwilling or unable to change their traditions and customs die. The sole exception is the Emperor Corrino, but he ends up in exile, so it amounts to the same thing.