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Dune and WoT, a comparison and a contrast


Forshookt
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We all know that RJ borrowed certain concepts from Dune. This is not news. Neither is this a condemnation. In fact, I admire the way RJ was inspired by Dune and created something distinct and totally different from the original wellspring. The Big Three that he borrowed from Dune are as follows: The Desert Warriors, The Sisterhood and the Messiah. I will now proceed to compare and contrast the three. 

 

1) The Sisterhood

 

The White Tower Aes Sedai and the Bene Gesserit share many traits but are fundamentally different entities, only similar in markings and trappings but not in mechanics. They are both exclusive sororities that surround themselves in the trappings of a religion but are not. They both seek to save humanity. They both use ignorance and mysticism to appear infallible. Both organizations have apparently magic powers. Now let's talk about how they differ.

 

Where the Bene Gesserit actively use sex as a tool, Aes Sedai treat sex as a last resort. This is because the Bene Gesserit are running a breeding program while the Aes Sedai are more like the United Nations. Where the Bene Gesserit can train males with their abilities, the AS cannot due to the difference in power source. While the Bene Gesserit are more comfortable in the background, Aes Sedai can work in the limelight and still work in shadows.  Their interest in their Messiah also varies vastly: the BG are making a Messiah while the AS are anticipating one. Their moral codes also varies: the BG can and will use their mind controlling Voice at will, AS are held back by their code of conduct. Killing is perfectly acceptable to BG, it is anathema to AS. Where the Aes Sedai try to help others in terms of justice, medicine, knowledge, the Bene Gesserit are single minded in bringing forth their Messiah. 

 

It is hard to compare which organization is better, since to do so is folly given the stark difference in setting. The universe of Dune is ruthless, where wars of assassination are common. It is a brutal world that has made the Bene Gesserit. The world of WoT is charming by comparison. But given the choice, I would hedge my bets on an Aes Sedai's counsel, even though there is a one in five chance she is a Black Ajah. 

 

2) The Desert Warriors

 

The Aiel have their roots in the Fremen of Arrakis. No denying it.  Fierce desert peoples made superior fighters over all others because of their terrain to be led by their Messiah to war. But their origins in their worlds are also similar: both were originally peaceful nomads driven to their arid homes. But while the Fremen want to escape their desert, the Aiel welcome it. The Aiel are being punished, with no hope or want of redemption. In no book was it ever stated they wanted to leave permanently and the only clan to wish so was nearly annihilated. The Fremen are seeking paradise, the Aiel welcome Hell. 

 

Women have more say in Aiel culture, more power. I am not talking about fighting prowess, in that, both people's women are on the same ground. But the Fremen way is certainly more chafing to women. Chani and Aviendha may both be lovers to their Messiahs but Aviendha has more say in the goings on of her people than Chani. 

 

Finally, both value water highly. Oaths made to water are sacred in both cultures. But in the end, the Aiel Waste has more water than Dune. Water is not poisonous to anything of importance in the waste, its ecosystem will not collapse because of it. Water and its scarcity defines Fremen culture, honor and obligation are that defines Aiel.

 

3) The Messiah

 

The Dragon and the Kwisatz Haderach are both anticipated messiahs, are both male, are both extremely powerful. But that's about it. Paul Atreides and Rand al'Thor are about as similar as night and day, with only the dawn and dusk as overlap. Both are guided by prophecy (or prescience with regards to Paul) to their path. Both rail against the inevitable. But Paul is fueled by vengeance, at least at the start. Rand is fueled by duty. Paul was manufactured, Rand was provided by providence. Paul is amoral, Herbert intended him as a warning to those who would worship one such as him. Paul used his authority to inflict the cruelty he needed to maintain dominance. Rand did too, but it seems that while Paul was consumed by his mantle (as designed by his author), Rand fought his. Here we see the difference in what kind of messiahs they are.

 

Paul was a manufactured messiah, written by a man of science. He is an instructional tool and a warning. He is to show us the fallibility of anything mortal or made by mortals. 

Rand was a divine messiah, written by a man of faith. He is to be aspired, to be heeded. He is still a warning, he commits some of the same sins as Paul. But Rand redeemed himself and learned. In the end, take warning from Paul Atreides but learn from Rand al'Thor.

 

IN SUMMATION

 

No accurate comparison can ever match Dune and Wheel of Time. Their setting, characters, plot and writing style are too different to do so. But while I think Dune is the science fiction equivalent of Lord of the Rings and a superb masterpiece, the Wheel of Time is more personal, more inspiring and more...human. At least to me.

 

Sorry for the loooooong post, but I had to write this out here. Thank you for reading.

 

 

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