Tolkien on Dune


Active Member

This from the recently published Tolkien's Library. It is interesting, perhaps, to speculate on why Tolkien did not like Dune--though I think that's a slope down which we'd have to tread very carefully, considering he very clearly does not say. I do think it's especially fascinating that Tolkien states so matter-of-factly that he and Herbert are working "along the same lines", however. I'm not sure I'd have assumed that, initially.

Anyway, I hope this doesn't come across as click-bait or trolling. My interest here is largely sparked because I enjoy both authors so much. (And I have to admit to taking some enthusiastic strides down the aforementioned slope. I don't feel confident enough in my speculations yet, but the speculating is very fun.)
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Dune IS in many ways an unpleasant book and an unpleasant universe...
It has few likeable characters and not much hope, it's religion and politics-even sexuality- are cruel and cynical.

Of course that is not identical with Herberts intentions , he was a very critical thinking, very liberal, very democratic , very aware person... but he wrote that pretty much nightmarish future society... there are awfully cruel things in Dune, things which Tolkien used to overgo or only vaguely allude to in his writings, probably because these things made him feel very uncomfortable. However i have the vague impression, that despite his obvious dislike he somehow acknowledged Herbert as a good writer.

In many ways JRRT s lord of the rings or hobbit display how good a good person can be with pure intentions and good faith and that there is hope and things will end up well.Herberts Books show how evil a human can become and act even with the best intentions and faith... it never ends up very well, though there are always sparks of hope too.

I personally prefer Herbert as a writer over Tolkien... but with middle-earth i have more fun.It is, despite all it's dark things, a much merrier world i like to escape to.Dune is much more like our real world and history... only far worse. But it's hell of well written... God emperor is IMHO one of the most astonishing books ever written.I also,think herberts book are deeply anti-religious, anti-monarchic, atheist... not very much like something JRTT would have liked who was a very romantic spirit.
Last edited:

Koley Porter

New Member
Interesting. Interesting.

I did not come away from Dune concluding it to be atheist, exactly. When I finished Dune, it seemed to me that the Bene-Gesserit were a sort of cynical elite, who believed they were manipulating the religious belief of the masses to their own benefit. Except all the prophecies seemed to be real, the Messiah showed up, and the race-conciousness (not the Judeo Christian god, but definitely something like the world soul or an idea of God from Eastern thought) was, all the time, manipulating the cynical elites! (And everyone else, of course.)


Well-Known Member
I would not call myself atheist but naturalist, but that is nothing i got out of any novels...

The Bene Gesserit were actually quite benign or well-meaning, they were just plainly wrong.Their concept of messiah was deeply flawed and when it became true it turned out to be not what they had expected at all but a deeply flawed being.Also their prophecies were not true... they were made-up, fake or quite a misunderstanding of what prescience was because everybody in these books believes himself to be much smarter than he really is.

I also understood the books concept of god quite different from you as that it is quasi-nonexistant. The spirits of the dead who live on in their descendants genetic memory are no gods at all but also very imperfect beings.where is there ever a world-soul in dune?

Koley Porter

New Member
You must forgive; I am not intimately familiar with Dune, so I am here having to rely on my admittedly hazy memory (and a quick internet search) to try to clarify what I meant.

First, as for the race consciousness, I don't think this is the world soul, but it is something like the world soul, either a gestalt of some sort, or an impersonal pantheistic consciousness. I think that it is entirely possible to read it as something both transcendent and possessing a will. (Transcendent is an ambiguous word, but we might for this discussion mean something that is not located in at singular points either time or space.) Paul experiences the race consciousness as a purpose- a will. (I compiled a few quotes from Dune referring to the race consciousness for reference.)

As for the Bene Gesserit, when I said they were cynical I meant only that they do not believe the religious claims they spread. The Missionaria Proctectiva brought the Madhi (messiah) legends of the Panoplia Propheticus to Arrakis explicitly so that the resulting religious beliefs of the natives could be manipulated. Jessica did manipulate those beliefs of the Fremen in a coming messiah.

And yet, it seems to me the messiah came.

To which Gandalf might reply, “Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really
suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?”

Race Consciousness Quotes
"He remained silent, thinking like the seed he was, thinking of the race consciousness he had first experienced as terrible purpose."
"He sensed it, the race consciousness that he could not escape."
"But he could feel the demanding race consciousness within him, his own terrible purpose, and he knew that no small thing could deflect the juggernaut. It was gathering weight and momentum. If he died this instant, the thing would go through his mother and his unborn sister."
"I am a prey to the imperfect vision, to the race consciousness and its terrible purpose."
"Here was the inborn jihad, he knew. Here was the race consciousness that he had known once as his own terrible purpose. Here was reason
enough for a Kwisatz Haderach or a Lisan al-Gaib or even the halting schemes of the Bene Gesserit. The race of humans had felt its own dormancy, sensed itself grown stale and knew now only the need to experience turmoil in which the genes would mingle and the strong new mixtures survive."


Well-Known Member
Interesting... i always have read such parts as evidence of the protagonists ultimate self-deception... what they seem to mean is sometimes collective unconscious and sometimes basic animalistic instinkt to survive, breed and kill.

I never understood it as a worldsoul,or god, quite the opposite.