I’ve got a few posts going on TFN about Lucas’ inspirations (literary or otherwise) for SW, but I’m not getting much response from the crowd over there. So I thought I’d cross-post some of the juicier bits and see if you guys were interested in discussing the sources Lucas <span style=“text-decoration: line-through;”>ripped off</span> got his ideas from.
OK, I finally got around to properly reading Dune Messiah and Children of Dune (as opposed to just Googling the summaries ;P ). Now, I’m convinced that the plot of these two Dune sequels was a big influence on Lucas’ development of ESB and the new storylines that emerged there (Father Vader and Luke’s hidden sister).
Be ye warned, there be SPOILERS below…
Dune Messiah is about the crumbling of Paul Atreides’ empire, which he forged at the conclusion of the first book. His concubine and lover, Chani, becomes pregnant, but one of her enemies (Paul’s legal wife, the Princess Irulan) has fed her anti-contraception drugs that make the pregnancy perilous. Chani ends up dying in childbirth; Paul is devastated and feels his life is now meaningless, but, as the specially-bred Kwisatz Haderach, his ability to see the future warned him that this must happen. She leaves behind twins: one boy and one girl. Notably, however, Paul’s oracular vision had only alerted him to the birth of one child, a daughter. (Chani had been examined by medics and knew she was carrying twins, but never got the chance to inform Paul due to her accelerated rate of pregnancy.) The existence of a son takes him completely by surprise–because his son displays from birth the same prescient abilities as Paul himself, and no prescient oracle can “see” the life of another.
Paul, who has had his eyes melted out by an atomic blast in an assassination attempt, gives up his place at the head of the Atreides Empire and his status as the holy Muad’Dib, the Messiah of Arrakis. He wanders into the deep desert, apparently to die…
Children of Dune reveals that both of Paul’s children–Leto II, the boy, and Ghanima, the girl–were in fact born with the innate ability of the Kwisatz Haderach to commune with their own distant ancestors. They possess the wisdom of uncounted ages within adolescent bodies. Paul’s sister, Alia, was also born with this ability from birth, but she has failed to master it: she is now being consumed by the dominant personality of her evil grandfather, the late Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (whom she herself killed as a child).
Leto, Paul’s son, has been having prescient dreams, and he has come to realize that in the far future humanity will ultimately stagnate, leading to its own extinction, if something drastic is not done. Leto realizes that he must create an Imperial paradise, a Golden Age of peace, followed by a catastrophic time of bloody violence and chaos, in order to impart the deep-seated taboo against stagnation that will prevent humanity’s destruction. But to do this, to create this “Golden Path,” he needs to stay alive for thousands of years–and the only way to do that is to merge his body with the larval sandworms of Arrakis, creating a monstrous new hybrid lifeform that is practically immortal.
Leto also knows that Paul Atreides, his father, had realized this horrific action was the only way to save humanity. However, Paul shrank from taking that fearful, necessary step; he preferred to die in the desert, retaining his own humanity, rather than sacrifice himself for the good of the human race. Paul had come to see that prescience itself was a trap: by always knowing and shaping the future, he was doomed to an existence of mind-numbing boredom, which he craved desperately to escape.
Yet Paul is not dead. He returns, under the guise of “The Preacher,” to criticize the worship of Muad’Dib that, under his sister’s leadership, has grown stale and corrupt. In one of the climactic scenes of the novel, Paul confronts his son Leto, meeting him alone in the vast desert, urging him to desist from his course, to walk away from his terrible destiny and fashion a happy life for himself. Leto refuses his father’s temptation, and having failed to dissuade his son, Paul finally accedes to his greater wisdom.
At the end of the novel, Leto and Paul journey to Arrakeen, the capital city of Arrakis, to destroy the corrupt theocratic government of Alia, Paul’s sister. Paul knows that he will not survive the trip, but comes anyway. Leto poses as the guide to the blind Preacher. While Paul creates a diversion upon the steps of Alia’s temple, railing against her corruption, he is slain by her guards, buying Leto the time he needs to enter the palace, rescue his sister Ghanima, and confront Alia (who commits suicide). At the very end Leto becomes the new Atreides emperor, with Ghanima as his symbolic sister-wife, after the fashion of the Pharaohs of ancient Earth’s old Egypt (although, because of his sandworm-induced infertility, Leto has arranged for Ghanima to have children by another man, Prince Farad’n of House Corrino, the grandson of the Emperor Shaddam IV whom Paul deposed in the original Dune).
Whew! OK, where to begin?
We have the story of a tragic hero in Paul Atreides: someone who starts out as a heroic figure with a high destiny, but who fails to accomplish that destiny due to his own personal weakness, only to have his own son fulfill the role that he could not. That sure sounds like Anakin Skywalker to me.
Not to mention Paul’s utter devastation at the loss of his wife, and his failure to predict the existence of one of his children–he’s even maimed and disfigured just at the time his children are born! And when Leto steps up to follow Paul’s vision of how to preserve humanity, Paul tries to tempt him from his duty; the weakness of the father is pitted against the resolve of the son. Of course, Paul finally acquiesces to Leto’s wisdom, even knowingly sacrificing himself so that his son can do what must be done.
Paul wanted to escape the trap of being locked into prescience, of always knowing the future, feeling his own life stagnate. Leto, however, accepts that he must submit to the destiny of the “Golden Path” in order to free the rest of human civilization. Anakin’s failure is portrayed in much broader strokes–he became an embodiment of evil, the black-robed Darth Vader, someone who actively attacks the noble ideals he once championed–but in both cases a hero has failed of his purpose. Similarly, both Paul and Anakin try to tempt their sons from the path of duty. And both of them eventually accept their sons’ greater wisdom, sacrificing their own lives as a result.
(To say nothing of Anakin’s status as the prophesied “Chosen One” from the prequels, conceived by the will of the Force and destined to “bring balance.” Compare this to Paul’s Kwisatz Haderach status, as the end product of generations of Bene Gesserit breeding, designed to produce a super-being with powers of ancestral memory and prescience…)
There’s also the fact that the “Luke’s twin sister” plotline is obviously pulled directly from Children of Dune (but with the twist that the twin children were separated at birth). The novel came out in 1976–too late to impact the development of ANH. But Lucas definitely read it before thinking about the storyline of ESB… and I think it may have influenced his thinking about the character of Father Skywalker.
Here’s a significant quote from Children of Dune, a scene where Paul’s mother Lady Jessica is providing Bene Gesserit training to Prince Farad’n on Salusa Secundus:
“Shall we start?” [asked Farad’n.]
“It would’ve been better to begin this when you were much younger,” Jessica said. “It’ll be harder for you now, and it’ll take much longer. You’ll have to begin by learning patience, extreme patience. I pray you’ll not find it too high a price.”
Now compare this to Lucas’ early notes for ESB dialogue, where Luke speaks to his Jedi teacher Bunden Debannen (known as “Buffy,” AKA the precursor to Yoda):
Luke: Will you teach me?
Teacher: It would’ve been better to begin this when you were much younger. It’ll be harder for you now and it’ll take much longer. You’ll begin by learning -------------, extreme -------------.
Lucas’ verbatim dialogue-“borrowing” from other sources also happened in the ANH scripts: compare the first draft, where Lucas put Piter de Vries’ declaration “We’ve gained a true advantage” from the original Dune into the mouth of Governor Crispin Hoedaack of Alderaan; or even the third draft, where Luke and Ben Kenobi consider the meaning of the words “Good morning” in a conversation originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien for Bilbo and Gandalf in The Hobbit.
Interestingly, the page of ESB notes with the dialogue from Children of Dune is also the page on which Lucas wrote “He was a Mynoc, Human-computer. (Vader?)” Mynoc in this context is obviously a riff on the Mentats of Dune, who are also “human-computers”: that is, people trained to use their brains for ultra-powerful logical analysis, since their society has outlawed “thinking machines.”
Noteworthy is that Lucas at first scribbled down another, slightly longer word in place of Mynoc, and then blotted it out completely–did he write Mentat and then decide he couldn’t borrow the term so nakedly?
“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”