A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the
balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To
begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first
place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor,
Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in
his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he
was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis,
the planet known as Dune, is forever his place. from
"Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan
In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final
scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone
came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.
It was a warm night at Castle Caladan, and the
ancient pile of stone that had served the Atreides family as home for
twenty-six generations bore that cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before
a change in the weather.
The old woman was let in by the side door down the
vaulted passage by Paul's room and she was allowed a moment to peer in
at him where he lay in his bed.
By the half-light of a suspensor lamp, dimmed and
hanging near the floor, the awakened boy could see a bulky female shape
at his door, standing one step ahead of his mother. The old woman was a
witch shadowhair like matted spiderwebs, hooded 'round darkness of
features, eyes like glittering jewels.
"Is he not small for his age, Jessica?" the
old woman asked. Her voice wheezed and twanged like an untuned baliset.
Paul's mother answered in her soft contralto:
"The Atreides are known to start late getting their growth, Your
"So I've heard, so I've heard," wheezed the
old woman. "Yet he's already fifteen."
"Yes, Your Reverence."
"He's awake and listening to us," said the
old woman. "Sly little rascal." She chuckled. "But
royalty has need of slyness. And if he's really the Kwisatz Haderach ...
Within the shadows of his bed, Paul held his eyes
open to mere slits. Two bird-bright ovalsthe eyes of the old
womanseemed to expand and glow as they stared into his.
"Sleep well, you sly little rascal," said
the old woman. "Tomorrow you'll need all your faculties to meet my
And she was gone, pushing his mother out, closing the
door with a solid thump.
Paul lay awake wondering: What's a gom jabbar?
In all the upset during this time of change, the old
woman was the strangest thing he had seen.
And the way she called his mother Jessica like a
common serving wench instead of what she wasa Bene Gesserit Lady,
a duke's concubine and mother of the ducal heir.
Is a gom jabbar something of Arrakis I must know
before we go there? he wondered.
He mouthed her strange words: Gom jabbar ...
There had been so many things to learn. Arrakis would
be a place so different from Caladan that Paul's mind whirled with the
new knowledge. ArrakisDuneDesert Planet.
Thufir Hawat, his father's Master of Assassins, had
explained it: their mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, had been on Arrakis
eighty years, holding the planet in quasi-fief under a CHOAM Company
contract to mine the geriatric spice, melange. Now the Harkonnens were
leaving to be replaced by the House of Atreides in fief-completean
apparent victory for the Duke Leto. Yet, Hawat had said, this appearance
contained the deadliest peril, for the Duke Leto was popular among the
Great Houses of the Landsraad.
"A popular man arouses the jealousy of the
powerful," Hawat had said.
Paul fell asleep to dream of an Arrakeen cavern,
silent people all around him moving in the dim light of glowglobes. It
was solemn there and like a cathedral as he listened to a faint
soundthe drip-drip-drip of water. Even while he remained in the
dream, Paul knew he would remember it upon awakening. He always
remembered the dreams that were predictions.
The dream faded.
Paul awoke to feel himself in the warmth of his
bedthinking ... thinking. This world of Castle Caladan, without
play or companions his own age, perhaps did not deserve sadness in
farewell. Dr. Yueh, his teacher, had hinted that the faufreluches class
system was not rigidly guarded on Arrakis. The planet sheltered people
who lived at the desert edge without caid or bashar to command them:
will-o'-the-sand people called Fremen, marked down on no census of the
Paul sensed his own tensions, decided to practice one
of the mind-body lessons his mother had taught him. Three quick breaths
triggered the responses: he fell into the floating awareness ...
focusing the consciousness ... aortal dilation ... avoiding the
unfocused mechanism of consciousness ... to be conscious by choice ...
blood enriched and swift-flooding the overload regions ... one does
not obtain food-safety-freedom by instinct alone ... animal
consciousness does not extend beyond the given moment nor into the idea
that its victims may become extinct ... the animal destroys and does not
produce ... animal pleasures remain close to sensation levels and avoid
the perceptual ... the human requires a background grid through which to
see his universe ... focused consciousness by choice, this forms your
grid ... bodily integrity follows nerve-blood flow according to the
deepest awareness of cell needs ... all things/cells/beings are
impermanent ... strive for flow-permanence within....
Over and over and over within Paul's floating
awareness the lesson rolled.
When dawn touched Paul's window sill with yellow
light, he sensed it through closed eyelids, opened them, hearing then
the renewed bustle and hurry in the castle, seeing the familiar
patterned beams of his bedroom ceiling.
The hall door opened and his mother peered in, hair
like shaded bronze held with black ribbon at the crown, her oval face
emotionless and green eyes staring solemnly.
"You're awake," she said. "Did you
He studied the tallness of her, saw the hint of
tension in her shoulders as she chose clothing for him from the closet
racks. Another might have missed the tension, but she had trained him in
the Bene Gesserit Wayin the minutiae of observation. She turned,
holding a semiformal jacket for him. It carried the red Atreides hawk
crest above the breast pocket.
"Hurry and dress," she said. "Reverend
Mother is waiting."
"I dreamed of her once," Paul said.
"Who is she?"
"She was my teacher at the Bene Gesserit school.
Now, she's the Emperor's Truthsayer. And Paul...." She hesitated.
"You must tell her about your dreams."
"I will. Is she the reason we got Arrakis?"
"We did not get Arrakis." Jessica
flicked dust from a pair of trousers, hung them with the jacket on the
dressing stand beside his bed. "Don't keep Reverend Mother
Paul sat up, hugged his knees. "What's a gom
Again, the training she had given him exposed her
almost invisible hesitation, a nervous betrayal he felt as fear.
Jessica crossed to the window, flung wide the
draperies, stared across the river orchards toward Mount Syubi.
"You'll learn about ... the gom jabbar soon enough," she said.
He heard the fear in her voice and wondered at it.
Jessica spoke without turning. "Reverend Mother
is waiting in my morning room. Please hurry."
The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam sat in a tapestried chair
watching mother and son approach. Windows on each side of her overlooked
the curving southern bend of the river and the green farmlands of the
Atreides family holding, but the Reverend Mother ignored the view. She
was feeling her age this morning, more than a little petulant. She
blamed it on space travel and association with that abominable Spacing
Guild and its secretive ways. But here was a mission that required
personal attention from a Bene Gesserit-with-the-Sight. Even the
Padishah Emperor's Truthsayer couldn't evade that responsibility when
the duty call came.
Damn that Jessica! the Reverend Mother thought. If
only she'd borne us a girl as she was ordered to do!
Jessica stopped three paces from the chair, dropped a
small curtsy, a gentle flick of left hand along the line of her skirt.
Paul gave the short bow his dancing master had taughtthe one used
"when in doubt of another's station."
The nuances of Paul's greeting were not lost on the
Reverend Mother. She said: "He's a cautious one, Jessica."
Jessica's hand went to Paul's shoulder, tightened
there. For a heartbeat, fear pulsed through her palm. Then she had
herself under control. "Thus he has been taught, Your
What does she fear? Paul wondered.
The old woman studied Paul in one gestalten flicker:
face oval like Jessica's, but strong bones ... hair: the Duke's
black-black but with browline of the maternal grandfather who cannot be
named, and that thin, disdainful nose; shape of directly staring green
eyes: like the old Duke, the paternal grandfather who is dead.
Now, there was a man who appreciated the power of
bravuraeven in death, the Reverend Mother thought.
"Teaching is one thing," she said,
"the basic ingredient is another. We shall see." The old eyes
darted a hard glance at Jessica. "Leave us. I enjoin you to
practice the meditation of peace."
Jessica took her hand from Paul's shoulder.
"Your Reverence, I"
"Jessica, you know it must be done."
Paul looked up at his mother, puzzled.
Jessica straightened. "Yes ... of course."
Paul looked back at the Reverend Mother. Politeness
and his mother's obvious awe of this old woman argued caution. Yet he
felt an angry apprehension at the fear he sensed radiating from his
"Paul...." Jessica took a deep breath.
"... this test you're about to receive ... it's important to
"Test?" He looked up at her.
"Remember that you're a duke's son,"
Jessica said. She whirled and strode from the room in a dry swishing of
skirt. The door closed solidly behind her.
Paul faced the old woman, holding anger in check.
"Does one dismiss the Lady Jessica as though she were a serving
A smile flicked the corners of the wrinkled old
mouth. "The Lady Jessica was my serving wench, lad, for
fourteen years at school." She nodded. "And a good one, too.
Now, you come here!"
The command whipped out at him. Paul found himself
obeying before he could think about it. Using the Voice on me, he
thought. He stopped at her gesture, standing beside her knees.
"See this?" she asked. From the folds of
her gown, she lifted a green metal cube about fifteen centimeters on a
side. She turned it and Paul saw that one side was openblack and
oddly frightening. No light penetrated that open blackness.
"Put your right hand in the box," she said.
Fear shot through Paul. He started to back away, but
the old woman said: "Is this how you obey your mother?"
He looked up into bird-bright eyes.
Slowly, feeling the compulsions and unable to inhibit
them, Paul put his hand into the box. He felt first a sense of cold as
the blackness closed around his hand, then slick metal against his
fingers and a prickling as though his hand were asleep.
A predatory look filled the old woman's features. She
lifted her right hand away from the box and poised the hand close to the
side of Paul's neck. He saw a glint of metal there and started to turn
"Stop!" she snapped.
Using the Voice again! He swung his attention
back to her face.
"I hold at your neck the gom jabbar," she
said. "The gom jabbar, the high-handed enemy. It's a needle with a
drop of poison on its tip. Ah-ah! Don't pull away or you'll feel that
Paul tried to swallow in a dry throat. He could not
take his attention from the seamed old face, the glistening eyes, the
pale gums around silvery metal teeth that flashed as she spoke.
"A duke's son must know about
poisons," she said. "It's the way of our times, eh? Musky, to
be poisoned in your drink. Aumas, to be poisoned in your food. The quick
ones and the slow ones and the ones in between. Here's a new one for
you: the gom jabbar. It kills only animals."
Pride overcame Paul's fear. "You dare suggest a
duke's son is an animal?" he demanded.
"Let us say I suggest you may be human,"
she said. "Steady! I warn you not to try jerking away. I am old,
but my hand can drive this needle into your neck before you escape
"Who are you?" he whispered. "How did
you trick my mother into leaving me alone with you? Are you from the
"The Harkonnens? Bless us, no! Now, be
silent." A dry finger touched his neck and he stilled the
involuntary urge to leap away.
"Good," she said. "You pass the first
test. Now, here's the way of the rest of it: If you withdraw your hand
from the box you die. This is the only rule. Keep your hand in the box
and live. Withdraw it and die."
Paul took a deep breath to still his trembling.
"If I call out there'll be servants on you in seconds and
"Servants will not pass your mother who stands
guard outside that door. Depend on it. Your mother survived this test.
Now it's your turn. Be honored. We seldom administer this to
Curiosity reduced Paul's fear to a manageable level.
He heard truth in the old woman's voice, no denying it. If his mother
stood guard out there ... if this were truly a test.... And whatever it
was, he knew himself caught in it, trapped by that hand at his neck: the
gom jabbar. He recalled the response from the Litany against Fear as his
mother had taught him out of the Bene Gesserit rite.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my
fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has
gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has
gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
He felt calmness return, said: "Get on with it,
"Old woman!" she snapped. "You've
courage, and that can't be denied. Well, we shall see, sirra." She
bent close, lowered her voice almost to a whisper. "You will feel
pain in this hand within the box. Pain. But! Withdraw the hand and I'll
touch your neck with my gom jabbarthe death so swift it's like the
fall of the headsman's axe. Withdraw your hand and the gom jabbar takes
"What's in the box?"
He felt increased tingling in his hand, pressed his
lips tightly together. How could this be a test? he wondered. The
tingling became an itch.
The old woman said: "You've heard of animals
chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There's an animal kind of trick. A
human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he
might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind."
The itch became the faintest burning. "Why are
you doing this?" he demanded.
"To determine if you're human. Be silent."
Paul clenched his left hand into a fist as the
burning sensation increased in the other hand. It mounted slowly: heat
upon heat upon heat ... upon heat. He felt the fingernails of his free
hand biting the palm. He tried to flex the fingers of the burning hand,
but couldn't move them.
"It burns," he whispered.
Pain throbbed up his arm. Sweat stood out on his
forehead. Every fiber cried out to withdraw the hand from that burning
pit ... but ... the gom jabbar. Without turning his head, he tried to
move his eyes to see that terrible needle poised beside his neck. He
sensed that he was breathing in gasps, tried to slow his breaths and
His world emptied of everything except that hand
immersed in agony, the ancient face inches away staring at him.
His lips were so dry he had difficulty separating
The burning! The burning!
He thought he could feel skin curling black on that
agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred
As though a switch had been turned off, the pain
Paul felt his right arm trembling, felt sweat bathing
"Enough," the old woman muttered.
"Kull wahad! No woman-child ever withstood that much. I must've
wanted you to fail." She leaned back, withdrawing the gom jabbar
from the side of his neck. "Take your hand from the box, young
human, and look at it."
He fought down an aching shiver, stared at the
lightless void where his hand seemed to remain of its own volition.
Memory of pain inhibited every movement. Reason told him he would
withdraw a blackened stump from that box.
"Do it!" she snapped.
He jerked his hand from the box, stared at it
astonished. Not a mark. No sign of agony on the flesh. He held up the
hand, turned it, flexed the fingers.
"Pain by nerve induction," she said.
"Can't go around maiming potential humans. There're those who'd
give a pretty for the secret of this box, though." She slipped it
into the folds of her gown.
"But the pain" he said.
"Pain," she sniffed. "A human can
override any nerve in the body."
Paul felt his left hand aching, uncurled the clenched
fingers, looked at four bloody marks where fingernails had bitten his
palm. He dropped the hand to his side, looked at the old woman.
"You did that to my mother once?"
"Ever sift sand through a screen?" she
The tangential slash of her question shocked his mind
into a higher awareness: Sand through a screen. He nodded.
"We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the
He lifted his right hand, willing the memory of the
pain. "And that's all there is to itpain?"
"I observed you in pain, lad. Pain's merely the
axis of the test. Your mother's told you about our ways of observing. I
see the signs of her teaching in you. Our test is crisis and
He heard the confirmation in her voice, said:
She stared at him. He senses truth! Could he be
the one? Could he truly be the one? She extinguished the excitement,
reminding herself: "Hope clouds observation."
"You know when people believe what they
say," she said.
"I know it."
The harmonics of ability confirmed by repeated test
were in his voice. She heard them, said: "Perhaps you are the
Kwisatz Haderach. Sit down, little brother, here at my feet."
"I prefer to stand."
"Your mother sat at my feet once."
"I'm not my mother."
"You hate us a little, eh?" She looked
toward the door, called out: "Jessica!"
The door flew open and Jessica stood there staring
hard-eyed into the room. Hardness melted from her as she saw Paul. She
managed a faint smile.
"Jessica, have you ever stopped hating me?"
the old woman asked.
"I both love and hate you," Jessica said.
"The hatethat's from pains I must never forget. The
"Just the basic fact," the old woman said,
but her voice was gentle. "You may come in now, but remain silent.
Close that door and mind it that no one interrupts us."
Jessica stepped into the room, closed the door and
stood with her back to it. My son lives, she thought. My son
lives and is ... human. I knew he was ... but ... he lives. Now, I can
go on living. The door felt hard and real against her back.
Everything in the room was immediate and pressing against her senses.
My son lives.
Paul looked at his mother. She told the truth.
He wanted to get away alone and think this experience through, but knew
he could not leave until he was dismissed. The old woman had gained a
power over him. They spoke truth. His mother had undergone this
test. There must be terrible purpose in it ... the pain and fear had
been terrible. He understood terrible purposes. They drove against all
odds. They were their own necessity. Paul felt that he had been infected
with terrible purpose. He did not know yet what the terrible purpose
"Some day, lad," the old woman said,
"you, too, may have to stand outside a door like that. It takes a
measure of doing."
Paul looked down at the hand that had known pain,
then up to the Reverend Mother. The sound of her voice had contained a
difference then from any other voice in his experience. The words were
outlined in brilliance. There was an edge to them. He felt that any
question he might ask her would bring an answer that could lift him out
of his flesh-world into something greater.
"Why do you test for humans?" he asked.
"To set you free."
"Once men turned their thinking over to machines
in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other
men with machines to enslave them."
"`Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness
of a man's mind,'" Paul quoted.
"Right out of the Butlerian Jihad and the Orange
Catholic Bible," she said. "But what the O.C. Bible should've
said is: `Thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit a human
mind.' Have you studied the Mentat in your service?"
"I've studied with Thufir Hawat."
"The Great Revolt took away a crutch," she
said. "It forced human minds to develop. Schools were
started to train human talents."
"Bene Gesserit schools?"
She nodded. "We have two chief survivors of
those ancient schools: the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. The
Guild, so we think, emphasizes almost pure mathematics. Bene Gesserit
performs another function."
"Politics," he said.
"Kull wahad!" the old woman said. She sent
a hard glance at Jessica.
"I've not told him, Your Reverence,"
The Reverend Mother returned her attention to Paul.
"You did that on remarkably few clues," she said.
"Politics indeed. The original Bene Gesserit school was directed by
those who saw the need of a thread of continuity in human affairs. They
saw there could be no such continuity without separating human stock
from animal stockfor breeding purposes."
The old woman's words abruptly lost their special
sharpness for Paul. He felt an offense against what his mother called
his instinct for rightness. It wasn't that Reverend Mother lied
to him. She obviously believed what she said. It was something deeper,
something tied to his terrible purpose.
He said: "But my mother tells me many Bene
Gesserit of the schools don't know their ancestry."
"The genetic lines are always in our
records," she said. "Your mother knows that either she's of
Bene Gesserit descent or her stock was acceptable in itself."
"Then why couldn't she know who her parents
"Some do.... Many don't. We might, for example,
have wanted to breed her to a close relative to set up a dominant in
some genetic trait. We have many reasons."
Again, Paul felt the offense against rightness. He
said: "You take a lot on yourselves."
The Reverend Mother stared at him, wondering: Did
I hear criticism in his voice? "We carry a heavy burden,"
Paul felt himself coming more and more out of the
shock of the test. He leveled a measuring stare at her, said: "You
say maybe I'm the ... Kwisatz Haderach. What's that, a human gore
"Paul," Jessica said. "You mustn't
take that tone with"
"I'll handle this, Jessica," the old woman
said. "Now, lad, do you know about the Truthsayer drug?"
"You take it to improve your ability to detect
falsehood," he said. "My mother's told me."
"Have you ever seen truthtrance?"
He shook his head. "No."
"The drug's dangerous," she said, "but
it gives insight. When a Truthsayer's gifted by the drug, she can look
many places in her memoryin her body's memory. We look down so
many avenues of the past ... but only feminine avenues." Her voice
took on a note of sadness. "Yet, there's a place where no
Truthsayer can see. We are repelled by it, terrorized. It is said a man
will come one day and find in the gift of the drug his inward eye. He
will look where we cannotinto both feminine and masculine
"Your Kwisatz Haderach?"
"Yes, the one who can be many places at once:
the Kwisatz Haderach. Many men have tried the drug ... so many, but none
"They tried and failed, all of them?"
"Oh, no." She shook her head. "They
tried and died."
Excerpted from "Dune" by Frank Herbert. Copyright © 2003 by Frank Herbert. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.