Sequel TrilogyThe Last Jedi

Did Frank Herbert’s Dune inspire one character’s arc in Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

It has long been known by Star Wars enthusiasts that many connections and similarities exist between Star Wars and Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel Dune.  An extremely powerful young boy is prophesied to be a messiah. He falls into the trap of his own destiny which ushers in war and death to the galaxy and ultimately pays a heavy price by losing his lover and twin infants. The story sounds familiar to Star Wars enthusiasts. Some similarities are so obvious one can’t help imagine Lucas simply lifted from the Hugo Award winning novel.

As a massive Dune fan, at first glance it’s easy for me to see the comparisons. Paul Atreides is Anakin; powerful, ambitious, lost and engineered by the world around him. Leto II and Ghanima, Paul’s children are Luke and Leia. Equally as powerful as Paul, Leto and Ghanima are also as equally burdened by destiny and pay heavy costs to keep the galaxy in order, similar to Luke and Leia.

In the lead up to The Last Jedi, I couldn’t help but begin to see more similarities between Herbert’s Dune world and the new galaxy of the sequel trilogy, this time comparing older Paul and older Luke.

In the second Dune novel, Dune Messiah, the main character Paul has become Emperor of the galaxy, and legend. He has taken on the name Muad’dib, and his abilities and knowledge to the planet of simple desert people, Arrakis, have made him a literal god (cleverly engineered by years of breeding programs and missionaries of the Bene Gesserit; Dune’s version of Jedi), and he’s worshipped and feared by the galaxy. After 12 years of war, Paul has the galaxy under his control and he and his people have become stagnant, glutinous and greedy. Paul begins to see the disadvantages of a small group of very powerful people having all the control. After Paul is weakened by an assassination attempt, and is forced to let his lover die in childbirth, he decides to destroy his own myth.

In a similar way, Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi has taken it upon himself to destroy his own legend and free the galaxy of the hubris of the Jedi Order. When I first learned that Luke put himself in self isolation on Ahch-To, I immediately thought of Paul. At the end of Dune Messiah, Paul walks into the desert to allow himself to die. He believes he’s sufficiently wounded his own public image and decides his own death will be the final blow to the myth of Muad’dib. But Paul finds something deep within the desert. Something evil, but useful to him. He decides his new purpose is protesting his own religion and ushering in the civil war and chaos that will free humanity from powerful beings.

In the same vein, Luke Skywalker apparently didn’t like what he’d learned about the Jedi order in the 30 years since the destruction of the second Death Star. When Rey comes to Ahch-To to recruit Luke to take down the First Order, he tells her that the galaxy doesn’t need the Jedi Order or it’s weaknesses. Luke has learned that ultimately the Jedi were failures, blinded by their own hubris and corrupted by unfliching faith in their own goodness.

In the follow up novel to Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, Paul’s two children Leto II and Ghanima are 9 years old and Leto is preparing to be Emperor while his Aunt rules as regent. Paul realizes that his death did little to destroy his legend and returns to the capital city on Arrakis as The Preacher. The Preacher appears old, and his skin is weathered from the harsh desert winds. He begins to protest religious events and openly speaks out against the royal family on the steps of the palace. Luke Skywalker similarly protests the Jedi Order and his own legend to Rey on the steps of the first Jedi Temple.

Luke’s goal in trying to destroy the myth of the Jedi is to open Rey’s eyes to the larger power of The Force. He explains to her that it’s not a power the Jedi have exclusively but it’s something that lives inside all living things (as midichlorians) and for any one group to believe they have ownership of it is vanity. In the same way that the Skywalkers are powerful with The Force, the Atreides are gifted with prescience and an extremely rare ability for the male line to see into the future. In Paul’s opinion, that power was too dangerous, and his journey to destroy his own myth also included setting his son upon a path thousands of years long that would ultimately free the human race from prescience all together. Was Luke trying to similarly set Rey upon a path that will free the galaxy of misconceptions of The Force, and dangerously powerful beings for good? As a fan of Dune, it’s nice to imagine that he was inspired for Luke’s journey by Dune and that there may be some clues into the future of the trilogy from that inspiration.

I did not get the feeling from The Last Jedi that the Jedi Order is in any way really dead, or that Force users won’t continue to exist in the galaxy. Quite the opposite seems true after that ending. Rather, I think Luke’s simple goal was just to give Rey some perspective and hopefully teach her the lessons of the Jedi failures. Luke even makes the ultimate sacrifice in such a dramatic and mind-blowingly powerful move that it’s almost instantly known as legendary across the galaxy, inspiring a whole new generation of Force users. Luke’s goal to destroy his own legend and the myth of the Jedi was completely flipped by the final moments of the film. 

While many fans wanted to see the return of Jedi hero Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, I was pleased to see a whole new kind of Jedi on screen for the first time. Luke’s journey has been the same one that fans have had watching the Prequel trilogy after the Original trilogy. We grew up worshiping the Jedi for their power, mystery and what seemed like unfailing heroism. The Prequel trilogy showed us quite another side of the Jedi order, and taught a powerful lesson to fans about failure and greed. I appreciate that Luke Skywalker personified that lesson for all fans in a character that is both endearing and flawed, and so close to all of our hearts.


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