Dune is a classic Sci-Fi novel that went on to influence many works in the genre. Herbert offers an interesting perspective on the Atreus family.
Dune and Greek Myth
Gods and Goddesses
The Atreides family is the same family from classic Greek Mythology. What’s really interesting is Herbert’s extension of the myth rather than just a re-telling. The Duke Leto represent the Greek Goddess Leto. His kids Paul and Alia are Apollo and Artemis. Both Paul and Alia show god like power compared to the fremen and harkonens. Apollo was associated with the hawk which is also the family crest of the Atreides family in Dune.
Sayyadina and Vestal Virgins
Paul’s mother Jessica takes on major religious status in the novel. She becomes the Sayyadina to the fremen people. The Sayyadina is very powerful and respected much like the Vestal Virgins. The Vestal virgins were responsible for many things including maintaing sacred fire and the collection of water from a sacred spring. Water in Dune has major economic and religious significance to the inhabitants of such a harsh dessert planet. Jessica’s Sayyadina ordination involves sacred water.
In Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, explains that his father used the characters Paul and Alia to represent Janus. Janus in traditional mythology is a two faced God who can see both future and past. He is the God of Transition. Paul is the face facing forward. Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach and can see forward through time with his visions. His prophetic abilities are far beyond that of any other character in the novel and the move to Arrakis and a high spice diet only increase his abilities. When Jessica becomes the Sayyadina Alia is transformed into the face facing backwards. She has all of the knowledge of the past when her mother drank the water of life. She was born able to speak and has the memories of many others including her mother.
Apollo and the Python
In Greek Myth Apollo fights and slays the monstrous python. Paul at a very young age confronts a giant sandworm and rides the creature.