Dune Creator Thought Star Wars Ripped Him Off

By Zack Zagranis | Published

There’s no denying that Star Wars owes a debt to Dune. The desert setting of A New Hope seems especially derivative in hindsight. But are the Dune influences in Star Wars homage or straight theft? According to Frank Herbert, it was the latter.

Frank Herbert Documented Similarities To Dune In Star Wars

Herbert, the original Dune novel’s late author, accused Star Wars of ripping him off right from the start. All the way back in the ’70s, when George Lucas first released Star Wars without a subtitle or an episode number, Frank Herbert was contemplating suing the young director. “I will try hard not to sue,” Herbert said in a 1977 interview before listing all of the similarities between the two properties that might justify him doing so.

Herbert’s Examples

“I had a Princess Alia and the movie has a Princess Leia.” Herbert said. The author also mentioned a “sandworm carcass” and the Jawas, which he referred to as “hood dwellers in the desert,” a reference to Dune‘s Fremen, natives of the desert world of Arrakis. We aren’t saying that George Lucas didn’t swipe anything directly from Dune—more on that in a bit—but the above examples make a pretty poor case that Star Wars is just a ripoff.

Leia And Alia

carrie fisher princess leia star wars

For one thing, Leia may have a name similar to Dune’s Alia, but the Star Wars princess is very much her own character. Not only is Alia a lot younger than Leia, but we have a hard time picturing her grabbing a blaster from someone and taking over her own rescue.

Tatooine And Arrakkis

Meanwhile, the Jawas were based on the Shell Dwellers from George Lucas‘s pre-Star Wars dystopian sci-fi romp THX-1138 and not the desert-based revolutionaries of Herbert’s novel. As for the “sandworm carcass,” any Star Wars fan worth their sand knows that that carcass belongs to a Krayt Dragon!

Jedi And Bene Gesserit

As far as other similarities between Dune and Star Wars, the Jedi and the Bene Gesserit have some things in common—namely, the ability to control the weak-minded with their voice. However, the Jedi have just as much in common with the samurai from Akira Kurisowa’s films as they do with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Gom Jabbar.

Lucas Stole The Spice

In fact, as far as we can tell, the only thing George Lucas directly ripped off from Dune was spice. Spice exists as a psychotropic substance in Dune and Star Wars—its appearance and use are almost exactly the same in both universes. It’s such a blatant ripoff that we actually admire the audacity.

Frank Herbert Strikes Back

That didn’t stop Herbert from taking shots at Star Wars from the time it was released to the time he passed away ten years later. In the ultimate act of pettiness, the author included a thinly veiled dig at George Lucas in Heretics of Dune, one of the books in the Dune series written after Star Wars came out.

A Subtle Jab

dune 3

In a rather lengthy passage describing how expensive real wood is in the Dune universe, Herbert brings up the three artificial, mass-produced knock-off materials that the poorer denizens of the Dune universe would purchase because they were cheaper. The three fake pseudo-woods are known as Palestine, polys, and format, and anyone using such cheap knockoffs is referred to as, well, just read for yourself: “He’s a three P-O,” they said, meaning that such a person surrounded himself with cheap copies made from déclassé substances.”

Fans of rip-offs in the Dune universe are known as “three P-O,” as in C-3PO, the golden droid from Star Wars. Way to be subtle, Frank.

Subscribe For

Star Wars News

Expect a confirmation email if you subscribe!