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Chronicles of Dune: Mapping the Timeline of a Galactic Saga

We often encounter two terms on movie sites like IMDb, which we overlook because we are unfamiliar with them: Tagline and Logline.

A tagline is a short, memorable phrase used in the marketing of a movie or series. Its goal is to capture the audience’s interest and reflect the essence of the project through a pithy message. Typically, it appears on posters and promotional materials. For instance, the tagline for the movie “Alien” is “In space no one can hear you scream,” effectively conveying the film’s eerie and tense mood.

A logline, meanwhile, is a one-sentence summary that outlines a film or series’ plot. It includes the main conflict, characters, and essential story elements, aimed at quickly informing potential viewers or investors about the project. For example, the logline for “The Godfather” states: “A young man torn between rejecting his family’s criminal enterprises and his duty to protect them, is compelled to take the helm of a crime empire.” This encapsulates the film’s primary conflict and character development.

For a Dune narrative, appropriate taglines/loglines could be:

Tagline: “Fate is not written in the stars; it is shaped on the sands.”

Logline: “In a distant future, a young nobleman must navigate political intrigues and a hostile desert planet to secure his family’s and his people’s future. As he becomes embroiled in a galactic battle over ‘Spice,’ a substance that prolongs life, he seeks his own path.”

Frank Herbert introduces the Dune book with this epigraph: “The beginning is the time for utmost care in setting balances. Every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows this. To start studying the life of Muad’Dib, first place him in his context: the year 57 of Emperor Shaddam IV. And take special care in positioning Muad’Dib: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived there for his first fifteen years. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.” (“Manual of Muad’Dib” by Princess Irulan)

As we see, we are about to delve into a complex topic. Presumably, all 20 publishers that Frank Herbert approached, clutching a copy of his book under his arm, backed away after just this introductory sentence, exclaiming “let’s stay away from this!” Note, this book was written in 1965, long before Saddam Hussein became a well-known leader. At that time, he was a newlywed and was imprisoned due to his rebellious activities. Thus, there is no correlation between Herbert’s character Shaddam and Saddam Hussein.

In today’s segment, we will try to understand the Dune universe. Before moving on, it is essential to know about the process that led to the creation of this universe. Let’s start from here.

Upon examining the timeline of the Dune universe, we encounter the following chronology:

Note the abbreviations at the start of every story: AG and BG. These two abbreviations accompany the reader throughout the Dune books. Each given date is prefixed with one of these two abbreviations.

BG stands for “Before Guild,” and naturally, AG stands for “After Guild.” However, it is also suggested that these abbreviations refer to the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, which resembles a kind of Dune Deep State.

In short, the dates in Dune do not correspond to the familiar Gregorian, Hijri, or Julian calendars. The establishment of the Guild marks their zero point. We will examine this in more detail later, but for now, let us mention that the Guild (Spacing Guild) is a fictional organization that establishes a monopoly on universal space travel.

You might remember the Matrix. It depicted a universe controlled by machines after humanity loses a war against them, with humans put to sleep in water pods.

In the Second Renaissance of the Matrix, when humans attempt to exterminate the robots, the robots revolt and defeat humanity! Dune, on the other hand, envisions a future that is the exact opposite of the Second Renaissance. Humanity advances so much that a major war breaks out against AI-supported machines, referred to in Dune as the “Butlerian Jihad.” Humans emerge victorious from this war, and from that day on (though it might seem unlikely), AI, robots, and similar technologies are banned.

The Butlerian is the name of a radical philosophical and religious movement in Frank Herbert’s “Dune” universe, focused on banning the use of technology and artificial intelligence. This movement encourages the use of human brains and mental abilities, marking a period or revolution that significantly influences the society, culture, and technology of the “Dune” universe. This period is a pivotal historical event in the universe, leading to the development of new human classes like “Mentats,” who perform human-like computer functions, and other groups that push the natural limits of human capabilities, such as the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild.

As you can see, Herbert uses the Islamic term “Jihad” to name this war.

Frank Herbert never denies using concepts and symbols from various religions, including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and many others, in creating the Dune universe. Looking at the Bene Gesserit sisters, it is evident that they are modeled after a traditional Catholic sisterhood. As mentioned earlier, this women’s order, which can be considered the legitimate government of Dune, establishes the Spacing Guild. Although they operate behind the scenes, the magnificent system is ostensibly managed by the Guild!

Before I forget, let me highlight an important point:

The events in the Dune universe do not start in a specific year according to the Gregorian calendar because Frank Herbert does not directly reference the Gregorian calendar while writing the Dune series. Instead, Herbert uses a calendar system in the Dune universe that starts after the end of the “Butlerian Jihad” and is measured by the establishment of the “Spacing Guild.” This event is depicted as occurring after a period of approximately 10,000 years.

The beginning of the Dune novel is set in the year 10,191 AG (After Guild), i.e., 10,191 years after the establishment of the Spacing Guild. This shows that Herbert’s fictional universe is set in a very distant future. Although it is challenging to match this with the real-world Gregorian calendar, the date is designed to indicate a story set in the deep future of the science fiction genre.

Herbert’s calendar in the Dune series focuses on the Butlerian Jihad, one of the themes of the series, which emphasizes a deep mistrust of technology and the importance of a human-centered society. Therefore, a direct comparison between the events in the Dune universe and the Gregorian calendar is not feasible.

The year 1 AG (After Guild) is the first year of the standard Imperial Calendar. It also marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Spacing Guild’s monopoly on space travel. The starting point of the Imperial Calendar (1 AG) is considered. The details of the Guild’s emergence are controversial, but it is believed that they emerged as a significant political and economic force during the Great Convention in the 1st century.

Let’s take a closer look at the Dune timeline now.

11,200 BG: The beginning of space travel.

11,000 BG: After the Second Space Migrations, Jews conceal their identities from non-Jews.

5,000 BG: Sandtrout, rich in water, are brought to Arrakis, and desertification begins. The sandtrout-sandworm-spice cycle starts.

2,100 BG: The Great dynasties of the Landsraad are established.

1,580 BG: The Second Islam Movement begins under the leadership of the Second Muhammad. Yes, many Dune experts may not know this, but such a detail exists in Dune. I have a few points to make about this, but let’s complete the chronology first.

1,480 BG: The Third Islam Movement begins under the leadership of the Third Prophet Muhammad.

1,381 BG: Led by Ali Ben Ohashi, the Zensunni break away from the teachings of Maometh.

1,380-1,300 BG: The Zensunni Wanderers, eventually evolving into the Fremen people after thousands of years in the deep deserts, make their final landing on Arrakis after traveling from one world to another in search of freedom from oppression and slavery by Imperial raiders.

1,000 BG: During the imperial reign of Shakkad the Wise, the royal chemist Yanshuph Ashkoko discovers the geriatric spice melange on Arrakis.

300 BG: The life of Tibana, the apologist for Socratic Christianity from IV Anbus, is documented, stating, “the hearts of all men live in the same wilderness.”

201 BG: The Butlerian Jihad against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots begins.

108 BG: The Butlerian Jihad ends after destroying most machine-based technology and also most historical documents. The god of machine-logic is overthrown, and a new concept is raised: “Man cannot be replaced.” The production of highly advanced machines survives only in Ix and Richese.

98 BG: The founding of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.

88 BG: The Battle of Corrin. The House Corrino takes its name and establishes the Corrino Empire from Salusa Secundus.

An Atreides, due to cowardice, exiles Bashar Abulurd Harkonnen, marking the beginning of the Atreides-Harkonnen feud.

80 BG: The Mother Superior of the Bene Gesserit makes a secret agreement with the Jews.

Gilbertus Albans establishes the Mentat Order. In doing so, he hopes to be included in the Tleilaxu hegemony by seeking temporary refuge from the Bene Tleilax who provide it. The order later spreads to countless “seed schools.”

Norma Cenva marries Aurelius Venport, and they have five children. Norma designs the first foldable spaceship and gives it to Venport, but she is remembered as the designer.

50 BG: The Ecumenical Translators Commission compiles the orange Catholic Bible in the Old World over seven years, aiming to calm all religious divisions.

1 BG/AG: The establishment of the Spacing Guild, which starts using new foldable spaceships, piloted by spice-saturated Navigators, monopolizing space trade, transport, and interplanetary banking, ensuring more orderly and regular interstellar travel and finance, and enforcing the restrictions of the Guild Peace. The start of the Guild calendar.

1 AG: The life of the religious writer Neshou.

CHOAM (Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles) is established.

100 AG: The Great Convention is signed. According to the convention, the united power of the Great Houses can destroy anyone who uses atomic power against humans.

300 AG: Poisons commonly used in an Assassination War are compiled in the Assassin’s Handbook. Later, it will be expanded to include lethal tools allowed under the Guild Peace and Great Convention.

2,000 AG: The Imperial court moves to the new capital, Kaitain, and Salusa Secundus is designated as the Imperial Prison Planet.

The 2200s AG: Laza tigers, a special breed of tiger, are brought to Salusa Secundus.

5,000 AG: A Bene Gesserit Sister in Rossak discovers a plant that provides the ability to merge thoughts. From this date, the Sisters among the Fremen (Sayyadinas) will preserve the Zensunni history through thought merging and memory transfer, replacing oral history.

10,176 AG: Duke Leto Atreides and Lady Jessica’s son, achieving the Kwisatz Haderach a generation early, Paul Atreides is born. Jessica defies the Sisterhood’s orders and gives birth to a son instead of a daughter, who would have been the mother of the Kwisatz Haderach.

10,191 AG: The year of the apocalypse. What a year it was! The planet Arrakis, known as Dune, is taken from the Harkonnens and given to the Atreides Dynasty.

The Atreides leave Caladan, and during their rule of Arrakis, this planet is left under the title of Siridar-Absentia to Count Hasimir Fenring. Duke Leto Atreides kills Piter de Vries and Umman Kudu, with Nefud taking Kudu’s place.

Rabban takes over the lordship of Arrakis; this marks the second time the Harkonnens control Arrakis and thus the spice production of the known universe. He kills 9,000 Fremen.

Paul and Jessica escape and join the Fremen.

Paul becomes known as Muad’Dib and becomes a kind of religious leader among the Fremen.

Jessica Atreides transforms the Water of Life and becomes the new Reverend Mother of the Fremen.

Alia Atreides is born in November of this year.

Since the rest has not yet been filmed, it would be unfair to write it here. But if you insist on seeing it, you can read the entire Dune Timeline here.

As you can see, Frank Herbert does something mind-boggling by creating a narrative spanning 20,000 years according to the Dune calendar, building its characters.

To conclude today, let’s note that the first book of the series alone features more than 100 characters. It’s worth mentioning that the record in this area belongs to Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which features 600 characters.

Looking at the characters in Dune, we see two different Muslim characters named Second Muhammad and Third Muhammad. Yes, Herbert has terribly confused prophethood with dynasty and missed this simple but absolute truth. Have you ever heard of a prophet named second or third, like Second Noah or Fourth Moses?

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the planets of Dune and then move on to the story with the characters.

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