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The Bizarre Item Moviegoers Got With A Ticket To The Original Dune

"Dune" is a notoriously difficult property to adapt. To say the Frank Herbert series is a dense text would be a gross understatement, and fans of the series are very protective of its monumental legacy. Making one film of the saga risks omitting huge chunks of narrative and worldbuilding. Making a series risks new audiences getting lost in the complicated plot and technobabble.

The first auteur to take a stab at making "Dune" was cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. The 2014 documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune" sheds light on his deeply mystical abortive attempt. Next, David Lynch took a stab at bringing Arrakis to life. His 1984 version was a flop upon release, but has garnered a cult following in the years since (as most David Lynch things do). But even Lynch disavowed the final product, getting an Alan Smithee credit on some cuts and claiming his writing credit as "Judas Booth" in others. The film was Lynchian to the extreme, starring Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides. The film contained so much unexplained worldbuilding that it actually prompted theaters to give "Dune" viewers a very special memento back in 1984.

1984 Dune viewers received a glossary of key terms

Open Culture shared a scan of the original glossary handed out at screenings of David Lynch's "Dune." The glossary seemed necessary because Lynch didn't spend any time explaining the world of "Dune" before jumping right into the narrative. "Within the first 10 minutes," The Atlantic noted, "the film bombarded audiences with words like Kwisatz Haderach, landsraad, gom jabber [sic], and sardaukar with little or no context." This glossary provided the context.

According to the glossary, "Kwitsatz Haderach" is a kind of space messiah who will be able to "bridge time and space." "Gom jabbar" is that poisoned needle thingie the Reverend Mother holds at Paul's throat during the test with the box. "Sardaukar" are the borderline suicidal acolytes of the Padishah Emperor, human supersoldiers skilled at assassination and invasion. "Landsraad" isn't in the 1984 glossary, but luckily we have fan wikis today. It's essentially the Parliament of Space Lords, a governing body with representatives from all the great houses of the Imperium.

Considering the fact that almost every definition in the 1984 glossary uses another word invented by Frank Herbert, it's easy to see how ineffectual this keepsake was at penetrating the complexities of "Dune." Based on reviews, Villeneuve's "Dune" appears to be coasting more on vibes than explanations. We shall see if this strategy is any more successful.