One Lesson From Dune

Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune is filled to bursting with amazing lines.

“The slow blade penetrates the shield” is my personal favorite.  Weapons master Gurney Halleck delivers this amazing line of dialogue when practicing knife combat with Paul Atreides, the book’s main protagonist. In the context of Dune and Herbert’s sci-fi universe, personal energy shields could be housed in a projector and worn on a belt or sash. One only had to hit a button and he was enveloped in a form-fitting corona of energy that would deflect energy weapons, high-speed projectiles, or wild knife slashes.

But in close combat, a cunningly wielded blade can pass through the shield energy and strike the home at the person behind it. It is during this knife-fighting exercise that we learn that slow, deliberate attacks will pass through the shield’s protection.

Here’s the actual script excerpt from the 1984 David Lynch Dune movie:

                    (inner voice)
               What's gotten into Gurney? He's not
     Paul presses forward and the fight moves quickly
     around the room. The smell of ozone grows stronger
     as the shields hit and SPARK off one another. Paul
     directs a parry downwards, turns, and leads Gurney
     against the table, plunging at just the right moment
     to pin Gurney against the table top with his blade
     right at Gurney's neck.

                    (strange shielded voice)
               Is this what you seek?

                    (strange shielded voice)
               Good... the slow blade penetrates the
               shield... but look down.

     Paul looks and sees Gurney's blade at his groin.

                     GURNEY (CONT'D)
               We'd have joined each other in death.
               However, you did seem to finally get the

You can read Herbert’s version of the scene right from one of our copies of the novel:

Dune / Frank Herbert.

We also have both the David Lynch and  Sci-Fi Channel versions of the movie on DVD:

Dune (Motion picture)

Frank Herbert’s Dune [videorecording] / [presented by] Sci Fi Channel

Since I saw the Lynch movie in the theater in 1984 that line has stuck with me. At 14 I didn’t understand it as well as I think I do now, but at different times in my life I have been able to apply its wisdom. Don’t rush. Consider your next move. An action done with care and attention to detail has a better chance of success than one delivered hastily.

It’s not always true, and there have been many times I’ve failed to heed the lesson when it was relevant, but they are words to live by. And they just sound so good rolling off the tongue.



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7 responses to “One Lesson From Dune

  1. Thanks for this, Scott – I reread Dune at least once a year, and always find another layer of meaning and profundity in it.

    I’m a big fan of “The Litany Against Fear,” as well as Thufir Hawat’s assertion, near the end of the novel, that “the universe is full of doors.”

    Leigh Anne

  2. (I’m a different Scott from the original post, just for those who aren’t sure)

    I just finished my second read-through of Dune at the end of October, and this quote stood out to me:

    “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic”

  3. Hi Scott, and welcome! That is a great quote…I think I have to read this again, and soon…:)

    Leigh Anne

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  5. I love that part of the book. It was totally lost in translation in the movie.

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