Imagine A Special Little Guy: Similarities Between Dune's Paul Atreides And Freud's Little Hans

The Chatner will be off for the rest of the Thanksgiving holidays, but will return the week after.

“You inherit too much power.”

“What, because I’m a Duke’s son?”

“Because you are Jessica’s son. You have more than one birthright, boy.” —Reverend Mother and Paul Atreides, Dune (2021)


“If a man has been his mother’s undisputed darling he retains throughout life the triumphant feeling, the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success along with it.” —Sigmund Freud, “A Childhood Recollection from Dichtung Und Wahrheit”


“First of all, I love my mother, so jot that down.” —Paul Atreides, Dune


Complicated relationship with younger sister and her proximity to violence

  • “The great event of Hans’s life was the birth of his little sister Hanna when he was exactly three and a half…He did not look at his mother, however, but at the basins and other vessels, filled with blood and water, that were still standing about the room.

    Some six months later he had got over his jealousy, and his brotherly affection for the baby was only equalled by his sense of his own superiority over her.” (Freud, “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy,” trans. 1925)

  • Paul closed his eyes, forcing grief out of his mind, letting it wait as he had once waited to mourn his father. Now, he gave his thoughts over to this day’s accumulated discoveries — the mixed futures and the hidden presence of Alia within his awareness.

    Of all the uses of time-vision, this was the strangest. “I have breasted the future to place my words where only you can hear them,” Alia had said. “Even you cannot do that, my brother. I find it an interesting play. And…oh, yes — I’ve killed our grandfather, the demented old Baron. He had very little pain.” (Herbert, Dune, 1965)

Total Awareness / Mastery Over Objects

  • “He had thus got hold of an essential characteristic for differentiating between animate and inanimate objects” (Freud)

  • “Paul looked down at the tiny book in his palm — such a small thing. Yet, it contained a mystery…something had happened while he read from it. He had felt something stir his terrible purpose.” (Herbert)

An Interpretative Father-Scientist

  • “The treatment itself was carried out by the child’s father, and it is to him that I owe my sincerest thanks…But his services go further than this. The special knowledge by means of which he was able to interpret the remarks made by his five-year-old son was indispensable…It was only because the authority of a father and of a physician were united in a single person, and because in him both affectionate care and scientific interest were combined, that it was possible in this one instance to apply the method to a use to which it would not otherwise have lent itself.” (Freud)

  • “How do we approach the study of Muad’Dib’s father? A man of surpassing warmth and surprising coldness was the Duke Leto Atreides. Yet, many facts open the way to this Duke: his abiding love for his Bene Gesserit lady; the dreams he held for his son; the devotion with which men served him. You see him there — a man snared by Destiny, a lonely figure with his light dimmed behind the glory of his son. Still, one must ask: What is the son but an extension of the father?” (Herbert)

Significant Dream-Onset

  • “At the same age (when he was three and three-quarters) Hans produced his first account of a dream: ‘To-day when I was asleep I thought I was at Gmunden with Mariedl…’ I will anticipate what is to come by adding that when Hans made this last remark about his children having been brought by the stork, he was contradicting aloud a doubt that was lurking within him.” (Freud)

  • “Young man,” the old woman said, “let’s return to this dream business.”

    ”What do you want?”

    ”Do you dream every night?”

    ”Not dreams worth remembering. I can remember every dream, but some are worth remembering and some aren’t.” (Herbert)

Horses + Worms x Collapse = Dead Dad

  • Further questioning led to a memory of a horse collapsing while shopping with his mother. Hans imagined that the horse could both bite him or collapse. Freud interpreted the collapsed horse being the father dying so Hans could take his place, but at the same time there was an ambivalence because he also loves his father.

    Mixed with memories of seeing children hop up on horse-driven carts and onto loading ramps, Hans fantasized a danger of the cart moving away just as he hopped onto one and send him crashing down. The horse, or the father, is the incest barrier to the mother. “Behind the original expression of anxiety, the fear that horses will collapse, and both of these, the biting horse and the falling horse, are the father who will punish him because of the wicked desires he harbours against him” (Bukowski, Psych Reviews)

  • “With the whiplike hook-staffs, Paul knew, he could mount the maker’s high curving back. For as long as a forward edge of a worm’s ring segment was held open by a hook, open to admit abrasive sand into the more sensitive interior, the creature would not retreat beneath the desert. It would, in fact, roll its gigantic body to bring the opened segment as far away from the desert surface as possible.

    I am a sandrider, Paul told himself. He glanced down at the hooks in his left hand, thinking that he had only to shift those hooks down the curve of a maker’s immense side to make the creature roll and turn, guiding it where he willed. He had seen it done. He had been helped up the side of a worm for a short ride in training. The captive worm could be ridden until it lay exhausted and quiescent upon the desert surface and a new maker must be summoned.” (Herbert)

“But I Don’t Want My Father To Die!!!!”

  • “I offered him a partial interpretation of his fear of horses: his father must be the horse, which he had good internal reason to fear. Certain details that aroused fear in Hans, the black around this mouth and in front of his eyes (moustache and spectacles, the prerogatives of the adult male), seemed to me to have been transferred directly from the father to the horses. With this explanation I vanquished the most powerful resistance in Hans to conscious recognition of his unconscious thoughts, since it was his own father who was taking the role of his physician. From this moment on we had conquered the summit of his condition, the material flowed abundantly, the young patient showed courage in communicating the details of his phobia and soon intervened independently in the course of the analysis.” (Freud)

  • “If there were a thing to be done for him, we’d have done it,” the old woman growled. “We may be able to salvage you. Doubtful, but possible. But for your father, nothing. When you’ve learned to accept that as a fact, you've learned a real Bene Gesserit lesson.”

    Paul saw how the words shook his mother. He glared at the old woman. How could she say such a thing about his father? What made her so sure? His mind seethed with resentment.

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother

  • “It has been urged that every time his mother’s breast is withdrawn from a baby he is bound to feel it as castration (that is to say, as the loss of what he regards as an important part of his own body)…and, finally, that the act of birth itself (consisting as it does in the separation of the child from his mother, with whom he has hitherto been united) is the prototype of all castration.”

  • “Shield!” the old woman snapped. “You well know the weakness there! Shield your son too much, Jessica, and he’ll not grow strong enough to fulfill any destiny.”