‘Dune’ has its own ‘Silmarillion’, it hasn’t been reissued for thirty years and costs 1,000 euros per volume

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Now it is relatively normal for every successful film to be accompanied, among the many marketing maneuvers required, by publications, books or documentaries that complement or explain what is seen in them: volumes of art and designs or pieces for DVD or streaming with interviews. The lore of fictional worlds, and much more so in these times of cinematic universes everywhere, is amplified and explained in what the Anglo-Saxons call companionsaccompaniments to the main narrative core.

But before the total dominance of Disney and company in audiovisual entertainment, there were already written pieces of epic narrative so complex that by themselves they did not explain their universes. Extra volumes of text were needed to amplify those mammoth lore. Tolkien readers know what we are talking about, but they will also know that ‘The Silmarillion’ is not exactly an instruction manual that makes everything crystal clear.

'Dune' was going to be an even more epic and colossal movie.  Until Villeneuve ran into the budget

The same thing happened with ‘Dune’, a saga of books that Frank Herbert started in 1965, and of which he himself would write the first sequels, such as ‘Messiah of Dune’ and ‘Children of Dune’. Anyone who has approached the voluminous first book will know that Herbert’s convoluted narrative was hard to follow even with that future world’s glossary of words including the book. When David Lynch released his adaptation of the first novel (also quite confusing, but not of his own volition, but because of the butchery that Dino De Laurentiis, the producer, carried out with it), Herbert himself authorized the publication of ‘The Dune Encyclopaedia’.

But of course, we’re talking about ‘Dune’. And this encyclopedia ended up becoming not only the most controversial piece of knowledge about the Herbert universe, but also the most expensive: 34 years after its edition, after decades out of print and not very likely to be reissued, it is priced at about a thousand euros second-hand (a few years ago it was relatively easy to find copies for about a hundred dollars, but with the film by Villeneuve interest has skyrocketed). And why it is so expensive is easy to explain being a piece so coveted and rare to find, but… why is it so controversial?

The encyclopedic controversy

For a start, The Dune Encyclopedia (what you can find scanned online without too much difficulty) is an essay… written from within the fiction of ‘Dune’. It is edited (in that fiction) by a certain Hadi Benotto in the year 15540 After the Brotherhood (and we already started with the references to the world of books). In reality, it is responsible for Willis E. McNelly, accompanied by a few Herbert scholars, and its content is necessarily incomplete: ‘Chapter House: Dune’, the last book in the saga written by Herbert himself, was published in 1985.

The reason ‘The Dune Encyclopedia’ has not had reprints is that after Herbert’s death in 1986, the author’s son -Brian Herbert- and co-author Kevin J. Anderson began to publish prequels, shall we say, official, from Herbert’s novels. Some data in the ‘Encyclopedia’, such as the ones it gives about the Butlerian Jihad, contradicted the new ‘Dune’ stories, causing information about Herbert’s world to branch off into three sources: Herbert’s six novels, the prequels (“expanded canon”) and the wacky world of the ‘Dune Encyclopedia’.

'Dune': Villeneuve saves a very complicated adaptation and manages to replicate part of the epic and complexity of the original novel

Among these contradictions, the most popular is that the ‘Encyclopedia’ points out that perhaps Paul Atreides did not come from Caladan, but was already a Fremen from the start, an inhabitant of Arrakis. The ‘Encyclopedia’ suggests that his biographers invented his origin from another planet to feed his legend: let’s not forget that in ‘Dune’ his entire story is recorded by his wife, Princess Irulan, so there we have an unreliable narrator, worth the redundancy, book

There are even rumors that Villeneuve was such a fan of the ‘Dune Encyclopedia’ that he put references to the book in the script of his adaptation. But since these scripts had to be approved by Herbert’s estate, those ideas ended up being scrapped. Come on, what is popularly known as a cult encyclopedia.

Now it is relatively normal for every successful film to be accompanied, among the many marketing maneuvers required, by publications,…

Now it is relatively normal for every successful film to be accompanied, among the many marketing maneuvers required, by publications,…

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