Everyone has heard of Star Wars, the thrilling saga of Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke, and their role in bringing balance back to the Force. Fewer people are aware of #Dune, the equally thrilling saga of Paul Atreides and his son, Leto II, and their role in guiding humanity onto the Golden Path that would ensure peace for thousands of years.
Sound familiar? There are a remarkable number of similarities between the two stories, almost too many to be coincidental (and we're not just talking about desert planets with spice miners and moisture farmers). The first three books of the series were published between 1965 and 1976. Is it possible they partially inspired George Lucas's work on #StarWars? There certainly are a lot of similarities between Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars and Paul Atreides of Dune.
1. Messianic Figures
The messianic roles that Anakin and Paul occupy in their respective universes is one of the most obvious parallels. In Star Wars, Anakin is the Chosen One, the man who is prophesied to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. He had no human father but was conceived directly by the midi-chlorians, the microscopic organisms that connected living beings to the Force. Because of this, he was the most powerful Jedi who ever lived, even surpassing Yoda in his sensitivity to the Force.
In Dune, Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach, the "Shortening of the Way" in the ancient Chakobsa hunting language spoken by the Fremen. The Kwisatz Haderach meant different things to different people. To the Fremen of Arrakis, the Kwisatz Haderach was prophesied to help them transform the desert planet they called home and, in doing so, lead them to freedom. To the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the organization behind the plan to bring such a man into being, the Kwisatz Haderach was supposed to be a man with prescient powers that rivaled their own, as well as the ability to look into the cellular pasts of both male and female ancestors (the Bene Gesserit could see only the genetic memories of their female ancestors).
2. Young And Powerful (But Too Old For Training?)
When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan found the young Anakin living as a slave on Tatooine, they were amazed to find that he had the highest recorded midi-chlorian count, higher than any known Jedi. This prompted Qui-Gon to suspect that Anakin was the Chosen One, so he brought him before the Jedi Council and requested that the young boy be tested for Force sensitivity. The Council agreed with Qui-Gon's findings, that Anakin was indeed very strong with the Force, but refused to train him as a Jedi. Most padawans were taken from their families as either infants or toddlers and raised in the Jedi Way their entire lives, never knowing anything different. At 9, Anakin was deemed too old to master the stringent self-control required by the Jedi. The Council finally relented when it became obvious that Obi-Wan was willing to defy their decision in order to honor his master's dying wish.
In Paul's case, he had had prescient dreams ever since childhood, and at the age of 15, the Reverend Mother Mohiam tested him with the Gom jabbar to determine if he followed his human intellect or his animal passions. Paul endured more pain than anyone else subjected to the test, yet when he found himself an exile in the desert, the Fremen cared little for his results in the Gom jabbar test. Surviving as a Fremen in the desert required specialized training from childhood, and very few Fremen believed that a teenage boy could master those skills so late in life. It took a knife fight and a dead man for Paul to convince them that he could learn to survive in the deep desert.
3. Warrior Heroes
The Council may have protested that Anakin was too old to be trained as a Jedi, yet he excelled in every aspect of his training. Once he finished his apprenticeship to Obi-Wan, he became a valuable asset during the Clone Wars. The tales of his legendary exploits earned him the name of The Hero With No Fear.
In a similar way, Paul rose through the ranks of the Fremen to become the greatest general the desert dwellers had ever seen. He took the name Muad'Dib, The One Who Points The Way (it was the name of a constellation of a mouse whose tail pointed North), and led the entire Fremen nation in a legendary battle against the Sardaukar, the Padishah Emperor's most elite and dangerous fighting force. It was this battle that led to Paul's ascension to the throne as the new emperor of the galaxy.
4. Visions Of Death
Anakin may have been one of the most prominent Jedi of the order, but that could have changed in a heartbeat if anyone had discovered his secret marriage to Padme Amidala of Naboo. Attachments of any sort, including marriage, were forbidden to the Jedi. If Anakin's marriage was discovered, it would result in his expulsion from the Jedi Order. This secrecy meant that he could not speak openly to anyone about the troubling visions he received of Padme dying in childbirth (he spoke to Yoda about seeing the death of someone close to him but didn't elaborate on the details). It was his desperate search for a way to save Padme's life that led him to seek answers from the Sith and ultimately precipitated his fall to the Dark Side. In an ironic twist, the acquisition of his Sith powers were what led to Padme's death, for her husband's devastating descent into darkness caused her to lose her will to live.
On Arrakis, Paul had engaged in the "marriage of youth" with a Fremen girl named Chani Kynes, but their union lacked imperial recognition. In order to assume the throne, Paul had to officially marry the Padishah Emperor's daughter Irulan. From a legal standpoint, Chani could never be anything more than a concubine. Paul considered Chani to be his true wife, while Irulan was nothing more than his key to the throne. Because of his devotion to Chani, he was devastated when his prescient powers showed him the events that would lead to her death in childbirth, a death that he admits was the first vision he ever had of Chani when his prescience was first developing.
5. Twin Children
It was startling enough for Yoda and Obi-Wan to discover that Padme was pregnant with Anakin's child, but the revelation that she was actually carrying twins presented a whole new set of problems. They would have to take care that Vader never detected their presence through the Force, and the young Luke and Leia were split up to make it more difficult for the Sith to track them. If one of them was discovered, the other would still be safe. Bail Organa and his wife adopted Leia, and Obi-Wan took Luke to Tatooine to be raised by his aunt and uncle. Vader did eventually learn that Luke was his son (the Skywalker last name probably contributed to that), but he never realized that Leia was his daughter until Luke inadvertently revealed it to him in Return of the Jedi.
Paul Atreides also had twin children with his Fremen concubine Chani, who was often confused as to why he always talked as if she was pregnant with one child, not two. She assumed his prescient visions had revealed the twins to him, yet he remained ignorant of the existence of a second baby until Chani actually gave birth (we'll get to the reason why that happened in just a minute). Leto II and Ghanima Atreides were not separated as babies, but they still had to struggle with the burden of inheriting their father's paranormal powers.
6. Death And A New Identity
After the execution of Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi order was in tatters. The majority of the Jedi were dead, and the few that survived were eventually hunted down and killed (with the exceptions of Obi-Wan and Yoda). With so many Jedi lost and dead, it was widely assumed that Anakin had been one of the many victims of Order 66. But around the same time Anakin disappeared from public knowledge, Darth Vader, the right-hand man of the Emperor, rose to prominence, and hardly anyone thought there was a possible connection between Anakin and Vader.
In Dune Messiah, Paul is blinded by a stone burner, yet he is still able to live a normal life due to his powers as the Kwisatz Haderach. After Chani's death, however, his visions fail him, leaving him truly blind. According to Fremen law, a blind man must be left in the desert to die because he is a safety risk for the rest of the tribe. Despite being Emperor, Paul obeys this rule, leaving the empire under the rule of his sister, Alia, until the twins are old enough to take the throne.
In Children of Dune, a blind Fremen man known as the Preacher comes out of the desert to rail against the corruption of Alia's reign. Those who knew Paul best immediately suspect that this Preacher really is Paul, who found some way to survive in the desert for nine years.
7. Like Father, Like Son
While Darth Vader imposed fear into the hearts of everyone in the galaxy, his son was growing up on a moisture farm on Tatooine, dreaming of a life that would let him escape from the unending dullness of everyday life. Little did Luke realize that an adventure would literally turn up on his doorstep that would plunge him into exile and danger, lead him to mastering the ways of the Force, and ultimately reunite him with the father he thought was dead. More importantly, he recognized the good that still dwelt within Darth Vader and never lost hope that the Sith Lord could be redeemed. Also, if it weren't for Luke, Anakin never would have fulfilled his destiny as the Chosen One.
Like Paul, Leto was a Kwisatz Haderach, considered by some to be even more powerful than his father (this was the reason Paul could not see his son in his visions — those with prescient powers can hide from those who share the same power). He was one of the people who suspected the Preacher was really Paul and sought out his advice for following the prescient visions that would guide humanity onto the Golden Path, the path for ensuring the human race would push forward and continue to improve itself instead of stagnating and decaying. It was Leto's insistence that pushed Paul to attempt a direct confrontation with Alia and reclaim control over the Fremen.
There you have it, folks — the parallels between Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars and Paul Atreides of Dune. Did we overlook another parallel? Did we overthink this? Will the new Dune adaptation with Denis Villeneuve make these parallels even more obvious? Let us know in the comments!