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Saturday 24 May 2014

D U N E : A Pug's Tale

Ah, Dune... a novel of such epic proportions and complexity that it's probably unfilmable. Not that that's stopped people from trying, however.

"They tried and failed ?"
"No, they tried and no-one liked it very much."

Unless you read the book, David Lynch's 1984 movie is, at best, a broken masterpiece. Rich, dark and with a soundtrack to match, it also just doesn't make any sense. And why should it ? About half the book consists of what characters think other characters are thinking - and what they think they're thinking isn't always what they're really thinking, I think. You can't really film that.

However, it adds at least one detail to the Dune story that puts a rather different slant on the whole shebang. I'm talking, of course, about Paul Atreides' pet pug. Knowing pugs, this alters the tone of the entire movie.

Dune is not hard science fiction, but pugs are pretty consistent with the established universe. Like Paul's tiny Bible*, pugs are small and therefore well-suited to space travel. They can withstand high accelerations due to their natural crumple zone. And, although set at least ten thousand years in the future, the survival of the breed would be assured by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood's enduring eugenics program (were they trying to breed a Kwisatz Haderpug ? we'll never know).

*This always bothered me. In the Duniverse, huge space fleets aren't a problem (though they are expensive). Compressing an 1800 page book into something the size of your thumb doesn't seem like much of a saving.

One may further infer that the survival of the pugs was guaranteed by the Buterlian Jihad - the war against the thinking machines. Because if there's one thing in the Universe that's definitely not a thinking machine, it's a pug.

Paul is clearly quite attached to little Scruffles, because he took him with him from the safe (though somewhat damp) environment of Castle Caladan to the desert furnace of Arakis. What, then, was life like in the Atreides household during Paul's youth ?

We will have to assume that Scruffles was much like any other pug. And that means that just occasionally, Duke Leto would have raged around the castle complaining that everything was covered in poop. Lady Jessica would have forbidden Paul from learning the Weirding Way "until all that *!"£@ing pug hair is cleaned up, young man !". Thufir Hawat would likely have complained that even Mentats can't concentrate "with that ugly little runt barking at leaves all day."

There is, however, something very wrong with the scene where the Atreides family leave Caladan to board the Guild heighliner, and it's that the family pug doesn't do anything. In the movie I can only assume this was done by lacing Scruffles' food with horse tranquillisers. In the narrative, I expect Paul  (or possibly Gurney Halleck) spent his last few hours on Caladan chasing his beloved pug around the castle grounds. Because if God created Arakis to train the faithful, then surely God created pugs to train the patient.

We don't see the pug again until the Harkkonen attack. In the absence of Sigourney Weaver - although honestly even if she were available it would be a tough choice - there's only one man Paul trusts to guard his childhood pet : Patrick Stewart, aka Gurney Halleck, weapons master of the Atreides. And thus do we see Patrick Stewart charging into battle, blaster in one hand and pug in the other.

We don't really know what happens to Scruffles after this. However, pugs are naturally suited even to avoiding the mighty Shai-Hulud, since they're lightweight and blessed with about as much sense of rhythm as William Shatner. We can only infer that the furry little idiot survived through many adventures....

I don't know who made this image but I'd like to thank them.
... because we do know the pug survives. Right at the end of the film, when Paul has brought the empire to its knees and freed the Fremen from the Harkonnen yoke, we can just about see an attendant doing their best to stop little Scruffles from interrupting Paul during his big speech.

Is it definitely the same pug ? I don't know, but how many pugs do you think there are on Arakis ?


  1. I'd like to thank the person who made that image too, made my day!

  2. I will immediately clutch your rss as I can not in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
    Do you've any? Kindly permit me recognize
    in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

    1. Just use the "follow" button.

    2. Cleaning up fur and barking at leaves. Someone knows their pugs!

      (check your image links, I can't see 2, 3 and 4)


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