Dune: Technology: Spice

The Dictionary Royal 5th Edition defines spice as:”melange (me’lange also ma,lanj) n-s, origin uncertain (thought to derive from the ancient Terran Franzh): a. mixture of spice; b. spice of Arrakis (Dune) with geriatric properties first noted by Yanshuph Ashkoko, royal chemist in reign of Shakkad the Wise; Arrakeen melange, found only in deepest desert sands of Arrakis, linked to prophetic visions of Paul Muad’Dib (Atreides), first Fremen Mahdi; also employed by Spacing Guild Navigators and the Bene Gesserit.” 

The spice melange is the most precious commodity in the Dune universe. The cinnamon smelling spice is a geriatric organic compound that is used to enhance life functions, mental awareness, and prescience. Every influential group in the imperium consumes spice for their own health and power. Despite humanity’s total dependence on melange for over an eon, extremely little was known about it until the time Paul Maud’Dib became emperor.

Spice is created by the great sand worms of Arrakis. The worms produce spice as a reproductive chemical. Most theories point to it being a sort of spermatic or pollen type chemical.  For eons, spice could only be produced by the great worms of Arrakis. Emperor Shaddam IV tried to find an artificial means of creating spice, with the help of the Tleilaxu. Their efforts failed after Duke Leto Atreides retook Ix from the Tleilaxu and returned it to its proper ruler, House Vernius. Thousands of years after Children of Dune, the Bene Tleilaxu did eventually create an artificial source of spice.

The Swordmasters and all Mentats (normal, twisted and failed) use spice to increase their intellectual ability. Melange opens their mind so that they may perform advanced reasoning and memorization. Many twisted mentats are addicted to spice. Nobles of both the major and minor houses consume spice in small quantities to enhance their health and prolong their lives. Some more well off nobles consume so much spice in their quest for everlasting power that they become addicted to melange. Since it is taboo to have the indigo-blue colored eyes of spice addiction, many nobles wear permanent contacts to hide their addiction.

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Prince Farad’n was addicted to spice, and had the permanent contacts to hide this. The Bene Gesserit also consume a graet portion of spice. They use melange to open their minds and to teach themselves to control their bodies. This allows them to move in the weirding way, as well as enhance the control of their bodies. The Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit have minor prescience abilities. 

The largest and most vital consumer of spice is the Spacing Guild. The spacing guild navigator live in melange filled chambers. The navigators are so dependent on spice that removal from these chambers results in immediate death. The navigators themselves are created by an overdose of spice. If the mind and body accepts the spice, then over a period of a few years the body will slowly change in to a fish like creature which may very well no longer be human. The main purpose for their overdoes of spice is so that they may peer through fold space to find a safe path to their intended destination. Navigators also have prescience ability, more so then the Bene Gesserit, yet still far less then Maud’Dib.

The Fremen of Dune, have made the most out of melange. Like soy and rice, spice may be made into almost anything. The Fremen use it to make food, medicine, rope, paper, ink/dye, fabric and most famously spice beer. Spice beer goes immediately to ones head, half a sip will guarantee intoxication to all but the most hardy warrior. Even Duncan Idaho succumbed to powers of Spice Beer, though he never let it happen again! Most nobles use spice beer to enhance their health and desire for a buzz.

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Dune reviews are © 2003 Ryan Bechtel and Greg Frantz.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission.

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