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Literature Study GuidesDuneBook 2 Section 37 Summary

Dune | Study Guide

Frank Herbert

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Dune | Book 2, Section 37 : Muad'Dib | Summary



Jessica stands with Stilgar on a ledge above a great cavern filled with thousands of Fremen. Paul and the two sons of Harah arrive, then Chani, wearing green as mourning for her father. Behind Chani, four women carry a fifth woman in a litter. Stilgar tells the assembled Fremen that the Reverend Mother is too old to survive another move, and they must move on because Harkonnens hunt them. But Jessica has consented to "attempt to pass within that we not lose the strength of our Reverend Mother."

Chani leads the ceremony. Two sacks of liquid are brought in, and Chani offers Jessica a drink, saying "Here is the Water of Life ... If you be a Reverend Mother, it opens the universe to you." As Jessica drinks, she senses the liquid is a drug that extends her awareness and slows time but is also a poison. She looks within herself and sees a place that is a "pit of blackness," recognizing this as the place only the Kwisatz Haderach can see. Then she sees into the molecular structure of the liquid she has ingested and changes it to make it harmless. Chani takes a drop of the liquid that clings to Jessica's lip and mixes it with the rest of the Water of Life, catalyzing it all into the harmless drug.

Jessica senses she is merging awareness with the old Reverend Mother, as well as with the daughter she carries. The old Reverend Mother tells her the changes she experiences will be shared by her daughter. Then she passes on to Jessica her entire life's experience before she dies, leaving Jessica as the Reverend Mother in her place. Jessica finds she has access to lifetimes of past Fremen Reverend Mothers. She realizes the spice drug they gave her is "the liquid exhalation of a dying sandworm, a maker."

Along with the assembly Paul sips the drug and sinks into his timeless state. Chani, with him, glimpses a future in which they have a child together. Paul sees a coming confrontation between the Fremen jihad and the forces of the Imperium, the Harkonnens, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserit.


Jessica's transformation into a Reverend Mother occurs quickly and without much preparation. She does not know what she is getting into, and because of this, her fetal daughter is also transformed. Jessica's decision is a risk, and readers do not see her make it. It can be inferred the Reverend Mother asked her to take her place and Jessica agreed because she felt there was no choice, given their precarious standing with the Fremen. Here again, an individual's choice, made in a moment of crisis, will have significant effects. A child will be born with all the knowledge and experience of lifetimes of women.

From that focus on the individual, however, the section moves outward into the thousands of assembled Fremen. For them, this event is a religious ceremony that cements their community together. As each partakes of the drug in a communion-like ritual, the spice drug gives a temporary and mild effect. Some Fremen, such as Chani, can glimpse the future as their awareness expands. This makes sense, because the novel makes it clear Paul's ability is genetic. The Bene Gesserit have been breeding humans specifically for this trait of being able to see into time. Paul realizes the Fremen must have some genetic variation that gives them a small share of his own ability.

The importance of the worms and spice is underscored by this episode, as Jessica learns the source of this drug is the sandworms. The sandworms make spice, and they make this "Water of Life." These related substances allow humans to access powers and senses beyond what is natural. Even though the sandworms are a force of destruction, they have something people want.

At the end of the section Paul sees himself in a place between crushing forces. He sees that the jihad of his future will be in opposition to all of the current power structures: emperor, houses, Bene Gesserit, guild. As he pauses between these powers, Book 2 comes to a close.

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