Dune 2 Just Hinted It’s Ditching a Key Part of Paul Atreides’ Character From the Books
Will Paul Atreides go by his secret Fremen name in Dune: Part Two? So far, it seems Denis Villeneuve is ditching Usul.
In Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, Paul Atreides is known by at least two other names: Muad’Dib and Usul. But in the epic new movie Dune: Part Two, Paul’s other name will, perhaps, be erased from existence. In Paul’s visions of the future in Part One, Chani did not call him “Usul” and now in the trailer for Part Two, he doesn’t call him Usul, either. This is significant, and Dune: Part Two will have subtly changed the source material if nobody utters this name throughout the entire movie. Speculation ahead.
In the new trailer, we get a lot of alone time between Chani (Zendaya) and Paul (Timothée Chalamet). We see Paul talking to Chani about what it’s like to swim in water, and we see Chani questioning him about his future visions. For Paul, the visions of Chani have been in his head since before he and his family left the planet Caladan. The novel opens with Paul getting grilled by the leader of the Bene Gesserit, all about the specifics of that vision. The future visage of Chani is central to these questions, and in that opening conversation, Paul and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam discuss the meaning of the word “Usul” in Paul’s dream.
But, in the 2021 film Dune: Part One, Chani calls him Paul in the dream. Why does she call him Usul in the book? Well, when Paul joins the Fremen, formally, he gets two Fremen names; his public moniker — Muad’Dib — but also a secret name that only members of the tribe know, Usul. In the Fremen language, Usul means “the strength of the base of the pillar,” which later leads to some strange wordplay in the second novel, Dune Messiah.
The larger point is, Herbert gives Paul this extra name of “Usul,” seemingly, to give him yet another kind of identity with the people he’s closest to within Sietch Tabr. The name Paul, at least by the time we get to the end of the novel, isn’t really part of who he is anymore. At least not to Chani, who loves him the most. Even in the streamlined David Lynch version, Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) gets both names, which is why, in that film, Chani (Sean Young) asks, “Tell me of the waters of your homeworld, Usul.” In the new trailer, Paul and Chani’s conversation parallels this idea, as Paul describes swimming. That said, it’s not exactly like it is in the book, and the language in the Lynch version is closer to the Herbert prose.
Overall, of course, Denis Villeneuve’s version of Dune is much more faithful than the 1984 Lynch version, which makes it all the more notable that Villeneuve could be ditching “Usul” altogether. In the new trailer, Chani says, “You will never lose me, Paul Atreides.” But book Chani would say something like “You will never lose me, Usul.”
In the grand scheme of Arrakis, talking about this might seem like splitting the hairs on the back of a desert mouse. Villeneuve’s Dune is awesome. This is not a huge deal. And it’s possible that at some point in Part Two, somebody will say “Usul” and all of this will be false. But then again, why not plant the word in Part One just like in the book?
In a sense, if Paul doesn’t get to be Usul onscreen, one small part of his book counterpart won’t be there either. Usul is the tender, quieter part of Paul. He’s the guy the Fremen are friends with. It’s the word they use to express their love of him, privately. Usul separates him from the god myth he and his mother create around him. It brings him back down to Earth. Or, in this case, back down to Dune. Still, if Paul doesn’t get to be Usul in Part Two, longtime Dune-heads will live..
Dune: Part Two hits theaters on Nov. 3.