Recently, when looking back at the best Dune lines from the miniseries, I forgot all about one, very important one. How could I? It’s only one of the most important lines in the Dune series, one that gets repeated in just about every book. And that line is… The Litany Against Fear! For those who don’t know, this is the invocation the Bene Gesserit’s and the Atreides make in order to ward off fear. And as I’m sure many Dune fans have done (at least I hope so!), I’ve even tried saying it once or twice. Doesn’t really work for me, but then again, it was a long shot at best.
Clearly, the idea behind the Litany is an acknowledgment that fear is dangerous, but also that the only way to overcome it is to embrace it. By allowing it to pass through you, yourself remaining but the fear gone, is to survive. To give in to it is to invite obliteration. Anyhow, the quoted version of this prayer was modified by from its original text by John Harrison for the purposes of adaptation. Here is how it appeared in the miniseries:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mindkiller. I will face my fear. I will let it pass through me. When it is gone, there will be nothing, only I will remain.”
Not bad, but here is how it appeared in full, in the original text of Dune:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Yep, its about twice as long. And when you’re acting, long speeches tend to make the audience lose interest. Curiously enough, David Lynch used the full text version when making the movie version of Dune. One would think that his time constraints would have made brevity all the more desirable. But then again, he relied on internal monologues to make this speech, as with most other things in his movie. Since the actors didn’t have to stand and deliver, just pull a face and let the voice over do its thing, they could kind of get away with it. And if the audience got bored… well, chances are they were bored to begin with! Or lost, his movie was good like that ;)!