‘Dune’: “Fear Is the Mind-Killer” Quote Explained

DuneFear Is the Mind Killer Quote

Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ is one of the greatest sci-fi masterpieces ever written, partly due to the highly philosophical themes merging with prophecies and destinies. The book inspired plenty of other works of fiction and plenty of schools of thought. This wouldn’t have happened if Herbert had not included some of the greatest quotes in fiction in his works. One of these quotes is the so-called Litany of Fear, now let’s explain its meaning in a bit more detail.

The Litany of Fear is one of the most iconic litanies in fiction

Speaking of “Fear is the mind-killer” the full quote goes like this

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.

This is the Litany of Fear and it’s traditionally used to focus one’s mind in times of great danger. It was highly inspired by William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and was later adapted into a litany during the Butlerian Jihad. It focuses on the idea that fear can be more damaging than death itself, as it causes one to suffer repeatedly. This mantra is further developed by the Bene Gesserit, reflecting their hard training and the importance of overcoming fear in their lives. Plenty of notable figures in ‘Dune’ speak the litany, most importantly Paul Atreides, one of the most important tortured heroes in ‘Dune.’

Fear is more debilitating than death itself

Since the mantra originated from the Bene Gesserit you need to understand it’s used to overcome significant mental burdens through sheer willpower and determination. In plain words, it means exactly the same thing as Shakespeare’s “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once“. Have you ever heard the phrase “paralyzed by fear?” Well being so overcome by fear sometimes means that you will be afraid to make some decisions, you will stagnate as a human being and you will be unable to do some things that need to be done to ensure growth and future prospects.

When the human being is stagnating, the mind rots, and you will notice that you are becoming depressed, you are losing the will to live, slowly, and it’s all due to fear and your inability to face it and overcome it. And now we’re not talking about fear of spiders or some common easily ignored things, we are talking about existential fears. By facing and overcoming fear, individuals can transcend it, and they can move on and thrive in the future.


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In the context of the ‘Dune,’ we’ve seen how Paul was afraid to hybridize with the sandworm due to loneliness and the fear of losing his human identity. By failing to do that he failed to ensure that humanity stays on the Golden Path. Leto, his son, was also afraid but ultimately overcame his fear and secured a future for all of humanity.

By overcoming fear, you are sure to reap the rewards of it in the future, afraid, you are doomed to stagnate and perish.

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