Considering the messiah prophesy which was also Muad'Dib, I don't get it - how could he choose that name, and not be calling himself the messiah? The context of when he chose his name to be that of the mouse, it was definitely not at all like he was calling himself "messiah", nor was the context any inference that he was "accepting the role" of the messiah. It showed him choosing the name, just like any other name, as natural as if he had called himself Sam or Frank or David.

Please explain this to me. Thanks.

Note: I am watching Frank Herbert's Dune, the original special edition version (as opposed to the 1984 version or the Children of Dune)

  • 3
    Pretty sure the prophecy foretold Mahdi. Thus Paul's choice of the name Muad'Dib is not unreasonable. Apr 1, 2012 at 23:32
  • Ah, it's hard to tell the difference in only hearing it. I thought it was the same name. Answer this and I'll choose as best answer.
    – scifi
    Apr 2, 2012 at 0:24
  • 2
    Interestingly, the words DO sound quite a bit alike; something that never occurred to me while reading the books. I would suspect that Frank Herbert did that intentionally, but have no canon proof, and, as far as I recall, none of the characters made any comment on the similarity of the words. It has his feel, though.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 2, 2012 at 2:25

6 Answers 6


From Dune (1965 printing) -- page 307 -- the whole naming thing didn't make it exactly into the movie the way it is in the book

So my take after all of this is that this both represented his learning how his prescience worked, and that he could make decisions that were not in his future-memory.

'Now what name of manhood do you choose for us to call you openly?' Stilgar asked.

Paul glanced at his mother, back to Stilgar.

Bits and pieces of this moment registered on his prescient memory, but he felt the differences as though they were physical, a presence forcing him through the narrow door to the present.

'How do you call among you that little mouse, the mouse that jumps?' Paul asked remembering the pop-hop motion at Tuono basin. He illustrated with one hand.

A chuckle sounded through the troop.

'We call that one muad'dib," said Stilgar.

Jessica gasped. It was the name Paul had told her, saying that the Fremen would accept them and call him thus. She felt a sudden fear of her son and for him. Paul swallowed.

He felt that the played a part already played over countless times in his mind


'I am Atreides,' Paul whispered, and then louder: 'It is not right that I give up entirely the name my father gave me. Could I be known among you as Paul-Muad'Dib?'

And Paul thought: That was in no vision of mine. I did a different thing.


'I will tell you a thing about your new name,' Stilgar said. 'The choice pleases us. Muad'Dib is wise in the ways of the desert...Muad'Dib we call instructor of boys. That is a powerful base on which to build your life.

The muad-dib/gerbil had important mythical qualities, but the Fremen had not yet connected their messiah to the name muad-dib yet.

It was "natural" in that he foresaw the choice of his name and ended up being called "Muad'Dib" despite that he actually didn't choose that name exactly as his foresight showed him.

  • This is exactly what I thought! Thank you for for the book excerpt, that really clears things up!
    – scifi
    Apr 18, 2012 at 5:20

Paul was instinctively wise to the ways of the Fremen - remember that he put on the stillsuit correctly by himself from the get go. (Kynes then recalls that the legend states “He shall know your ways as though born to them.”) While there is no explicit canon explanation for why he chose Muad'Dib as a name, the fact that Stilgar approved heartily (see the following quote) might mean that he again instinctively picked a name that was going to make him more Fremen Leader Material:

Muad'Dib is wise in the ways of the desert. Muad'Dib creates his own water. Muad'Dib hides from the sun and travels in the cool night. Muad'Dib is fruitful and multiplies over the land. Muad'Dib we call 'instructor-of-boys.' That is a powerful base on which to build your life, Paul Muad'Dib, who is Usul among us. (Source: "Dune")

Wikia (without attribution or quote) notes that:

Paul's choice in name was also marginally influenced by the prescient visions he had begun to have after arriving on Arrakis. In one recurring vision he saw throngs of Fremen chanting the word "Muad'Dib" at him in a subservient manner.

Additionally, Dune Wikia points out that:

Although the English pronunciation of this word calls for a long "i", there is an almost exact word in Arabic like it (Mu'adib), which means "private tutor" or "teacher". It used to be that the Caliphs, the rulers of the Muslim world, would hire a Mu'adib to teach their children. The practice seemed to be common for other strata of society as well.


There's a constellation called Muad'Dib:

Jessica returned to the book, studied an illustrated constellation from the Arrakeen sky: "Muad'Dib: The Mouse," and noted that the tail pointed north.

Paul says of the Fremen: "They'll call me . . . Muad'Dib, 'The One Who Points the Way.'" When they join Stilgar's troupe, he asks the name of the little mouse that jumps, which is Muad'Dib, and chooses that as his name.


So you are missing an important and key plot point. Paul Atreides doesn’t “choose” anything. He realizes that he is a preordained puppet of fate. Even early in the book his choices begin to narrow and do so swiftly - to where the Fremen Jihad is a certainty and billons will die in its wake. Paradoxically this is the same as his choice of the name. Its choice is inevitable as he sees it in prescient visions, before he chooses it.

This is why, even though I have, and will continue to love any and all Dune film adaptations it’s probably impossible to portray the book faithfully on the screen.

  • 2
    But he does choose; if he has foreseen something then his choice naturally leads to what he has foreseen, but he can make choices that don't affect the broad course of his destiny, such as choosing "Paul Maud'Dib" as his Fremen name. However your answer doesn't really address specifically his choice of "Maud'Dib" as his name, and whether that was a "natural" choice (presumably from the standpoint of the Fremen).
    – DavidW
    Sep 25, 2020 at 3:18

There's also the role that the Missionaria Protectiva have already played in planting religious mythology on Arrakis. Paul & Jessica would already be using their Bene Gesserit knowledge of the practice to protect themselves in a harsh environment among fierce tribesmen while being pursued by ruthless Harkonnen. Paul's prescience, and the fact that he is indeed the Kwisatz Haderach, adds a recursive element to the whole idea.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. I'm not sure how the planted traditions would affect Paul's choice of a Fremen name. Yes, Jessica took advantage of that knowledge to, initially at least, gain some acceptance for herself and Paul, but that doesn't answer the question about Paul's choice of name.
    – DavidW
    Oct 14, 2020 at 16:20

Several key parts of Dune are based on Greek mythology, and knowing this helps to show why it is appropriate for Paul to call himself after a mouse. Apollo - the Greek God of prophecy and prophets - was called Apollo Smintheus or Mouse/Mousy (for this Apollo-mouse link, see Homer’s Iliad 2:48-52 and Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary 634, and Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, sections 14.2, 21.3, 90.3, and 158.2.) The name Apollo Smintheus may also be understood as a type of precedent for why Paul kept his given name, in addition to his new one. Moreover, Apollo’s seer-priestesses, like many of their counterparts in Dune, also consumed narcotics in order to carry out their prophesizing.

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