In the 1984 film version of Dune, as the Reverend Mother is dying, the Bene Gesserit finds Jessica with the Fremen and gets her to drink the water of life. How did they reach Arrakis, track her down and go to her without being seen by Harkonnen eyes?

  • Erm, this doesn't happen in any version of Dune that I've seen. Apr 27, 2017 at 7:32
  • 4
    Are you confusing the Fremen's own (dying, as you say) Reverend Mother with the Bene Gesserit's Reverend Mothers?
    – tobiasvl
    Apr 27, 2017 at 8:27
  • @tobiasvl- I assumed there was only one reverend mother, the BG.
    – Nu'Daq
    Apr 27, 2017 at 18:47
  • @Nu'Daq No: dune.wikia.com/wiki/Sayyadina
    – tobiasvl
    May 22, 2017 at 10:46
  • @Nu'Daq - in fact, each major sietch had one, Jessica just replaced the one for Sietch Tabr (Stilgar's). Also, Chani - Paul's wife - was in training to become one, and drank the Water of Life during the same ceremony where Jessica did. That bit wasn't in the movie, though.
    – Omegacron
    Feb 1, 2018 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


I think you're confused, and the movie probably doesn't spell this out. The Reverend Mother on Dune did not belong to the Bene Gesserit, she was of the Fremen. The Bene Gesserit were not involved in this ritual at all.

While "Reverend Mother" is an official Bene Gesserit title bestowed upon a woman in the Bene Gesserit sisterhood who undergoes spice agony and changes the Water of Life to reach a higher level of awareness, the same title is also used similarly by other civilizations than the Bene Gesserit.

This is because the Bene Gesserit has seeded the galaxy with their myths to secretly spread their beliefs into seemingly unrelated religions, and gain footholds everywhere through a program called the Missionaria Protectiva, so it's not completely random.

The Fremen is one of those other civilizations that have their own non-Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers. When the Fremen Reverend Mother, Ramallo, is near death in Dune, Jessica consumes the Water of Life to take over. (The fact that she was Bene Gesserit is inconsequential to her new status as a Reverend Mother here, although of course it made her an ideal choice to become the Fremen's new Reverend Mother.)

This is perhaps explained better in the book:

"There are several alternatives?" she [Jessica] asked.
"The Sayyadina," he [Stilgar] said. "Our Reverend Mother is old. " Their Reverend Mother!
Now I must probe this Reverend Mother mystery, she [Jessica] thought. And she said: "You spoke of your Reverend Mother … and I've heard words of legend and prophecy."
[…] In the sudden hush, Stilgar bowed to her. "Sayyadina," he said. "If the Shai-hulud grant, then you may yet pass within to become a Reverend Mother."
Pass within, she thought. An odd way of putting it. But the rest of it fitted into the cant well enough. And she felt a cynical bitterness at what she had done. Our Missionaria Protectiva seldom fails. A place was prepared for us in this wilderness. The prayer of the salat has carved out our hiding place. Now … I must play the part of Auliya, the Friend of God… Sayyadina to rogue peoples who've been so heavily imprinted with our Bene Gesserit soothsay they even call their chief priestesses Reverend Mothers.

Further reading on the Dune wikia:

  • Is Ramallo a paid-up member of the Bene Gesserit though? I always assumed she was and had just gone a bit 'native' (like Kynes).
    – Valorum
    Mar 8, 2019 at 18:43
  • @Valorum No, she's just a Fremen priestess. The Fremen tradition of the Reverend Mothers, which was planted by the Bene Gesserit through the Missionaria Protectiva, is much older than Ramallo. It was planted at the same time as the Messiah/Mahdi legend that foretold the arrival of Paul, in fact. (I don't know/remember when that happened though.)
    – tobiasvl
    Mar 8, 2019 at 18:47
  • I'm not so sure. Also, how old is the Missionaria Protectiva and is it an ongoing process?
    – Valorum
    Mar 8, 2019 at 18:48
  • @Valorum I googled a little, and it looks like Ramallo was a member of Bene Gesserit in the Expanded Universe (House Harkonnen). I haven't read those books, but if you consider them canon then I suppose you're right. According to this timeline she disappeared from Arrakis 121 years before Paul arrived there though, so I suppose she had a long lifespan due to the spice: dune.fandom.com/wiki/Timeline_(Expanded_Dune)
    – tobiasvl
    Mar 8, 2019 at 19:01
  • I might ask it as a question proper
    – Valorum
    Mar 8, 2019 at 19:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.