I did not read the original Dune, only the Bulgarian translation.

It is strange, but in the Bulgarian translation, there was nothing about "folding space".

Instead it was explained that the Holtzmann engine moves the heighliner with a speed faster than the speed of light. The job of navigator is to choose paths that avoid hazards such as asteroids, planets or stars along the way.

The navigator can choose the correct path, because he sees the future. There was no mention of any mathematics involved.

Once I watched 1985's movie, I was introduced to "folding space" thing.

Is this correct or was the translation of the book poor?

They're searching for me," Paul said. "Think of that! The finest Guild navigators, men who can quest ahead through time to find the safest course for the fastest Heighliners, all of them seeking me . . .and unable to find me. How they tremble! They know I have their secret here!" Paul held out his cupped hand. "Without the spice they're blind!"

In the original book there is no mention of folding space. Also "the fastest Heighliners" imply some Heighliners move fast and some move slow.

  • +1 for reading Dune in Bulgarian.
    – Paul
    Aug 6, 2018 at 13:17
  • Dune is originally written in 20+ languages one of them Bulgarian :D
    – Nick
    Aug 6, 2018 at 13:34
  • I know, I just like Bulgarian. Lovely language i gotini hora
    – Paul
    Aug 6, 2018 at 14:45
  • I imagine it doesn't help that in the 1984 David Lynch movie adaptation, the navigator folds space around the ship, but then I believe that adaptation alters a number of things from what is in Herbert's book.
    – Anthony X
    Aug 22, 2021 at 12:49

3 Answers 3



But you have to wait a while to find out that they do.

In the novel Dune, there is no mention of folding space, folding time, or fold space nor is there in the second book Dune Messiah.

The first mention of fold in relation to space or time can be found in the third book Children of Dune

Only in the realm of mathematics can you understand Muad'Dib's precise view of the future. Thus: first, we postulate any number of point-dimensions in space. (This is the classic n-fold extended aggregate of n dimensions.) With this framework, Time as commonly understood becomes an aggregate of one-dimensional properties. Applying this to the Muad'Dib phenomenon, we find that we either are confronted by new properties of Time or (by reduction through the infinity calculus) we are dealing with separate systems which contain n body properties.

For Muad'Dib, we assume the latter. As demonstrated by the reduction, the point dimensions of the n-fold can only have separate existence within different frameworks of Time. Separate dimensions of Time are thus demonstrated to coexist. This being the inescapable case, Muad'Dib's predictions required that he perceive the n-fold not as extended aggregate but as an operation within a single framework.

In effect, he froze his universe into that one framework which was his view of Time.

-Palimbasha: Lectures at Sietch Tabr

- Children of Dune

But this is not to do with folding anything but is purely the mathematics involved in Muad'Dib's prescience.

God Emperor of Dune again makes no mention of folding space.

It is not until the fifth book Heretics of Dune that it is explicitly stated that the Guild Navigators fold space.

Miles Teg knew his history well by then. Guild Navigators no longer were the only ones who could thread a ship through the folds of space -- in this galaxy one instant, in a faraway galaxy the very next heartbeat.

- Heretics of Dune

And later

"I just got the signal, Bashar!" Patrin again. "We got them all. They came down by floater from the no-ship just as you expected."

"The ship?" Teg's voice was full of angry demand.

"Destroyed the instant it came through the space fold. No survivors."

- Heretics of Dune

And again

There was absolutely no safe course through the conflicting forces, but she thought the Sisterhood had armed itself as well as it could. The problem was akin to that of a Guild navigator threading his ship through the folds of space in a way that avoided collisions and entrapments.

- Heretics of Dune

And finally

Taraza felt suddenly weary. It had been a long trip despite the space-folding leaps of her no-ship. The flesh always knew when it had been twisted out of its familiar rhythms. She chose a soft divan and sat down, sighing in the luxurious comfort.

- Heretics of Dune

  • 3
    The later quotes do support folding space, but n-fold is just shorthand for something like "threefold, fourfold, hundredfold, or whatever number, n, -fold." It refers to multiples or multitudes, not folding.
    – jejorda2
    Aug 6, 2018 at 12:29
  • @jejorda2 - thank you, I have left the quote in but have changed the comment so it is obvious that this is nothing to do with folding space - just to show my workings so to speak, this was the first mention of fold that wasn't to do with robes, arms or dunes. Aug 6, 2018 at 12:40
  • 1
    There's also the term manifold - according to Einstein, our space-time is a Riemannian mannifold. That's probably where the "n-fold" comes from...
    – dirkt
    Aug 6, 2018 at 17:52
  • @dirkt It is not. A manifold is a topological space that is locally Euclidean. N-fold just means multiplication by N. They are not related.
    – Brady Gilg
    Feb 19, 2020 at 16:21

It's a combination of prescience and folding space, as explained on the Wikipedia page for the Holtzman effect.

The Holtzmann engine folds space and thereby brings the Heighliner from regular space to a quantum state. This allows for instantaneous travel across large portions of space, but the quantum realm is chaotic. Safe traversal of this space requires the prescience of the navigator to plot a safe route.

Note that Frank Herbert never goes into great detail about the inner -exact- workings of the Holtzmann devices.

Quote from the wikipedia page:

Holtzman drive

The effect is used in this case to fold space at the quantum level, allowing the Spacing Guild's heighliner ships to instantaneously travel far distances across space without actually moving at all. However, the chaotic and seemingly non-deterministic quantum nature of "foldspace" requires at least limited prescience on the part of the human navigator; otherwise the absurdly complex mathematics involved in producing reliable physical projections of such events would only be possible with advanced computers, which are strictly prohibited because of mankind's crusade against thinking machines, the Butlerian Jihad.

  • 2
    Did Frank Herbert use word "folding space" in his original Dune book?
    – Nick
    Aug 4, 2018 at 8:53
  • @Nick Yes, the entire quantum level is called 'fold-space': dune.wikia.com/wiki/Fold_space
    – steenbergh
    Aug 4, 2018 at 12:10
  • 1
    check my update
    – Nick
    Aug 5, 2018 at 16:53
  • 1
    I just search the text of "Dune"; "fold" is not used in relation to "space folding" in that book.
    – swbarnes2
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:52

Chapterhouse and Dune encyclopedia have some details to add.I don't remember from which or if it is in both bit they mention the holtzmann device creates a warp-bubble through which the universe moves, that is how heighliners travel through soace, in fact space moves through them. Wish i had the exact quote here...

  • 4
    This would be a much better answer if you could edit it at some point to provide the exact quote, and confirm the correct source of that quote. Aug 22, 2021 at 3:57

Your Answer

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

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