15

When the Atreides arrive on Arrakis, there are a number of instance where the Fremen call Paul Mahdi. While I realise that Mahdi is Arabic for guided one, I can't help but wonder at its close homophony with Muad'Dib. Could the Bene Gesserit have misinterpreted the prophecy which mentioned the "coming of Muad'Dib" to mean the more logical, "coming of Mahdi"? Was this misinterpretation subsequently implanted on Arrakis by the Missionaria Protectiva? Or perhaps, did the Fremen, over time, reinterpret Muad'Dib to actually mean Mahdi?

In other words, is the Fremen Mahdi an eggcorn of Muad'Dib?

(The converse where Paul could have misremembered the Mahdi from his dreams as Muad'Dib seems a little more (if that is at all possible) far-fetched.)

P.S. Does Mahdi find mention at all in the series after the first few chapters of Dune?

19

Could the Bene Gesserit have misinterpreted the prophecy which mentioned the "coming of Muad'Dib" to mean the more logical, "coming of Mahdi"? Was this misinterpretation subsequently implanted on Arrakis by the Missionaria Protectiva?

The Bene Gesserit could not misinterpret this, as they were the ones who originally implanted the legend of the Mahdi on Arrakis. This specific name was a clue to Jessica, as the Mahdi legend is a sort of hail mary for the Missionaria Protectiva. It's used only on the most harsh worlds, where Bene Gesserit who need assistance may need extra power over the region. So here the term Mahdi originated off-world in the Bene Gesserit's Missionaria Protectiva.

In other words, is the Fremen Mahdi an eggcorn of Muad'Dib?

Doubtful. The name Muad'Dib is referring to a type of mouse native to Arrakis. It seems unlikely that the Fremen would take the name of their prophesied savior and then apply the same name to a lowly mouse. To my knowledge there's no clear-cut statement either way on this in the canon, as the story doesn't delve into the etymology of Fremen words.

  • But the BG planted the legend based on prophecy, right? – coleopterist Dec 20 '12 at 17:56
  • 5
    @coleopterist Sort of. The Missionaria Protectiva was essentially ensuring the safety of the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach in addition to any Bene Gesserit in need. But the Bene Gesserit didn't have any specific expectations for the Kwisatz Haderach to be named Mahdi. Mahdi was just a sort of code word, in Dune it gave Jessica the information on the Fremen and how harsh Arrakis was. She knew much of this already from living there, but that detail is due to the Mahdi being deployed by the Missionaria Protectiva in harsh environments. This implies other worlds get differently-named legends. – user1027 Dec 20 '12 at 18:29
  • 3
    @coleopterist I don't believe the BG did anything based on true prophecy (at least not in Frank Herbert's direct published works). They planned extensively, with tremendous wisdom and foresight, but there was nothing to lead them to expect the Kwisatz Haderach to be linked specifically to the planet Arrakis or the Fremen. – Beofett Dec 20 '12 at 20:51
  • Muad'Dib was also the figure seen in the Arrakis' moon's topography. A physical metaphor of a mythical entity, imbued with the successful/survivor characteristics worthy of emulation by the Fremen. – Ihor Sypko Aug 29 '13 at 19:37
3

One should remember the nature of the Fremen.

They are Zensunni - a hybrid of Zen and Sunni Islam. Given the nature of Islam, it would have to be the baseline, and that would include reading, reciting, and praying in Arabic.

The term Mahdi is Arabic, and is literally seen, in Sunni islam, as follows "The Mahdi is expected to arrive to rule the world and he is to reestablish righteousness." Wikipedia: Mahdi

Muad'dib is also an arabic word... or a corruption of one... literally, mu’addib means "educator", "he who disciplines/teaches manners" or "chastiser". Wikipedia: Muad'dib

While related, they are distinct concepts. The Mahdi is usually seen as a mu'addib as well.

It's also important to note that Frank Herbert was rather knowledgable about Islam, and islamic related themes repeatedly crop up in the Dune Novels. Khalid writes an excellent analysis of this, and includes that Muad'dib is a corruption of Mu'adib, "tutor".

0

Mahdi is a key religious figure in the Shia Islamic sect, the 12th Imam. If you follow the news of the Middle East, you may have heard of a Militia called The Mahdi Army, it is a messianic militia established in 2006 in Iraq, they are not recognized by a majority of the Shia Islamic sect, but the idea is that Shia Islam people are waiting for the savour, the “Guided One", (Mahdi means Guided One).
Arrakis is Iraq, a country where Mahdi was born 1100 years ago, and Shia are waiting for his re-appearance. He is immortal (till doomsday), and was born almost 1100 years ago. Bene Gesserit means Bnai Jazeerah in Arabic, which means (sons of Arab peninsula). Spice is either oil or new source of energy that will be discovered in Iraq.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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