At age 15, Paul Atreides was tested by the Bene Gesserit to test whether he was human:

From the folds of her gown, she lifted a green metal cube about fifteen centimeters on a side. She turned it and Paul saw that one side was open - black and oddly frightening. Paul slowly put his hand into the box. He first felt a sense of cold as the blackness closed around his hand, then slick metal against his fingers and a prickling as though his hand were asleep...


Reason told him he would withdraw a blackened stump from that box.

Youth anthropometry measurements place the 50th percentile of 14.5 to 15.5 year old males as having a hand length, from the start of the palm to the tip of the furthest finger, at 18.2cm. The 5th percentile was 16.3cm. You have to go to a 10 year old before the 50th percentile is below 15cm, at 14.9cm.

Adult male hands, at the 50th percentile, at 18.4cm in length, and would have to essentially form a fist to fit inside a 15cm cube.

The book doesn't describe him forming a fist, and the "blackened stump" suggests that the hand up to the wrist entered the box.

Is there any information or other measurements in the books which suggest that Dune humans were smaller than us in any specific way?

  • 1
    Remember Maud Dib meant the mouse. Jul 22, 2015 at 4:24
  • Paul was a wee dude. Jul 22, 2015 at 4:39
  • 3
    Forming the fist would explain it and it doesn't have to be specifically mentioned. Or the box could be bigger on the inside... boxes usually are.
    – Zikato
    Jul 22, 2015 at 5:26
  • 4
    First, how big a measurement would be considered "about 15 cm"? Wouldn't 17.4 cm be "about 15" if you're rounding to the nearest 5 cm? Second, you're quoting 50th percentiles, but "below 50th percentile" does not equate to "unusually small". Even 25th percentile is not "unusually". 5th percentile, maybe.
    – user14111
    Jul 22, 2015 at 5:54
  • All I can think of are Deadpool and Trump jokes. Ah well.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 12, 2017 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


then slick metal against his fingers

The book clearly states that his fingers touched the back of the box. If his hand was 18.2cm long then 3.2cm could easily be taken up by a curvature of the fingers only slightly greater then what would be normal for a hand at rest (hands are not naturally fully extended).

I am 182cm tall so above the 50th percentile for men. My hand is about 22cm long when flat, 19cm when at rest and 12cm when in a tight fist. When curved at 15cm there is 9cm between my fingertips and my palm and I can comfortably hold an iPhone 6 which is about 7cm across.

That said, there are numerous references in the book to the small size of Paul Attredies; from memory there is one in the first chapter.

  • "The book clearly states that his fingers touched the back of the box." It's not as clear to me - I would expect it to say "fingertips" to be perfectly clear, otherwise it could signify his fingers touched the bottom of the box, particularly since the texture of the metal is described and would be more easily discerned as "slick" from the front (palm side) of his fingers than from the fingertips. For that matter it could be suggesting the mechanism of pain, as the mechanism came up to meet his fingers so it could induce the "prickling as though his hand were asleep" in the same sentence.
    – Adam Davis
    Oct 21, 2015 at 14:50

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