Who Are The Fremen, The Strong and Brave Native Race of Dune
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Who Are The Fremen, The Strong And Brave Native Race Of Dune

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BY July 15, 2023

On Arrakis, where Frank Herbert’s novel Dune is set, the Fremen are one of the important factions vying for power. They are the colonisers of that planet and are characteristically nomadic, savage and adapted to extreme conditions.

The Fremen have the noble task of liberating Dune from the nefarious Empire shaped by its nobles and families, above all, by the despotic Harkonnen family. These struggles to control Arrakis have brought misfortune to the Fremen population. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at this race and its importance in the Dune novel.

Who are the Fremen?

Dune Zendaya and Javier Bardem's Characters Explained - IGN Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Fremen are considered native to the planet Arrakis, Dune. In fact, they were the colonisers of Arrakis when Earth was left. They are descendants of a people called Zensunni Wanderers.

This family is notorious for being persecuted for their beliefs. Being natives of Zensunni, they wander from planet to planet, considering Dune their seventh home, so the legends tell.

The Empire has taken it upon itself to suggest that the Zensunni join the feudal society. Therefore, the Zensunni became Fremen to remain free, fleeing into the deep and dangerous deserts. There this faction learned to survive.

From the desert, the Fremen dream of liberating Dune from the fateful yoke of the Empire. Contrary to what Emperor Padishah thinks, the undisputed masters of Arrakis are the Fremen.

For this faction, there are no obstacles as other organisations face in using traditional technology, which fails remarkably in the treacherous conditions of Dune.

Fierce Warriors Who Fear Nothing

Dune (1984) | film freedonia Image: Universal Pictures

They possess a considerable number of hardened warriors who fear nothing. The Harkonnen themselves do not know how many they are, and with good reason, they do not want to draw attention to themselves and be attacked by the ruling family.

For centuries, the Fremen have held Arrakis, which is why they are said to be the true survivors. They created Stillsuits, a kind of traditional technology that allows them to cancel the loss of humidity caused by exposure to heat.

Perhaps because of their time on Arrakis, the Fremen are the only ones who understand the dreaded sandworms. And above all, what is their relationship to the Spice, i.e. the production of the Melange. 

The dreaded sandworms are capable of reaching up to 400 metres in length. It is a strategic advantage that the Fremen can mount and handle them with special hooks. This allows them to cover more ground covertly than anyone else might suspect.

The Fremen’s Origin and History

The Arrakis, whose official name is Dune, had its own native or rebel groups, who, like the Zensunni, were refugees. When they united, they formed the Fremen faction.

Origin

Dune's sound designers reveal how they created the sound of the sandworms | MusicRadar Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

At first, they were led by Selim, the “Worm Rider”. He was the first human being able to ride the fearsome sandworms. This later gave him great advantages over his enemies.

In the beginning, these tribes called themselves Free Men, from which the later name “Freemen” was derived. This was in order not to subjugate themselves to the rule of the Empire.

The Zensunni originally came from a pacifist culture, but when they united with the Selim, they were radically influenced. Add to that the struggle they had to make to survive the extremely hostile environment of Dune, and you know why the Fremen are so demanding.

But not only that, the Fremen are also ruthless and rigorous in observing their traditions. They have specialised military training in guerrilla activity, considering themselves superior warriors to the terrible imperial troops of Sardaukar.

The Fremen History

One of the most valuable resources for the Empire in Dune is the Melange spice, over which it exercises iron military control. A spice that this faction has exploited for centuries, and they know its benefits.

These people are full of myths sown for centuries, either by the Reverend Mothers or the Protective Missionary, who herald a saviour or messiah. He is called the Lisan al-Gaib, who will be able to lead them to freedom.

That is why, when Paul Atreides arrived in the deserts, the reaction of these people was to welcome their saviour. That is why they integrated him so quickly into the Fremen society and taught him how to survive in such an inhuman environment.

In the period when House Harkonnen held power, the clashes between that army and the Fremen were brutal. The natives proved to be warriors who gave many casualties to the Harkonnen troops, data that they hid from the rest of the Landsraad.

When a political plot is organised against the House of Atreides, Baron Vladimir kills Leto Atreides I. This causes the rest of the family to flee the wilderness, Jessica Atreides and Paul Atreides. And the Fremen help Paul overthrow House Harkonnen and succeed in power.

But under the reign of Leto II, the God Emperor, what was known of the Fremen virtually disappeared. They became the museum Fremen, where they maintained their traditions artificially. When this emperor died, the people disappeared.

Customs

Dune : The Desert Planet - Paul and Jessica meet the Fremen on Vimeo Image: Universal Pictures

The Fremen come from a patriarchal society, which the Naib controls. The Naib are representatives, chiefs of the sketch, which are nothing more than settlements in the rocky areas of the desert.

This tribe is characterised by self-sufficiency and autonomy, with certain customs predominating:

Fremen’s Form of Leadership

The leader or Naib is not chosen, but whoever aspires to be one must challenge the leader with the power to a mortal duel. This is the way to ensure that the strongest are the leaders.

This custom has been in place for centuries until Paul Atreides came to town. He defeats his opponent Stilgar, the Naib in power at the time. Contrary to the custom, Paul spares the loser’s life, thus becoming the supreme leader of the Fremen.

Use of a Private Name

The Fremen have a public name by which everyone in the tribe calls them. But, apart from that, they have a sketch name known only to their fellow citizens or closest friends. This is a private name.

Paul Atreides, for example, is called Muad’Dib by his closest sketch friends. After the name of a desert mouse, legend has it that his image can be seen on one of the moons of Dune. And after his life partner, Chani, he is called Usul, which means base, method, and pillar in Arabic.

Disguise

Dune: Stillsuit | RNZ Image: Universal Pictures

It is a sophisticated garment the Freman uses to survive in the desert. It covers the entire body to recover the moisture lost through sweat or urine. They also wear a mask that collects exhaled moisture.

This tribe does not wear gloves, preferring to rub their hands on the creo tosa bush. This way, they can inhibit perspiration and do more delicate work.

Fremen’s Sandworm Riding

The Fremen are adept at using sandworms as riding animals. This skill is perhaps one of their best-kept secrets. Both male and female Fremen use mechanical contraptions called hammers to attract these creatures.

When they manage to climb onto the back of this gigantic animal, they attach a kind of harness containing hooks and ropes to its tough hide. In this way, the worms serve as a means of transport for this tribe, enabling them to travel long distances across the desert comfortably and at high speed.

Religion

The Fremen tribe professes the religion of the nomadic tribes that are settled in the desert areas of North Africa. This is the case with their customs, names, language and clothing.

Their own tradition comes from the Zensunni, a fusion between the Sunni branch of Islam and Zen Buddhism. Hence, pacifism and a worshipful demeanour are almost always prevalent.

Among their deities is Shaid-Hulud, considered the deity embodied in the sandworm. And, of course, the arrival of Lisan al-Gaib, the messiah who will free them from Imperial oppression.

The Reverend Mothers, who are directly related to the Bene Gesserit Order, play a fundamental role in this religion. Their task is to process the poison called the Water of Life.

This poison is extracted from a captive sandworm, processed, and converted into a drug. All Fremen consumes this drug during the orgiastic rituals of the sketch.

The Reverend Mothers are also the guardians of Fremen lore. All this, under the memories they possess, thanks to their Other Memories. Which evidently gives them unique qualities.

As part of their superstitions, which make them see the Fremen as religious signs, they sense deadly storms, seeing omens almost everywhere. Hence they are very susceptible to religious manipulation.

Fremen Weaponry

Dune / Paul Atreides vs Jamis Fremen Final Fight Scene | Movie CLIP 4K - YouTube Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Fremen people have the Crys knife as their most emblematic weapon, which is a blade of a sharp Sand Worm tooth. This weapon has strange magical and physical properties.

To use the Crys, they must follow strict protocols, and its use is exclusive to special occasions, such as inter-tribal combat or religious rituals. In this, the tribe members are very careful.

For this story of the saga, perhaps, Frank Herbert was inspired by a real knife called Kris. This white weapon has an asymmetrical blade, is made of metal and ivory, and is used ancestrally in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Illustrious Fremen

To many in the Empire, the Fremen are considered brutes and savages. But, they do not know that this faction is the one that knows Arrakis and the nature of its species best, not to mention their proper management of the sandworms.

Of the Fremen, the following stand out for their performance in Dune:

Chani

Chani is Zendaya; her role is central to Paul Atreides’ epic journey. She is a native of Arrakis and is part of the armed revolt against the Empire and the evil House Harkonnen alongside her fellow Fremen.

The Fremen considers House Harkonnen aliens who have come to oppress them brutally and take advantage of their most valuable natural resource, the Spice Melange.

Chani is Stilgar’s niece, and her father is the planetologist Liet Kynes. She will act as the arbiter of change to ensure that the transition of the government of Arrakis between House Harkonnen and House Atreides is in accordance with Imperial law.

This character trains hard to become a Sayyadina, i.e. Priestess. In this way, Chani shares her mother’s goal for Arrakis, to turn her planet into a paradise.

Chani’s destiny is intertwined with that of Paul Atreides, who, without knowing it, has been dreaming of her since before they met. For the Fremen, Paul is fundamental; he is their messiah, their saviour for whom they have waited for thousands of years.

Paul assumes the name Muad’Dib and takes Chani as his concubine. He takes it upon himself to lead the Fremen in an uprising against the Empire of Padishah. He succeeds in defeating them and seizing power.

Stilgar

Dune's Fremen Origin Explained Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Stilgar is one of the foremost warriors among the Fremen. As a leader, he is wise and fierce, devoting himself body and soul to safeguarding his people, culture and ways. Above all, from those who have come to upset the established balance.

Let us remember that Arrakis is the only source of Melange in the universe. This makes them the object of oppression and exploitation of anyone who comes in the way of the precious resource. Therefore, Stilgar fights against those who persecute his people and seek to plunder them.

This tribal leader of the Sietch Tabr is tasked with protecting one of the Fremen’s most valuable strongholds, hidden from the rest of the Empire. A Sietch is a series of caves and tunnels hidden in the Dune Mountains. They are places for Stilgar to keep his people safe.

Stilgar is a man with a challenging mission and carries the burden of his people’s past and future on his shoulders. He seeks to ensure the protection of the environment of Arrakis, as well as the safety and existence of the Fremen.

To do so, he must ensure that his people have food, are safe, and, most importantly, maintain strict water discipline. The Fremen need to take care of the vital liquid; only then will they be able to avoid dying of dehydration. 

Dr. Liet Kynes

Dr Liet Kynes is an Imperial Planetologist who is in charge of studying Arrakis. She is the liaison between the Empire and the Fremen clan. Her physical appearance is very similar to that of the Fremen, with piercing blue eyes.

This is a clear sign of the use of the Spice Melange that the Fremen consume as part of their culture. Liet is the daughter of a mundane, former Planetologist, Pardor Kynes and a Fremen.

Originally, in Frank Herbert’s book, this character was Masculine. Coincidentally, the Empire does not suspect that she is Liet, the Leader of the Fremen. This leads her to coordinate her tribe’s raids against the Harkonnen. It also keeps them on track for massive ecological change in Dune.

Her parents imbued her with a dream to turn Dune into a paradise by bringing water to Arrakis. To do this, he tried with his father to build many wind traps to capture water from the air over the centuries. If they could get enough water and plants, Dune would be permanently habitable.

The Fremen, The Strong and Brave Native Race of Dune

Dune' Costume Designer on Creating Stunning Sci-Fi Styles – The Hollywood Reporter Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Fremen are a true warrior force in Dune; they are the real protagonists of the story of Dune. They are called natives, survivors, or masters of Arrakis, having inhabited the planet since ancient times.

This faction is most notable for helping Paul Atreides survive in the desert. They also helped him overthrow Emperor Padishah Shaddam IV.

A second part of this science fiction saga is already coming. Therefore, for this coming November 3, 2023, we will see this strong faction of Dune in a film. Denis Villeneuve will direct and script this Dune Part 2. It will also have a cast of actors such as Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Dave Bautista.

Featured Image Via Warner Bros. Pictures 

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I am a circus aerialist influenced by Dick Grayson and Spider-Man. Fortunate to write about the characters that inspired me. I also have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in International Trade.

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