Being the most important organism in the known universe, a Sandworm is a creature of both economic and cultural importance. With the Fremen worshipping sandworms as an agent of God and the Padishah empire collecting Melange from it, sandworms are the most important creatures in the ‘Dune’ universe.
Sandworm: The Shai-Hulud of Arrakis – Definition
Sandworm, also called Shai-Hulud by the Fremen, is a gigantic annelid organism that lives on planet Arrakis. The sandworms produce Spice Melange, the most crucial commodity in the known universe.
With the organism being the most crucial living thing on Arrakis, the sandworms get worshipped as agents of God. A sandworm’s life cycle caused the creation of Melange as water had to mix with excretes from sand trout.
The Sandworms and the Dune Series
The Sandworms in Frank Herbert’s Dune
After the Butlerian Jihad, the discovery of Spice Melange causes humanity to advance and spread out into the universe. Ten thousand years later, the story of ‘Dune’ occurs. After leaving Caladan for Arrakis, the house of Atreides gets attacked, forcing Paul into the desert. While in the desert, Paul learns about the Sandworms.
In ‘Dune Messiah,’ Paul had succeeded in dominating the production of Melange due to him limiting the number of sandworms in existence; this causes the Bene Gesserit, the Tleilaxu, and the Spacing Guild to launch a revolt against him.
In ‘Children of Dune,’ Leto II, Paul’s son, consumes a large amount of spice and allows many sandtrout to cover his body; this gives him speed and protection against the sandworms. Eventually, it makes him immortal.
As an immortal god-emperor in ‘God emperor od Dune,’ Leto II kills all sandworms in existence; this leaves him as the sole producer of Melange. After he dies, the sandtrouts on his body disperse, forming a new cycle of sandworms.
One thousand five hundred years after Leto II’s death, Taraza, the Bene Gesserit mother superior, becomes aware of Leto II’s golden plan. To remove humanity from the god emperor’s influence, she manipulates the Honored Matres into destroying Rakis. After Taraza dies, her successor, Darwi Ordrade, takes the last sandworm to Chapterhouse. She submerges the worm in a spice bath to generate sand trout.
The Sandworms Post Frank Herbert’s Dune
In the ‘Prelude to Dune,’ the Tleilaxu try creating artificial Melange under project Amal. Though they make a drug similar to Melange, the Project fails woefully as all testing subjects die horribly.
In ‘Sandworms of Dune,’ the Spacing Guild gets replaced by Ixian navigators. Trying to restore their position in space travel and save themselves from dying, the Guild Navigators commission a faulted Tleilaxu Ghola called Waff to engineer new sandworms. Waff successfully alters the DNA of a sandtrout, leading to the formation of an aquatic form of the sandworms. These new organisms flourish and produce a super-concentrated form of Melange called Ultraspice. It also gets revealed that the sandworms survived the destruction of Rakis by burrowing deep into the ground.
Physical Description of the Sandworms
Sandworms are extremely terrestrial colossal worms that live on planet Arrakis. Sandworms can grow up to 400 meters in length and 40 meters in width and are one of the largest organisms in the known universe. With tough orange-colored skin forming an armor of protection, a sandworm is like a moving fortress. The creatures move by burrowing through the soil with their teeth like drills. With sandworms producing intense heat, they create oxygen for the nearly plant-less Arrakis.
Being the source of Melange, the sandworms have a strong cinnamon smell which gets perceived before the creature surfaces. A sandworm could sometimes cause dry lightning by causing static electrical discharge in the air to mix with positive particles.
Though the sandworms are almost invincible, they are affected by the slightest amount of water. The presence of water in a sandworm causes it to experience a rapid metabolic rate; this causes the creature to die an agonizing death. Though water is deadly to the sandworm, it is also the crucial element needed for Melange production. The psychedelic drug-like substance gets produced when water mixes with the sandworm.
Leto II talks about the sandtrouts in ‘Children of Dune.’ He says:
The sandtrout was introduced here from some other place. This was a wet planet then. They proliferated beyond the capability of existing ecosystems to deal with them. Sandtrouts encysted the available free water, made this a desert planet and they did it to survive. In a planet sufficiently dry, they could move to their sandworm phase.
The birth of a sandworm is a complex cycle that starts with sand plankton feeding on Melange. After the tiny organisms feed on the drug-like substance, they burrow into the ground where they become little makers; these little makers eventually become sandtrout which later become sandworms.
But Jessica’s attention was focused on the revelation of the Water of Life, seeing its source: the liquid exhalation of a dying sandworm, a maker. And she saw the killing of it in her new memory, she suppressed a gasp.
Glossary Terms Associated With the Sandworms
Here is a list of words associated with sandworms:
- Sandtrout: Sandtrout are the larval form of sandworms. They look like slugs or amorphous blobs.
- Sand Plankton: These are microscopic creatures that feed on traces of Melange and later develop into sandtrouts.
- Spice blow: This is the process where intense pressure causes an explosion that brings pre-spice to the surface of Arrakis.
- The Water of Life: This is the exhalation produced by a drowning sandworm. The toxic liquid gets used by the Bene Gesserit in creating Reverend mothers.
What are the sandworms in Dune called?
The sandworms of ‘Dune’ are natively called Shia-Hulud by the Fremen. Shia-Hulud is a sacred name the Fremen use for the sandworm to refer to it as an agent of God.
What is the lifecycle of a sandworm in Dune?
A sandworm begins its lifecycle as sand plankton. Sand planktons are microscopic organisms that feed on Melange. On eating Melange, sand planktons mature into sand trout and eventually sandworms.
Is Spice in Dune made of sandworm poop?
Yes, Spice is made of sandworm droppings and dead sandworms too. After feeding on sand planktons, sandworms borrow back into the ground; this burrowing enables some sand planktons to burrow beneath the soil. After burrowing into the ground, the sand plankton becomes sand trout, and its excretions mix with water to create pre-spice mass.
Does Paul Atreides turn into a worm?
No, Paul does not turn into a worm in ‘Dune.’ Instead, his son, Leto II, collects sand trout on his body and becomes a human-sandworm hybrid.