How Dune was inspired by the Oregon coast, at the stunning Oregon Dunes, and inspired in part by how Dun's design was influenced by Oregon'' southwestern landscape
For those who have spent time on the Oregon coast, the vast sand dunes of the planet Arrakis, home to the spice melange and giant worms, may evoke a familiarity.
While the world imagined in Dune may be entirely different, Pacific Northwest author Frank Herbert first imagined it on a trip to the Oregon Dunes just outside Florence.
Dune was first released in 1965 and is now in the public consciousness thanks to a new major film adaptation, which will be released on Oct. 22 in theaters across the United States and on HBOMax. The new film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, has an all-star cast that includes Timothe Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Rebecca Furguson, and Jason Momoa. While the new movie was shot in Europe and the Middle East, Herbert, born and raised in Tacoma, was inspired by the Pacific coastline's sweeping dunescapes.
According to Dreamer of Dune, a biography written by Brian Herbert's son, Herbert was surviving despite undergoing ill health and settling with his family in Portland in 1957, after working as spokesman for failed U.S. Senate candidate Phil Hitchcock. Frank Herbert had already written one well-received novel, "The Dragon in the Sea," but his other novels failed to find an audience and the family struggled to make ends meet.
In 2003, Hitchcock told Herbert about a major ecological project on the central Oregon coast, where government researchers were experimenting with European beach grass in the Oregon Dunes, tens of thousands of acres of oceanfront dunes between Florence and Coos Bay, in an effort to stabilize the shifting sands.
The dunes were notoriously unstable, shifting and moving in the strong winds that blew in from the Pacific Ocean, putting new communities on the way. According to a 1904 article in The Oregonian, the beach grass, which was first introduced on the Oregon coast in the 1880s, had been used to tame the sand demon up the Pacific coast and along the Columbia River.
Herbert wrote a piece about his experiences at the dunes, They Stopped the Moving Sands, but it was never published. Instead, the author embarked on a year-long process of research and writing that culminated in his landmark sci-fi novel whose subject matter included ecology, religion, charismatic leaders, and our overreliance on scarce natural resources.
In Dune, the scarce natural resources are both water (a rarity on the desert planet) and spice melange, a natural substance that prolongs life and limits its users' prescience. When war breaks out in the desert over the coveted spice, which has also become essential for space travel, its easy to read between the lines.
In 1977, Herbert told an Oregon Journal reporter that science fiction writers tend to take a long-term view, after the publication of the third book in his Dune series, Children of Dune. Were thinking about possible future histories, says Heinz.
Herbert was a prominent environmentalist and ardent opponent of fossil fuels. According to Dreamer of Dune, he was also deeply connected to the Pacific Northwest landscape, spending his childhood exploring the Olympic Peninsulas forests and paddling around Puget Sound.
That life experience, in combination with his extensive study of desert cultures and political career, provided the foundation for Dune. While the book received little attention when it first published in 1965, it eventually became one of the most recognizable science fiction novels ever, winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards for sciencefiction and fantasy writing, and selling millions of copies worldwide. It was also adapted into a Hollywood film starring Kyle MacLachlan and David Lynch, which was released in 1984 to mixed reviews.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Dunes, which provided the inspiration for that first spark, were evolving as well.
With the sands stabilizing, U.S. lawmakers considered in 1958 the Oregon Dunes, along with the Sea Lion Caves north of Florence, as a national seashore. The effort failed, but the dunes were eventually designated as a national recreation area in 1972, following efforts by U.S. Rep. John Dellenback, the Oregon Republican for whom he now represents.
The Oregon Dunes has since become a playground for off-highway drivers, such as ATVs, dune buggies and dirt bikes, with plenty of room to explore. Some sections are also for hikers, including the breathtaking Dellenback Dunes, the popular Oregon Dun Day Use Area, and other spots, all managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
In recent years, there have been efforts to eliminate invasive beachgrass and restore the sand dunes to their original state, most notably the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative, which is made up of local governments and tribes, federal agencies, politicians, and environmentalists and formed in 2016, 30 years after Frank Herberts death.
The collaborative contends that the complex ecosystem in the dunes relies on free-blowing sands to function, and that wildlife is threatened by the effects of invasive beach grass. Their goal is to preserve and restore the dunes in what would most likely be a decade-long endeavor.
Bill Blackwell, a member of the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative, told the Siuslaw News in 2018. For the dunes to exist, the sand must move, he said. If youre out there, you can tell that it will look different from day to day. With the vegetation stabilizing things, the sand cant move, which stabilizes the dunes and simplifies processes, he added.
In Herberts six-book series, Dune, Arrakis undergoes several transformations. The ongoing state of the Oregon Dunes is mirrored by eerie similarities in The Dun. Readers can learn about the fate of that planet, but the future of our dunes remains to be seen.
Those who want to experience Dune in real life can find it at any of the many day-use areas throughout the Oregon Dunes. You wont find spice or sandworms, nor righteous armies led by a Messianic figurehead, but you will find an inspiring landscape unlike any other in the Pacific Northwest.
Visitors must pay a $5 parking fee per vehicle or show 'a Northwest Forest Pass' to enter the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area on U.S. Route 101, about 10 miles south of the Siuslaw River Bridge in Florence.
The John Dellenback Dunes Trailhead is located on U.S. Route 101, about 6.5 miles south of Winchester Bay; visitors must pay a $5 parking fee per vehicle or display 'Northwest Forest Pass'.
--Jamie Hale; email@example.com; 503-294-4077; @HaleJameB; --HaleJ.B.; #HalleJulieB