What is the “Weirding Way?”
The Weirding Way saved the lives of Paul and Jessica when they encountered Sietch Tabr and Stilgar after the fall of House Atredies. When Lady Jessica controlled Stilgar, he pledged protection for the two of them if they taught the Fremen their way of battle. This training of the Weirding Way to the Fremen tipped the balance on Arrakis and the known universe. While David Lynch altered and twisted the Weirding Way into a sonic weapon developed by House Atreides for their new army, the original pure idea from the book was resurrected by the 2000 Sci-Fi miniseries and allowed to see what Frank Herbert might have been envisioning.
The Origins of the Weirding Modules in 1984’s DUNE
I can remember reading the DUNE novel the first time in 1992 and being perplexed about the lack of inclusion of the Weirding Modules despite the Weirding Way being mentioned several times. With it being the pre-internet dark ages, I could not easily access the reason why David Lynch invented and then includes these sonic weapons into the 1984 film. But here is what we know about the origins of these devices. The idea of the sonic weapons and their basic operation are first seen in David Lynch’s second script that was dated May 29th, 1982 with the scene of Paul training the Fremen largely intact.
From the near beginning of his movie adaptation of the 1965 novel it seems that Lynch was going to include these Weirding Modules to overcome something he could not envision filming: the hand-to-hand combat of the novel. According to often cited quote, David Lynch did not want “Kung-Fu on sand dunes” and he felt the concept of the hyperspeed moves of the Weirding Way would be unworkable and unfilmable. His solution was to invent a device that harnessed some of the concepts of the Weirding Way and the Voice into a weapon that fired a blast of energy that could visit all manner of violence on the target. It had its own style and allowed Lynch to play within the oddness of his DUNE world. It worked, yet it did not work at the same time. Due to Lynch’s hatred for the film and complete lack of desire to ever discuss the much maligned film, some of the information concerning the genesis of the Weirding Modules has been lost.
How the Weirding Modules Neutered the Fremen (The Weirding Module Controversy)
What do those Weirding Modules Fire?
some thoughts have a certain sound, that being equivalent to a form. Though sound and motion, you will be able paralyze nerves, shatter bodies, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arrakeen air!” In the film, the House Atreides developed Weirding Module weapon system came in two pieces: one was the throat microphone and the other is a gun-like handheld device. When the operator chants a certain sound, the throat mic send into the to emitter device and out the "barrel" or "emitter". In the film, the emitter cluster on the Weirding Modules do emit some sort of beam-like energy that does indeed shatter, send enemies flying, and set fires. The weapon is mentioned to be sonic-based, which makes the Weirding Modules fall into the category of a directed energy weapon (DEW). If we are to examine the actions of the actors when they fire the Weirding Modules, they seem to have a real kick or recoil.
What does the Weirding Module say about the DUNE Movie Setting?
This would crush the Atreides, the Duke, and their new army once and for all. During these tense times, the Duke was betting heavily on a new weapons technology to put his new army on equal footing to the Emperor’s Sardukar Terror Troops: the Weirding Module. The Weirding Module directly speaks to the oddness of the DUNE universe, the power of the Bene Gesserit mental training, the influence of the Lady Jessica on the Duke, and the danger posed by developing an army to challenge the Emperor. Then there is the nature of the actual limited warfare of the universe of 10,191 AG.
Even the Emperor had to ask for a lift from the navigators of the Guild. With this and the Great Convention, the nature of warfare was limited and while some of the Great Houses invested in military organizations to protect their worlds, it was still limited when compared to our modern combined arms centered armed forces. With personal energy shield generators and the sobering risk of rouge Lasgun striking a shield triggering a nuclear explosion, infantry combat was much more personal with blades and projectiles to overcome the shield barrier.
The Weirding Module Props
Sci-fi props are almost always a fun mystery to dive into and when it came to the infamous sound weapons of 1984’s DUNE, there were many lingering questions. In order to get them answered, FWS sought out people associated with the 1984 DUNE production or had knowledge of the props, including Ron Miller. I must day that we, as a community, got very lucky that in 2010 when one of the very rare (or only one) “hero” Atreides Weirding Modules props used by actor Kyle MacLauchlan was put up at auction allowing us to have detailed photos and information on this one-of-kind sci-fi prop weapon. According to the auction description the prop body was made from resin and wood with little stylistic elements made from black rubber tubing, machined aluminum with the prop not being black in color as I originally thought, but a maroon.
Internally, there was wiring and switches to control the red activation light. The overall measurements were 8 inches, by 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. Another auction of the only known Fremen hero Weirding Module prop used by Kyle MacLauchlan was conducted in December of 2003. In description it mentions similar materials were used to construct the Fremen Weirding Modules and their overall dimensions are somewhat smaller as well: 7 inches long by 8.5 inches high. As with the Atreides army model, is the only one of this version known to exist. It is likely that while dozens of stunt Freman Weirding Modules were assembled for the shoot, only one or two close-up “hero” props were made for the production. This maybe have been due to money, due was a very expensive production. A fact confirmed by none other than sci-fi design master Ron Miller via a 2018 FWS email interview. While he was involved heavily in designing the world of DUNE, he was not as directly involved with the design of the Weirding Modules that from he told me, were designed to look like animals. The duty of designing these sonic weapons fell, according to Miller, to director Lynch and the late production designer Tony Masters. The other two heavier Weirding Modules that seemed to be based around rotary cannons (which are some sort of weird theme in the DUNE film) are nearly completely unknown and none of them have surfaced online.
There seem to be alot of pyramids in the production design of DUNE overall. Other than the Emperor's tent, I've never noticed any overabundance of pyramids in the film. What there are is a lot of triangles, because Lynch likes them and a pyramid is just a kind of three-dimensional triangle. There is no other significance. But as to why the Atreides and Fremen modules looked so different is easy to answer. A great deal of very conscious effort was expended in making sure that the props, architecture, technology and costumes of each different planet had a distinctive look, and ideally one that reflected the planet's culture, history and resources. For instance, objects from Caladan were largely made of wood and brass, while Geidi Prime props were more industrial, focusing a lot on ceramics and iron. The goal was to be able to go into the prop shop, pick up anything at random and be able to tell what planet if belonged to simply from the materials it was made from. I think this was, and still is, a pretty unique thing to have done”.
The Killing Sounds/Words of the Weirding Modules
entirely an invention of David Lynch: he wanted something that sounded both alien (in the sense of not being any recognizable language) and powerful, since it is the magnified words that the weapons are projecting”. Where the hell did the killing sounds/words come from? There is no clear answer, but I have a theory. While we know all that Lynch is a one odd duck, but he is well-read and pulling inspiration for all sources.
The "Sound Square Training" Cut Scene
Due to the incredible work of the Dune Info website, there is the remains of a cut-scene that would have given us more information on the Weirding Modules, especially during their incorporation into the Fremen martial philosophy and tactics. In the book by Ed Naha The Making of DUNE, the author included the picture of this cut-scene and some context to the odd looking device. According to Dune Info, the scene was not included into any of the scripts and was to have Fremen warriors enter into this underground chamber of the Sietch, walk over to the box, plug into the device, and begin to chant. When I learned this from an FaceBook chat with the creator of DuneInfo, it lend more credence to my theory that Buddhist monk chanting was a source of inspiration for the odd world of the DUNE film sonic weaponry. Sadly, there is no more about this scene, nor any footage or the "sonic square" device prop.
The Different Versions of the Weirding Modules:
The House Atreides Infantry Army Model
The Homebrew Fremen Infantry Model
The Fremen Heavy Portable Waist-Mounted Weirding Cannon Model
I did design those and (you are probably not going to want to hear this) mainly tried to come up with something that looked cool. There was a rationale behind the design, though, which was inspired in large part by the old childhood trick of making a vortex cannon from an old oatmeal box. In this case, the release of powerful springs, set and triggered much like a crossbow or air hammer, created the energy that generated the lethal sound”. Unlike their smaller brethren, the original props of these waist-mount cannons have never been seen outside of the film itself. Oddly, these were not seen in the Marvel Comic adaptation of the film.
The Mounted Freman Weirding Crew-Served Cannon
Where else have we seen the Weirding Modules?
One of the most hatred elements that David Lynch incorporated into his vision of DUNE is the Weirding Modules. Whenever the 1984 sci-fi epic is brought up online, the subject of the Weirding Modules is resurrected and then promptly killed. Given that, any incorporation of the Weirding Modules into a DUNE work of any kind immediately tied it to the 1984 Lynch film…and that wasn’t always a good thing. With the film bombing at the box office and the deep rift the film cause in sci-fi fandom circles, the Lynch concept of the sonic weapons was largely abandoned and rejected by the DUNE community as a whole and even DUNE-related products. This included products released for a tie-in to the film, like the Parker Brothers DUNE boardgame.
The Paul Atreides LJN 1984 Figure
The “Scepter” Weirding Module model from the Cryo DUNE RTS (1992)
Some eight years after the release of DUNE into theaters, Cryo and Virgin Interactive released a real-time strategy game with the player taking control of Paul as he seeks to fulfill his destiny via controlling his Fremen allies to change the face of Arrakis. While I was super into DUNE in 1992 due to reading all of the novels and its divine providence that a PC game was released. I played the shit out of this game in 1992 on my Packard Bell PC, feeding my DUNE addiction. This game was developed over the course of years by loyal DUNE fans for DUNE fans that traveled a hard road to be released, but garnered praise and good sales. This is one of the only two video games to feature the Weirding Modules and the ones seen in the 1992 RTS game were an odd design. It is hard to see in the screenshots, but they appear to be similar in shape to a royal scepter. I’ve never been able to dig up much on the design of the gaming elements and all of the major weapons are an odd design like the Lasguns that look more like a microscope. With it being a real-time strategy game from the early 1990’s, these weapons were not seen being used in combat and were just tiny little symbols to be moved into Fremen tribal inventory. These added offensive capability to the assaulting Fremen troops. This is only time this design was seen.
The 2001 Emperor: Battle for DUNE Fremen Fedaykin Weirding Modules
In the summer of 2001, Westwood Studios that had worked on two previous DUNE video game titles released another RTS based on the House-vs-House warfare seen in the movie and novels that was a direct sequel to DUNE 2000 RTS. While featuring live actor cut scenes, the rest of the game was considered outdated by the time it came out in 2001. Interestingly enough, there is one group within the Fremen faction that uses the Weirding Modules: the elite Fedaykin Death Commandos. These are a powerful weapon systems that allows the Fedaykin to kill infantry and vehicles as well. This is likely the last example of the Lynch Weirding Modules in a DUNE work and could be the last ever.
The 1984 DUNE Cut-Out Activity Book Paper Fremen Weirding Module
The 1984 DUNE Coloring Book
We all know and love coloring books, they represent an important, but easy tie-in merchandising avenue for many products. Many of us happily colored to our favorite 1980's characters...however, DUNE should not have been one of those 1980's movies that got a coloring book. Seriously. I can remember at the time of DUNE’s release the tie-in products flooding the book stores and toy stores with mostly head scratching results until they were mercilessly removed for the recycling center. While mostly ignored at the time and very poor sellers, the DUNE Coloring Book is now infamous-in-a-WTF-way and clean copies are very expensive (where is my TARDIS?!). When it comes to the discussion of the Weirding Modules, several of the coloring pages indeed have Weirding Modules, including the Atriedes and Fremen models featured. Scenes like Paul challenging the Fighter on Caladan, the fighting in the desert where including for your coloring pleasure.
The 1984 Marvel Comics DUNE Movie Comic Adaptation
Prior to home video and the machines to run the tapes, the only way to re-watch and re-enjoy films was either find a theater playing it or find an book or comic adaptation. Long before I could watch DUNE on VHS, I bought and read in the Marvel Comics adaptation with art by Bill Sienkiewicz. The art is otherworldly and as odd as the Lynch movie in its own special way. In the pages are the sections on the Weirding Modules with both designs being represented, but the other two larger Weirding Modules are not seen in the comic pages. While the Weirding Modules look mostly the same, there is something off about them. During the showdown with Paul and the Fighter, it appears on the page like Paul could only use the throat microphone to send out a blast. When Paul is training the Fremen, it appears that when the warrior says “Maud’Dib”, it activates the module and takes out a wall. In the comic, it almost appears the throat portion of the Weirding Module somehow charges the gun-emitter portion to fire. It may be just the art, but it could be this was the original plan for the operation of the Weirding Module.
The Weirding Modules in Ready Player One (2018)
Zak [Penn] and I [Ernest Cline] are both big fans of the David Lynch adaptation of Dune and we wanted to have one of the characters, i-R0k (TJ Miller), fire a Weirding Module at one point and we couldn't get that. [...]Still, even though they were unable to include the Weirding Module, Penn assures fans that there is a nod to the film in there for those paying close enough attention. “There is a reference to [Lynch's] version of Dune," he teases. "[Parzival] talks about the Harkonnen Drop-Ship".
The Impact and Legacy of the Weirding Modules
When DUNE was released on December 14th, 1984, it was met with confusion by the sci-fi audience, terrible critical reviews, but ranked number two at the box office at opening weekend. While a disappoint in the box office due to it failing to make back its money and turn a profit, the 1984 DUNE film as lived on through the decades as a cult classic to some and a warning to others. One of the elements cited by fans at the time and now is the inclusion of the sonic weaponry that was not in the original text. I’ve read that some fans of the book would not see the film due to the Weirding Modules saying that it cheapened the Fremen and reframed the story itself.
The Paper Fremen Weirding Module from the Activity Book...Happy Folding!