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Throughout my long years of science fiction fandom, I have come to respect certain author’s creativity and new ideas in this genre. Starting back in sixth grade, I became an avid Robert Jordan reader. Back in my naïve days, I was unaware of the blatant embezzlement of ideas.

Robert Jordan clearly took the idea of an independent desert culture for Frank Herbert’s Dune series. There are a few minor differences - probably the bare minimum to guarantee no possibility of copyright law infliction – but not enough.

The Aiel have cadin’sor, which is significantly different than the Fremen stillsuits. The Aiel have life a little easier, since open water is still somewhat of a reality where they live. And, to Jordan’s credit, the Aiel have a complicated system of clan and sept that is in no way challenged by the Fremen sietch system. Perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that Fremen are fugitives in their own land; the House Harkonnen and the Space Guild were both trying to control them. The spice melange is another difference; there is no such substance in The Wheel of Time series. In the Dune series, Arrakis is a totally separate planet from the rest of the universe, while in tWoT, the Aiel Waste is merely separated from the rest of humanity by The Spine of the World.

Both are cultures based heavily on tradition and strength of mind and body. Both are the superior fighters of their respective worlds, having been trained in the desert. Because of their desert living conditions, both people would fight and die for absurdly small amounts of water. Both have a sort of sacred place; for the Aiel, it’s Rhuidean, and for the Fremen, it’s the far southern desert (“twenty thumpers south”). Both peoples have a philosophy – a higher power placed them in their situation in order to ascertain their loyalty.

Although there are more differences in minor things, the fundamental elements of the cultures remain suspiciously similar. I understand that it must be difficult creating an entirely unique world from scratch, but I get the feeling Jordan wasn’t trying too hard.

But then again, where exactly did Herbert get his ideas?

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