Paul Atreides’ Personal Ornithopter

Frank Herbert uses description very rarely in his writing. He announces things with nouns and shows consequences of actions without describing the objects or behaviors. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is, I think, one of the reasons his books have been so resoundingly popular.

Among the objects he never describes are the ornithopters that fill the Known Universe in 10,191. They’re not just practical vehicles; they seem to be a status symbol, and the Atreides are proud of their mastery of the form, both in their hand-manufacture (automated devices being under millennia of ban) and in their handling.

This is my interpretation of Paul’s ornithopter, used to flee Arakeen with Jessica, as the Harkonnens retake their stronghold there.

Because Paul is aristocracy, of course his mom and dad gave him one for his birthday. He’s 15 when the first book starts, but is already an experienced flier. I decided that 13 seemed like a good coming-of-age time for a society, so this has been his personal hoopty for two years already.

It’s based on the Caladan frigate bird he captured and raised, naming it Panemorfi (“Beautiful Shape” in Caladanian dialect) and handcrafted by Atreides craftspeople using Tleilaxu specialists to precisely model its lifelike motion.

What are heroes like in The Fifth World? Absent sedentary, agrarian life, how do their culture heroes demonstrate the values of their society?
Flying machines are probably not unknown in The Fifth World. They know about textiles, of course, and there’s abundant bamboo. And, thanks to the Libarrian tribes, they can study the abstract aspects of flight, which is important because some of them are pretty counterintuitive.

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