Why the Atreides house has a pug in the dune of David Lynch (but not that of Villeneuve)

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There is no pug in the book, which would explain why there is none in Villeneuve’s version, but why did David Lynch add one in the 1984 version?

by David Lynch Dunes was released in 1984 and included a pug in various scenes as the loyal pet of House Atreides, sparking an investigation among fans and critics. This earlier adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel was a box office flop, receiving mixed reception from fans and hated by many critics upon its release. Much of the reviews were aimed at comparing the David Lynch film to the book. Despite its early performances, the film has since become a cult classic, and the mystery behind the inclusion of a pug continues to be a topic of discussion decades later, especially after Denis Villeneuve. Dunes left out the pet.

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The story of Dunes is set thousands of years in the future, following Paul Atreides and his noble family from their home planet of Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis. The plot itself is a struggle between various factions for control of a drug-like commodity known as “spice” which is essential for space travel and is exclusive to Arrakis. The vast construction of the world in the novels offers the possibility of many Dunes sequels and has since made the novel series highly regarded in the genre. From the throne room of Caladan to the battle with the Harkonnens and Sardaukar and finally the confrontation between Paul and Feyd-Ratha, the little dog makes several appearances. The novels and Villeneuve’s adaptation are pug-free, which heightened the mystery behind Lynch’s choice, as it seems rather odd.


Related: Every Dune Book Ranked From Worst To Best

The most common explanation for the pug’s inclusion in a Lynch’s Dunes is a nod from the director to the period of European renaissance. There are a few animal motifs used in the film that have metaphorical meaning for the characters and themes, but the pug seems to be the most out of place. Director David Lynch has since disowned his creation and refuses to answer the burning question around the existence of the pug that has inspired closer scrutiny.


Dune David Lynch pug dog

There is no doubt that the artistic style of Dunes, especially House Atreides, is heavily influenced by the Renaissance period. From decor to clothing and even etiquette, there seems to be Lynch’s intentional connection to the times. The depiction of dogs in Renaissance art was prevalent in hunting scenes, and the pug, in particular, was favored among nobles as a household dog. The Pug’s first appearance is with Duke Leto Atreides, seated as a faithful companion, later detained, and then in Paul’s lap as they travel to Arrakis. Lynch attempts to connect futurism with history to give audiences something to grasp in such a fantastical setting, while Villeneuve’s film took a different approach in this regard.


Animals are often used as motifs, having metaphorical meaning by reflecting characters’ traits or difficulties. The Emperor has many dogs on a leash signifying his control and providence, while Leto’s pug sits loyally on his lap. It reflects the characters of the two men by comparing their approaches to leadership as well as their positions in the hierarchy. The Emperor controls many by force, while the Duke inspires absolute loyalty in a few. The duke is an outsider, while the emperor is the supreme ruler. This loyalty to the Duke is best represented by Gurney Halleck, as he takes the pug into battle. This metaphorical connection is also a nod to the novels, as many other animal motifs are present such as the hawk chasing the mouse as Lady Jessica and Paul race against the Harkonnens, a powerful rival house.


by David Lynch Dunes was produced at a time when the limitations of visual effects made these kinds of adaptations difficult, forcing creative compromises to appeal to an audience that was not fully understood. The addition of a pug might not have seemed out of place in the 80s on a set full of eccentrically dressed people. Today, however, expectations of photo-real effects, cohesive tone, and hyperrealism make the addition of any land animals seem anachronistic. It’s no wonder, then, that no pugs feature in Villeneuve’s film, despite some fans’ facetious disappointment at the lack of a Pug Atreides cameo.


More: How Dune’s Cast Compares To The 1984 Film

  • Dunes 2 (2023)Release date: October 20, 2023

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