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The Sorceress(es) of Rossak

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The Sorceresses of Rossak are another of the stupid misunderstandings (or intentional changes) made by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert in the “Legends of Dune” series of pre-prequels. Frank Herbert never mentioned any such group even once in any of the six Dune books. There is no publicly available evidence that he ever even imagined such a group.

Frank Herbert used the word “sorceress” only three (3) times in his Dune books, all within the second appendix to Dune itself (Appendix II: The Religion of Dune), referring to the time period around the Butlerian Jihad:

  • It was a time of sorceresses whose powers were real. The measure of them is seen in the fact they never boasted how they grasped the firebrand.
  • Hesitantly, the leaders of religions whose followers had spilled the blood of billions began meeting to exchange views. It was a move encouraged by the Spacing Guild, which was beginning to build its monopoly over all interstellar travel, and by the Bene Gesserit who were banding the sorceresses.
  • The major dams against anarchy in these times were the embryo Guild, the Bene Gesserit and the Landsraad, which continued its 2,000-year record of meeting in spite of the severest obstacles. The Guild's part appears clear: they gave free transport for all Landsraad and C.E.T. business. The Bene Gesserit role is more obscure. Certainly, this is the time in which they consolidated their hold upon the sorceresses, explored the subtle narcotics, developed prana-bindu training and conceived the Missionaria Protectiva, that black arm of superstition. But it is also the period that saw the composing of the Litany against Fear and the assembly of the Azhar Book, that bibliographic marvel that preserves the great secrets of the most ancient faiths.

Nowhere in those three passages is there any mention of the planet Rossak, or anything to link the “sorceresses” to that planet. Rossak is also mentioned only three times, also in Dune, but only in the narrative text:

  • Jessica saw the slave cribs on Bela Tegeuse down that inner corridor, saw the weeding out and the selecting that spread men to Rossak and Harmonthep. Scenes of brutal ferocity opened to her like the petals of a terrible flower. And she saw the thread of the past carried by Sayyadina after Sayyadina — first by word of mouth, hidden in the sand chanteys, then refined through their own Reverend Mothers with the discovery of the poison drug on Rossak ... and now developed to subtle strength on Arrakis in the discovery of the Water of Life.
  • It was not yet time for the nightly prayer of parting. They wouldn’t have started a birth celebration near the time of ceremony that mourned the slave raids of Poritrin, Bela Tegeuse, Rossak, and Harmonthep.

Obviously, the hacks have conflated the “sorceresses” who were incorporated into the Bene Gesserit (see note below) with the Fremen “Reverend Mothers” who were on Rossak. It is really difficult to view this as an honest error in interpretation, seeing how the text is fairly clear as to what it means. So as a “creative” reinterpretation or innovation, it is therefore rather stupid. The introduction of original inventions into an existing fictional universe is not “clever” if those inventions are inconsistent with what has been established by the original creator.

*Here is another error or intentional change: according to the Appendix written by Frank Herbert, the Bene Gesserit “banded” together the sorceresses and “consolidated their hold” on them. In the McDune Legends books, the sorceresses become the Bene Gesserit.