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Why House Atreides Plays Bagpipes | Screen Rant

House Atreides' grand entrance on Arrakis is accompanied by bagpipes in Dune, but what’s their purpose to the family? Dune (2021) is the second major film adaptation of the book series of the same name following David Lynch’s divisive 1984 version. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune follows Paul Atreides as he assumes two of his birthrights while betrayed on Arrakis, with the director also cleverly including the history and nuances of House Atreides to underscore Paul’s journey.

Dune notably features a chilling and powerful score by Hans Zimmer, but Denis Villeneuve adds a curious instrument to score the action and arrival of House Atreides. When House Atreides first arrives on planet Arrakis as its new steward, a man plays the bagpipes to announce their entrance and ceremoniously signal their royal presence. For a film set over 8,000 years in the future on fictional planets without any clear Scottish influence, the bagpipes may have seemed to be an odd choice. It’s a bit jarring at first to hear bagpipes score the theme of House Atreides, but their return when Gurney and the Atreides soldiers run into battle against Dune's House Harkonnen villains is actually bone-chillingly powerful.

Related: How Realistic Is Dune's World & Future

The recurrence of bagpipes in Dune for House Atreides is an excellent form of worldbuilding for the franchise and a clever way to include the family’s historic traditions, and this is exactly what Villeneuve had in mind when choosing the instrument. According to The Telegraph, Villeneuve had been racking his brains over how best to underscore the clash of culture between the foreign royal House Atreides and Arrakis natives upon the former’s arrival. Villeneuve wanted the meeting to be a “blaze of colonial pageantry,” so the director felt music, and specifically a traditional instrument, would best jarringly underline their new societal clash while instilling the cultural background of House Atreides. The Dune (2021) director had always envisioned House Atreides as having Celtic origins and mannerisms, so he decided the family’s instrument of choice would be the centuries-old bagpipes.

House Atreides following a pseudo-Celtic culture isn’t all that surprising, with the terrain of their ancestral home of Caladan feeling very similar to that of the Scottish highlands. It also doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Caladan is similar to Caledonia, which is the Latin word for Scotland. Had Denis Villeneuve dressed Paul and Leto Atreides in traditional kilts for their ceremonial events, the Scottish influence would be unmistakable. The bagpipes would be an extremely ancient instrument by Dune’s 10191 timeline, so it’s an interesting piece of worldbuilding that the bagpipes have lasted so long in noble culture.

Interestingly, the bagpipes weren’t a feature of House Atreides in Frank Herbert's Dune books, so they weren't featured in David Lynch's movie either. Lynch's odd addition to House Atreides' culture in Dune (1984) was their unique choice of dog breed: Pugs. So far, Denis Villeneuve has yet to include pugs in the lore of House Atreides, but it’s possible Dune: Part 2 (2023) will see a few pugs put to sleep by the sound of the bagpipes back on Caladan. While the bagpipes have been a major talking point since Dune’s October 2021 release, the movie nearly featured another ancient instrument to score House Atreides’ traditions. Denis Villeneuve had actually filmed and subsequently cut a scene of Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck playing the baliset, which is essentially Dune’s fictional version of the renaissance-era lute.

Next: Dune's Fremen Origin Explained

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