Places: Sietch Tabr

“There was rock underfoot now, a faint gray swishing of robes around them, and Paul sensed a relaxing of discipline, but still that quiet-of-the-person about Chani and the others.  He followed a shadow shape – up steps, a turn, more steps, into a tunnel, past two moisture-sealed doors and into a globe lighted narrow passage with yellow rock walls and ceiling.

“All around him, Paul saw the Fremen throwing back their hoods, removing their nose plugs, breathing deeply.  Someone sighed.  Paul looked for Chani, found that she had left his side.  He was hemmed in by a press of robed bodies.  Someone jostled him, said ‘Excuse me Usul.  What a crush!  It’s always this way.’

“On his left, the narrow bearded face of the one called Farok beamed toward Paul.  The stained eyepits and blue darkness of eyes appeared even darker under the yellow globes.  ‘Throw off your hood, Usul,’ Farok said.  ‘You’re home.’  And he helped Paul, releasing the hood catch, elbowing a space around them.

“Paul slipped out his nose plugs, swung the mouth baffle aside.  The odor of the place assailed him: unwashed bodies, distillate esthers of reclaimed wastes, everywhere the sour effluvia of humanity with, over it all, a turbulence of spice and spicelike harmonics.

“He lifted the hangings, feeling metal fibers in the fabric, followed her into a short entrance way and then into a larger room, square, about six meters to a side – thick blue carpets on the floor, blue and green fabrics hiding the rock walls, glow globes tuned to yellow overhead bobbing against draped yellow ceiling fabrics.

“The effect was that of an ancient tent.

“Paul masked his unease beneath a quick scanning of the room.  Thin hangings to the right, he saw, partly concealed a larger room with cushions piled around the walls.  He felt a soft breeze from an air duct, saw the outlet cunningly hidden in a pattern of hangings directly in front of him.”


This post is a Place Description quoted from Frank Herbert’s Dune.  I intend no slight to the author in using this excerpt, in fact I recommend that you visit your nearest library or bookstore and get your hands on the real thing.

I like this description of the Fremen living place – with all its hard protective rock enclosures disguised inside by rich fabric and padding.  Its combination of ancient and technological.  But more than that I like the concept of the Sietch.  So much so that I actually thought it was a real concept until I looked it up online and found that it was a Herbert invention.  I’m not sure why I’m surprised – there are a lot of other new words in Dune.  I guess I’ve always let science fiction create concepts that work their way back into my everyday vocabulary.

Sietch, according to Herbert means “Place of assembly in time of danger.” in the Fremen language.  I think its more than that.  Refuge, community place, creche, center, home.  Its an effect I seek out in all dwelling places.   

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