The Book of Boba Fett depicts the Star Wars universe’s iconic Tusken Raiders in a way that’s never been done within the franchise, and it might just fix George Lucas’ oldest and most glaring mistake in terms of taking inspiration from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Out of the different franchises that have borrowed concepts from Dune, Star Wars has the most number of specific elements that can be directly traced back to Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel. This includes how Luke Skywalker’s journey mirrors the path of Paul Atreides, the Jedi and Sith orders being highly similar to the Bene Gesserit, and the harsh conditions of the desert planet of Tatooine being comparable to that of Arrakis. While most of these borrowed elements have allowed the Star Wars franchise to develop its own unique and compelling narrative, Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders in particular have been criticized as a racist mistake that exoticizes West Asian indigenous cultures. However, The Book of Boba Fett seems intent on correcting this aspect of the Star Wars universe.
As The Book of Boba Fett reveals, while the Tuskens are perceived to be savages, they actually have an intelligent and well-developed culture – just like the Fremen of Dune. Both people are shunned by those who live in the cities of their respective desert planets because of their unusual practices and rituals, which are mainly based on survival strategies for living with the harsh landscape. Although the Fremen are much more technically advanced than the Tuskens, both people are in a constant fight to retain their ancestral domain and natural resources in the face of development aggression.
Although The Book of Boba Fett’s depiction of the Tuskens makes the contemporary Star Wars universe more in line with Dune, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Prior to The Book of Boba Fett, the Tusken Raiders were a savage and faceless race that mostly served as fodder for Star Wars’ heroes, villains, and mercenaries. While Dune used the Fremen to subvert this particular sci-fi trope, Star Wars’ Tuskens only reinforced the stereotype of the wild, savage, and expendable tribe – until The Book of Boba Fett. Alongside Disney’s deep dive into the backstory of Star Wars’ most notorious bounty hunter, the Tuskens have evolved into an indigenous people struggling for self-determination, a proud warrior race that’s been displaced and marginalized by capitalistic incursions into their ancestral territories. This is actually a huge step for the contemporary Star Wars universe, especially since the most recent canon movies in the franchise have been criticized for being too shallow and reliant on tropes from the original trilogy.
Further mirroring Dune, the Tuskens are also placed at the center of Boba Fett’s character development – similar to how the Fremen are integral to Paul’s rise. Interestingly, this has allowed The Book of Boba Fett to go in a direction that even Dune could not. While West Asia’s Bedouin tribes inspired the Fremen, which in turn inspired the Tuskens, the rituals of the Tusken Raiders can be traced back to lead actor Temuera Morrison’s Māori heritage. This can be observed in how the carving of the Tusken Gaderffi or Gaffi Stick echoes the Māori rituals surrounding the Taiaha, a traditional spear that’s passed down over different Māori generations. Moreover, the way the Tusken Raiders danced with Boba Fett around a bonfire contains elements from the traditional Māori haka dance. Morrison himself has explained that his indigenous warrior background was crucial “as a source of energy and as a source of confidence” while fleshing out the character of Boba Fett. note: Murder on the Nile Movie
The Book of Boba Fett, in fixing Star Wars’ oldest mistake, makes it more evident that Star Wars borrows heavily from Dune. It’s high time for Star Wars to embrace this fact, especially since it’s opening new and promising paths for the franchise. That being said, there’s no doubt that Disney still has more Star Wars problems to fix. However, by giving the Tuskens more agency and making them more similar to Dune’s Fremen, The Book of Boba Fett continues the fight to destroy and reconfigure harmful tropes still prevalent in contemporary sci-fi. Perhaps it’s not too late to teach this old dog some new tricks. note: Murder on the Nile Free Movie