BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

May His Passing Cleanse the World – ‘Dune’s Sandworms of Arrakis

3 Minute Read
Nov 29 2023

The Sandworms are one of the most well-known things about Dune. But what are these creatures and how do you survive one?

From Beetlejuice to Dungeons and Dragons and even the battlefields of Middle-earth, giant worms have made appearances in a variety of different series and genres. But perhaps none is more well known than Shai Hulud, the Sandworms of Arrakis from Dune. But what are these creatures, what do they want, and how do they fit into the world of Dune?


Sandworms are described most simply as very large annelids, or segmented worms, with some lamprey-like features. They are usually found at lengths of 1,300 feet and 130 feet in diameter but have been observed as large as 1.5 miles long or more. Curved, crystalline teeth line their mouth but are mostly used for scraping away at sand and rock.


Usually, these creatures live deep underground, where they burrow and travel through the sand at great speeds. This mostly underground lifestyle, combined with how hearty they are, makes the Sandworm a very difficult beast to kill.

There are few ways to kill a Sandworm because of its segmented build. Similar to earthworms, each of their segments has a life of its own. It’s very possible to kill one part and have the rest continue on. High-voltage electric shocks, applied separately to each segment, are the only known way to kill and preserve them.

But if preservation isn’t the goal, atomics–Dune‘s word for nuclear explosives–are the only single weapon strong enough to kill an entire worm. Aside from that, water is poisonous to Sandworms. But between their massive size and the resource’s short supply on Arrakis, water isn’t often used for killing anything but the smallest of Sandworms.

Sandworms are huge, with mouths the entire size of their diameter, so they can–and do–easily swallow everything from people to vehicles to mining equipment. But what they actually eat is the sand plankton that itself feeds on the melange or spice on Arrakis.


Avoiding a Sandworm

Not only are they big, burrowed underground, and fast, but Sandworms are also territorial and seemingly attracted if not angered by many of the standard human activities on Arrakis. Rhythmic vibrations like normal walking or mining will attract them. As do the personal force fields many people use. And once a Sandworm is interested in a particular rhythm, it will destroy just about everything in its path.

To avoid this, some have learned to mimic the movements of desert animals and move with the natural sounds around them. But a ‘thumper’ device can also purposefully attract a Sandworm somewhere else as a diversion.

Spice harvesting rigs are also accompanied by scouting ornithopters, which keep watch for signs of an approaching Sandworm. If there is danger, the entire rig can be lifted up by a large ‘Carryall’ craft and brought to safety.

Which variety of Sandworm is your favorite? Would you try to avoid a Sandworm in the Dune universe or ride one? Do you have a favorite Dune Sandworm appearance or scene? Let us know in the comments!

You must not fear, adventurers!!


Author: Clint Lienau
  • Huge LEGO Star Wars Starkiller Base Has Thousands of Pieces, Hundreds of Minifigs