Note 1: I find it very very difficult to believe that nobody has written about this before. Despite my best efforts to search through the E2 database, I didn't find any write-ups on this topic at all. If I have indeed just missed stuff that was already out there, I apologize in advance for unintentional repetition or "stepping on anybody else's toes".
Note 2: This write-up will focus primarily on the similarites between these two series, and as such I will not be offering much in the way of active discussion/synopses of the series themselves. I urge those who are interested to consult nodes about the individual series, as well as the primary source material!
Note 3:(SPOILER WARNING) Needless to say, if you've yet to read either series and wish to, you may want to skip reading this node. :)
Frank Herbert's Dune series, considered a classic of the science-fiction genre, consists of 6 novels written between the 60s and the 80s. They consist of: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emporer of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. The series, as a whole, recounts a universe thousands of years into the future, when humanity has explored and colonized many worlds; so far into the future, in fact, that much of humanity isn't even aware of its common origin and homeworld of the planet Earth. Themes of ecology, philosophy, politics and faith are interwoven throughout the series.
Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is an ongoing behemoth of the modern fantasy genre, which as of this date consists of 9 novels; the series is still incomplete and subsequent novels are forth-coming. From their appearance in the early 90s, until the present, the series so far consists of: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, and Winter's Heart. The series deals with a (future/past?) mythic Universe, parallel to our own, and the inevitable prophetic confrontation between an archetypal "Dark Lord" and the human saviour who must defeat it. The general concensus among readers of this series is that the first several novels are superb, while later entries have run out of steam somewhat.
Although it is true that in a genre as specialized as science-fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction many
ideas/themes/archetypes etc. will be similar or familiar, one thing that readers of the WoT series have remarked upon is the frequent and striking similarities between WoT and the Dune series. What follows, then, is a list and brief discussion of some of the more noticeable of these similarities.
The Protagonist: The main character of Dune, the first novel, is Paul Atreides, a young man of noble birth who comes to realize (or believe) that he is the prophesied leader/saviour of a group of people (the Fremen). Apart from that, he gains political power and influence throughout the Universe as a whole. (He becomes Emporer, in fact.) Although later books in the series extend thousands of years beyond Paul's lifetime, it still deals with his descendants, and direct influences from his time, so he can still be seen as an influential figure in the series as a whole, even though he's not, strictly speaking, the main character throughout the whole series.
The main character of WoT is Rand al'Thor, a young man of simple birth (aha! a difference) who comes to realize (or is led to believe) that he is the prophesied saviour of all of humanity (the Dragon Reborn), as well as the leader of a group of people (the Aiel.)
The Desert People: In Dune, Paul eventually comes to be accepted as leader of the Fremen, the nomadic people of the desert planet Arrakis. The Fremen are an ancient, fierce, little-known-to-outsiders culture with their own traditions and secret origins that go back thousands of years in the past. In WoT, Rand eventually comes to be accepted as the leader of the Aiel, the nomadic people of the desert-like region known as the Aiel Wastes. The Aiel are an ancient, fierce, little-known-to-outsiders culture with their own traditions and secret origins that go back thousands of years in the past.
The Secretive, Powerful Female Group: In Dune, a sisterhood known as the Bene Gesserit forms an influential and secretive group. They have rigorous training, a hierarchy structure, and powers that few others have or understand. (They can control their bodies down to the most minute cells and chemical structures, for example, and can influence or outright control others through vocal suggestion, a talent called "The Voice".) The Bene Gesserit are often mistrusted by others and are called "witches".
In WoT, a sisterhood known as the Aes Sedai forms an influential and secretive group. They have rigorous training, a hierarchical structure, and powers that few others have or understand. (The Aes Sedai are women who, for all intents and purposes, are either innately born to or can be trained in the use of "magic".) The Aes Sedai are often mistrusted by others and are called "witches".
The Dual Role of the Protagonist: In Dune, Paul is both the leader of the Fremen, and the "Kwisatz Haderach", essentially a male Bene Gesserit who can employ powers and training that the female Bene Gesserit can use, but can also "look into a place that no woman can look".
In WoT, Rand is both the leader or "Car'a'carn" ("Chief of Chiefs") of the Aiel, and the "Dragon Reborn", the reincarnation of a soul fated or prophesied to fight the last battle. He is in many ways the male equivalent of an Aes Sedai; he too was born with the innate ability to use "magic", but a male form of it that is fearful and alien to the female Aes Sedai.
A World Filled With Powerful Groups and Cultures: The Universe of Dune is filled with many powerful planets, groups, cultures, a noble structure (including noble families or "Houses" who rule various planets), and alliances. One such group, the Bene Tleilax, are religious extremists who are especially fearful and mistrustful of the Bene Gesserit.
The world in which WoT takes place is filled with many powerful nations, groups, cultures, a noble structure (including noble "Houses" who rule various nations), and alliances. One such group, the Children of the Light, are crusaders and religious extremists who are especially fearful and mistrustful of the Aes Sedai.
Well, this is what I could come up with just off the top of my head; it has been a while since I've read either series (although I have read both through at least twice.) Further examples can be contributed as write-ups to this node if desired.