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I've read comments here and there that the BG were not only complicit, but may have had a hand in the Harkonnen/Sardaukar attack that (nearly) wiped out House Atreides on Dune. However I don't remember any specific mentions of what they did to that effect, although it's been a long time since I've read them book.

They certainly had the motive and the means to do so.

  • Had their breeding program gone according to plan and the Atreides heir was female, the plan could have been to orchestrate said attack and the female Atreides captured as spoils.
  • With Paul, the motive could have been to eliminate this "wild" Kwisatz Haderach, which would set back the program many generations but surely BG have the patience. Although Mohiam did say something along the lines of "perhaps we can salvage him" so I'm not sure.
  • One bit of contrarian evidence though is that Paul survived in no small part due to the Missionaria Protectiva. If the BG's aim was truly to eliminate him, why didn't they use all available means to remove this program on Dune?

So my question is did the BG support the attack on the Atreides, if so how, or did they watch idly in the hubristic hope of controlling Paul anyway?

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If anything, the Bene Gesserit went out of their way to keep house Atreides safe, though, as Richard said, this was out of a desire to preserve the Atreides genes, not out of any compassion for the House. Lady Margot Fenring gave Jessica as much information as she could to protect both her and Paul, Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam - I am actually reading Dune right now, but I left it at work to read on my lunch break, so apologies if I misremember that name - warned Paul about the dangers of Arrakis, and the Bene Gesserit tried to steer Jessica and Paul towards the Fremen, where their Missionaria Protectiva had been established for just such a Bene Gesserit emergency.

Let's also bear in mind that if there was any House in the Landsraad that the BG had absolutely no influence over, it was House Harkonnen. Vladimir Harkonnen despised the BG, and even if one discounts the new Dune novels - and I prefer to, since they're terrible - deleted chapters in The Road to Dune establish that the Baron had fathered Jessica with Mohiam, who was his sole female lover in his long life. Whether this was due to a violent rape, as established in the new Dune books, or the seduction implied by Paul Atreides in Dune, is not clear from Frank Herbert's notes. Regardless of how the event occurred, the result was that Vladimir hated the BG, and they had no influence on Giedi Prime.

The BG, while providing Emperor Shaddam IV Corrino with a queen and four daughters, had also effectively alienated the Imperial House with their machinations; only Margot Fenring had any real influence on Imperial policy out of all the BG, and while she was loyal to the BG she was more loyal to her husband, who was never shown to know of the Imperial plot until after the fact. This lack of influence with Houses Corrino and Harkonnen mean that the BG were in a decidedly inauspicious position to influence events, which must have alarmed them greatly.

In short, in seems very dubious to claim that the BG supported or were in any way complicit with the destruction of House Atreides. They seem to have been largely powerless in the event, forced to the sidelines, much to their displeasure. As Richard quoted, the BG tried very hard to save Paul, but they could not save his father or his House. "For the father, nothing."

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The plan to destroy House Atreides was a joint effort between the Baron Harkonnen and the Emperor Corrino. The other directly involved parties was the Spacing Guild who subtly encouraged the move and provided the transport required at gargantuan cost.

The Bene Gesserit were aware of the plan ("The boy may be worth saving, but for the father, nothing!") but they kept pretty quiet about the specifics, to the point that Jessica and the Duke Leto were aware that some sort of attack was imminent but were unable to defend against it.

The BG were far more interested in preserving the genes of House Atreides than the actual house itself. The "test" showed that Paul was "human" (e.g. sane enough to be part of their long term plans) and they gave Jessica sufficient information to contact the "wild" Reverend Mother and to use the Missionaria Protectiva to survive the attack with the long-term goal of simply collecting her and her son for future study and breeding.

Of course, as you said the actual plan span straight out of control. Instead of simply running and hiding, Paul made himself the leader of the Fremen and proceeded to do the unthinkable, threatening the Spice.

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The other answers are mostly correct, but I just wanted to correct one misapprehension there and in the question.

The Missionaria Protectiva wasn't an active thing. The BG weren't doing anything at the time to protect Jessica and Paul. The MP had acted hundreds or thousands of years ago to seed the legends among the Fremen (and other similar civilizations). They couldn't have known in advance that Paul and Jessica would use this to establish themselves there.

They didn't have any current presence on Arrakis, any more than the Emperor did: there was no way they could use any "influence" to eliminate either the legends or Paul and Jessica themselves.

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Of course. I don't believe I ever stated otherwise. Richard's comment about the MP can probably be taken either way, but I doubt he meant the MP was active either. The Missionaria Protectiva, like many Bene Gesserit plans, had multiple goals: to protect any Sister who found herself in mortal danger, and; to assist the BG in whipping up the populace in their favour when the Kwisatz Haderach arrived. It is pure coincidence that Paul-Muad'dib and the Lady Jessica ended up using the MP on Arrakis to accomplish both; the latter in contravention of the Sisterhood's orders. –  James Sheridan Mar 20 at 9:49
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