In God Emperor of Dune, the Duncan Idaho ghola references a number of events from the earlier books which occurred after the death of the original Duncan. For example: he mentions having known Leto II as a child.

If he has the cellular memory of the original Duncan, how does he even have any memory of the existence of Leto II (who was conceived after the original Duncan's death)?

  • 2
    The answer is "No good explanation is given". There appears to be some sort of psychic/pseudo-magical link.
    – Valorum
    Oct 2, 2015 at 7:48
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    your forgetting that paul was given a a Duncan Idaho ghola in dune messiah, And the ghola share all memories between them.
    – Himarm
    Oct 2, 2015 at 13:02
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    It was my understanding that the ghola in God Emperor was a copy of a copy. In fact, he was the latest in a long line of gholas, each one a clone of the one before him. Leto II did this, in part, to provide himself with some semblance of an "immortal" friend.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 2, 2015 at 14:20
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    Possible duplicate of How was Duncan with Paul at Sietch Tabr?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 3, 2015 at 7:59

3 Answers 3


A persistent theme in Dune is that your genetics carries the memories of all past relations. this is a somewhat simplified statement, but it hold true for both the Reverend Mother's, as well as for Kwisatz Haderach (both Paul and Leto II). The Ghola's share this, but in a far more limited fashion, in the sense that the Tleilaxu have only managed to unlock the genetic materials own memory. So as we see in chapter house, they have created tons of Duncan Idahos' and recreate them over and over again. Each time when they ghola's are awakened Duncan Idaho remembers All of his past lives. Approximately 1000 lives where remembered by the Duncan Idaho in chapter house, of all of his past Ghola lives spanning 6000 years.

So specifically when Duncan Idaho's Ghola in God Emperor of Dune is awoken, he remembers both the original life, as well as the ghola from dune messiah, and all of the other Duncan that Leto II has had created for the last 3000 or so years.

  • If that is the case then surely he would remember how his predecessor was killed instead of spending half his time asking people what happened to 'him' and remember his children etc? Is it not that the current ghola, which ever one it is, is simply cloned from the 1st ghola Idaho killed by Stilgar? And what happened to his metal eyes? Aug 23, 2018 at 18:53

Only the Idaho ghola from Heretics Of Dune & Chapterhouse Dune is explicitly stated to have the memories of his original pre-ghola life and the memories of any of his ghola lives. As it happens, he has the memories of all his ghola lives. None of the previous gholas are stated to have had anything other than the memories of their original pre-ghola life . . . except . . .

The problem with the main ghola in God Emperor Of Dune is that he appears to have both the memories of his original pre-ghola life and those of his first ghola incarnation (Hayt, from Dune Messiah & Children Of Dune). This is somewhat of a continuity-snarl because it seems to break some of the in-universe rules about ghola memory retrieval as established by that point in the saga, and in retrospect with reference to the Heretics/Chapterhouse ghola.

Herbert never explicitly states that gholas can't retrieve the memories of their previous ghola lives in any of the books up to & including God Emperor, but this seems to be the case by virtue of the fact that the Heretics/Chapterhouse ghola is stated to be the first to do so.

Therefore, in retrospect it seems that in God Emperor Herbert is retroactively breaking or contradicting a rule he would later set, or is implying but not stating that for some reason all serial gholas can have their original pre-ghola memories and the memories of their first ghola incarnation restored, but not the memories of any ghola lives after their first revivification (at least, at this point in the saga). The other option is that Herbert was careless with the handling of established continuity from his own books, and the apparent possession of Hayt's memories by the God Emperor ghola is a mistake.

It is stated in Chapterhouse that the ghola in that book was grown using cells from most (but not all) of the previous serial gholas as well as the original pre-ghola, which implies that the God Emperor ghola could legitimately have the memories of his original pre-ghola life and the memories of Hayt if his body was grown using cells from both.

This seems to be the neatest in-universe solution, but then the question becomes: why not incorporate cells from all of the intervening gholas as well? Note that the main ghola in God Emperor has no memory of his immediate predecessor's life, as witnessed by his shock at meeting his predecessor's wife and child in the village that Nayla & Siona take him to. I personally think that the apparent possession of Hayt's memories by the God Emperor ghola is a (retrospective) mistake by Herbert.

  • I’ve added in paragraphs to make this answer easier to read.
    – Obsidia
    Mar 27, 2018 at 0:10

The Duncan in God Emperor remembers experiences from his first Ghola life (the Ghola given to Paul). When Stilgar killed Ghola 1 the body was taken for water reclamation before it could be re-used. However, rather conveniently in God Emperor all you need is some cells, not the whole body. The only way this could happen is if some of Ghola 1s cells were used, not long before he died. The big question is, if all you need is cells, then who else could they reproduce... Muad'Dib, Leto II?

It is a bit of a fudge that the Ixians were able to create more Duncans from just some cells, but they didn't have a body to work with, and for some reason the author wanted Duncan Idaho to become the most long live entity in history.

So, my conclusion is that it is a continuity error where the writer forgot which Duncan Idaho the Ixians had cells for, and a fudge that enabled them to create Golas from just cells.

That's my two penith.

  • The book explicitly states that Duncan had 'other memories' of the deaths of various Duncan gholas that he couldn't possibly have recovered from cellular memory
    – Valorum
    May 1, 2019 at 14:44

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