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Throughout the Dune novels I would like to know how many times Duncan Idaho is ghola'd (cloned) before he reaches Kwisatz Haderach status?

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  • 3
    Care to add some context as to why you find this interesting?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jan 24, 2011 at 23:34
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    This question is unanswerable: Duncan is brought back as a ghola numerous times throughout Leto II's 3,500 year reign and the number of times he's brought back is never specified.
    – user366
    Jan 24, 2011 at 23:45
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    If I remember correctly in the non-Frank Hebert Sandworms of Dune sequel a number is mentioned but this can also only be a rough estimate made by the new authors. Sorry I made an effort to forget ever reading the new books, that's why it's so in-accurate.
    – OliverS
    Nov 16, 2011 at 12:36
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    It could be just my imagination, but I think in one book one of the gholas specifically asks the god emperor how many gholas there were before, but he specifically denies the answer.
    – b_jonas
    Feb 17, 2014 at 9:05

4 Answers 4

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According to the Dune wiki:

At least one Duncan Idaho ghola features in every novel from Dune Messiah through Sandworms of Dune.

Because a few gholas survive from one novel to the next (from Dune Messiah to Children of Dune, from Heretics of Dune to Chapterhouse: Dune, and from Hunters of Dune to Sandworms of Dune), this means that four Duncan gholas are featured as characters in the novels. But the number of non-featured gholas is way higher than four.

I don't remember seeing a definitive count mentioned in any of the novels, but I have refrained from reading anything not written by Frank himself, so I can't vouch for that. Unless Brian and KJA provided a definitive number, I doubt you can do any better than guessing.

Since Leto II kept ordering gholas from the Bene Tleilax during his 3500-years reign, and, obviously, not every single one of these is mentioned, you cannot have a definite and accurate count. After Leto's reign, the Bene Gesserit kept using the Duncan gholas provided by the Tleilaxu for another fifteen hundred years, and again, an unknown number of them were provided. It's a total of five thousand years of Duncan gholas.

In God Emperor of Dune, it is mentioned that only nineteen of the gholas the God Emperor used died a natural death. Most of them rebelled and ended up killed by the God Emperor. This does not help much in getting an absolute total count, though.

If I had to provide an estimate, I would say anything between one hundred and fifty (a fairly optimistic average of about thirty years per ghola) to one thousand Duncan gholas (a more pessimistic average of five years per ghola). Not a very tight interval but that's what I can work from the data available to me.

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    Thanks for answering the "hidden" question about the gholas we are aware of.
    – user366
    Jan 25, 2011 at 0:17
  • @Mark Trapp: I guess I failed on that part: isn't the ghola in Messiah the same ghola featured in Children of Dune? Ooops! The one in Heretics is also the one in Chapterhouse, and the one in Hunters appears to be the one in Sandworms. :( Jan 25, 2011 at 0:33
  • @Mark, @Martinho, Much higher than that. When you read the books, its obvious it's in the hundreds, if not thousands. There is one para I remember reading, ghola turns up, new from the axoltl tank, and it reminds Leto II of the original Duncan, and he kills it instantly, seconds after it's arrived and mulls on many he's killed for that one reason. Jan 25, 2011 at 0:41
  • @scope_creep right, but "a whole bunch" isn't a particularly satisfying answer to the question "how many?" Martinho's answer is a great way to turn an unanswerable but otherwise well-intentioned question into an answerable one.
    – user366
    Jan 25, 2011 at 0:43
  • @Mark, the whole point of the Ghola, outside the books in they are human and can be killed whereas Leto II can't be, so it provides a plot device to illustrate a dichotomy between a human and a god. It is not essential to know how many Gholas exists, the plot only requires that they do exist. Jan 25, 2011 at 2:13
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The Dune Encyclopaedia provides an interesting alternative perspective on this.

Out-of-universe (approximately, anyway), the actual Encyclopaedia itself has 21 Idaho, Duncan entries. One of those is not a ghola, of course. The second and third entries cover the same person. So that's 19 gholas with Encyclopaedia entries. (No, they are not the nineteen who died natural deaths.)

In-universe, according to the Encyclopaedia itself:

The "Welbeck Fragment" indicates that prior to 13663 nine Duncans had suffered violent deaths and nineteen had died of natural causes. These figures are now known to be highly inaccurate. Leto II's diaries in the Dar-es-Balat hoard have already indicated that over twenty Duncan gholas failed to survive the first-contact interview with the Fish Speakers, and the initial survey of the diaries reveals that there were well over seventy Duncans delivered by the Bene Tleilax.

The same entry notes that the Duncan Idaho ghola of 13663 is the second longest lived on record, having lived for sixty years. 70 gholas over 3500 years is a mean lifespan of 50 years, of course. More than 70, and the mean is lower.

In the Encyclopaedia's universe, the in-universe answer is thus "We don't know, because we've discovered that there were a lot more than there were let on to be.". Although the Encyclopaedia is officially divergent from the later novels, where there are of course yet more gholas after the Encyclopaedia's Duncan-The-Last, it is a fair speculation that "a number that only the Bene Tleilax know" is the common in-universe answer.

Interesting tidbit: In the Encyclopaedia's universe, the Duncan Idaho ghola of 12301 is also a Kwisatz Haderach, who is killed by the Fish Speakers almost immediately. But you probably weren't allowing for that in your question. ☺

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    The mean number assumes that a new ghola is only created upon the death of a previous one and that it is instantly created at that moment in time. It's more likely that either the Tleilax had "spares" sitting around or that they only started the process of creating one once an order came in. Growing a ghola implies that it takes some amount of time to happen.
    – NotMe
    Apr 29, 2014 at 2:29
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In Heretics of Dune he received the memory from all his past lives and it said he had the memory of thousands of lives and thousands of deaths. He remembered being flattened by the God Emperor time and again. He was also acclaimed as being the father of a thousand children.

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According to Idaho, he was cloned 'hundreds' of times. Note that by this point he has access to all of their shared memories.

Why did Paul’s son have the Tleilaxu provide him with my ghola-self, hundreds of me! for all those thousands of years?

Heretics of Dune

It is, of course, not clear whether he means two hundred or nine hundred, but we can at least place an upper and lower bound on it. Probably it's a few hundred.

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  • Provided that Tleilaxu re-used cells from every ghola. What if those that failed manufacturer quality inspection right out of the tank weren't? or those, who died without their cells being harvested by Tleilaxu? Certainly happened - accident that nothing useful remains would be a possibility in Idaho's line of work. Also, question is not about gholas of consequence... I'd double whatever estimate you put here. ;-)
    – AcePL
    Jan 21 at 8:02
  • @AcePL - Idaho appears to also have memories from those that weren't harvested.
    – Valorum
    Jan 21 at 8:24
  • Well, no one knew they harvested the original and what else they put in the package of first one... So I'd add "...as far as we know" to your reply anove...
    – AcePL
    Jan 21 at 9:10