In the film version of Dune, (and the novel, AFAIK) the Padisha Emperor conspired with the Harkkonens to eliminate House Atreides- but why did he choose to do so?

  • 1
    3 answers and nobody mentioned the prequel novels yet? Jan 17, 2017 at 4:59
  • 3
    @DVK-in-Florida What prequels?
    – Beofett
    Jan 17, 2017 at 13:20
  • 2
    @Beofett *mumble* *mumble* Midichlorians *mumble* *mumble* Jan 17, 2017 at 18:23
  • @DVK-in-Florida Rumor has it that Alejandro Jodorowsky and George Lucas are going to team up for a reboot of the Dune franchise....
    – Beofett
    Jan 17, 2017 at 19:57
  • @Beofett - as long as J J Abrams isn't involved, we are safe. Jan 17, 2017 at 20:25

3 Answers 3


The Duke was popular among the other nobles, he had a few troops trained by Duncan Idaho that were almost as good fighters as Sardaukar, and he was very likely to be in the position of making the Fremen his personal fighting force, and the Emperor knew they were likely to be just as good as the Sardaukar.

The Baron only understood the first motive at first, Thufir explains the rest to the Baron later.

From "Dune - Page 233", novelok.com

"The Padishah Emperor turned against House Atreides because the Duke's Warmasters, Gurney Halleck and Duncan Idaho, had trained a fighting force - a small fighting force - to within a hair as good as the Sardaukar. Some of them were even better. And the Duke was in a position to enlarge his force, to make it every bit as strong as the Emperor's."

  • 9
    Wasn't Arrakis part of the plan though? I don't remember the Emperor and the Baron considering the Fremen as a threat.
    – ench
    Jan 17, 2017 at 0:57
  • There is the chance that the quote there from Hawat was actually misinformation directed at the Baron...
    – HorusKol
    Jan 17, 2017 at 3:14
  • The question asks explicitly about the film version, so evidence from the film would be preferable.
    – Jack
    Jan 17, 2017 at 4:15
  • 5
    Part of the point was that Arrakis was considered a poison pill. The Fremen were not thought to be a factor at the start of the story. Jan 17, 2017 at 4:45
  • Moving the Atreides to Arrakis provides a perfect cover story as to why the Harkonnens decided to destroy the Atreides in such a thorough, expensive way; they want Arrakis back. The Emperor certainly understood the potential of the Fremen, but probably didn't realize how many of them there were, and the attack happened too fast for the Duke to get them on his side.
    – swbarnes2
    Jan 17, 2017 at 17:58

Here's the clip from the movie. The relevant portion happens around 1:10

EMPEROR - The Atreides house is building a secret army!... using a technique unknown to us... a technique involving sound. The Duke is becoming more popular in the Landsraad... he could threaten me.... I have ordered House Atreides to occupy Arrakis to mine the spice... thus replacing their enemies the Harkonnens.... House Atreides will not refuse because of the tremendous power they think they will gain. Then, at an appointed time Baron Harkonnen will return to Arrakis and launch a sneak attack on House Atreides... I have promised the Baron five legions of my Sardaukar terror troops.

So we see the scheming as twofold

  1. The weirding modules the Atreides had developed were considered game changing. Based on the extremes he went to, I'd say the Emperor considered them like we would consider nuclear weapons
  2. Leto had become popular and the Emperor feared that he would either be undercut politically, or House Atreides would stage a coup and the other Houses would simply allow it to happen.
  • 1
    The film idea of Voice as a weapon is pretty silly. When I saw the film I had to laugh out loud at this. In the books it is a kind of psychological weapon used by the Bene Gesserit.
    – RedSonja
    Jan 17, 2017 at 12:25
  • @RedSonja No special weapon. Four things: 1) Desert people convinced of their "manifest destiny" to redo their homeworld and throw off the really nasty imperial yoke under the leadership of an unspecified future Messiah (said religious elements having been implanted by behind-the-scenes BG indoc) 2) a leader (a mix between a feral Hamlet and a Nietzschean Overman really, who can resist?) who seizes the opportunity to plug into the local meme complex and funnel the energy into serious Jihad against the Empire (his ability to feel out future worldlines under influence of spice helps)... Jan 19, 2017 at 10:47
  • ... 3) the Ultima Ratio of the Jihadists in the threat to destroy the source of spice 4) The possibility of the leader to legitimately seize the imperial throne due to family ties, which makes all of this trouble on a foreign world a saleable package to the imperial establishment. All of this is not 100% consistently laid out, but then again, a planet with an only-sand surface that still manages to keep a livable ecosystem and an oxygen-bearing atmosphere isn't too likely either. Jan 19, 2017 at 10:48

Leto Atreides was a popular and charismatic man. Moreover, he had assembled a sizable personal army by the time of Dune. He was a threat to the Emperor, especially given Shaddam Corrino had no male Heirs.

He decided to destroy the Atreides by working with Baron Harkonnen. Arrakis was the bait, a prize Leto couldn't refuse, which put him in a position to be killed, away from his home planet.

  • 1
    If I remember rightly, he wasn't just popular, he was a blood relation and thus a legitimate successor, especially since the Emperor had no sons.
    – RedSonja
    Jan 17, 2017 at 12:27
  • 1
    All of the nobles have personal armies. It's how the balance of power is maintained...all the nobles together could beat the Emperor, he maintains control as long as he keeps the nobles from wanting to do that.
    – swbarnes2
    Jan 18, 2017 at 19:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.