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If overseeing Arrakis and the extraction of spice is so prestigious, how did House Harkonnen gain the privilege of doing so? I'm asking about before their conspiracy with the Emperor.

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  • related, possible dupe:scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/15057/…
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 20:21
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    Its been a long time since I read the book, but weren't the Harkonnen given the chance to take down the Atriedis because the emperor feared the Atredis? Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 20:22
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    @MarkRogers- I was asking about how they got in charge in the years before the conspiracy with the Emperor.
    – Nu'Daq
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 20:26
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    Doesn't seem like a duplicate to me. When the story starts the Harkonnen have control of Arrakis. They lose it on purpose as part of a trap for the Atredis. I interpret this question as why do the Harkonnen have stewardship before the story begins.
    – Servitor
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 20:26
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    Frank Herbert's books give no answer to this.
    – swbarnes2
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 20:54

1 Answer 1

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The "Prelude to Dune" prequel novels provide a bit of light onto that - it seems it was a mix of economical and political reasons.

House Harkonnen slowly risen over the centuries from the infamy they fell into for cowardice during the Battle of Corrin - they turned into a wealthy house of merchants. Yes, often ruthless, but definitely efficient.

Their power peaked during the benevolent rule of Dimitri Harkonnen (father of Vladimir), who decided to abandon the feud with house Atreides. Emperor Elrood IX (father of Shaddam) noticed his political and economical skills and awarded him with the governorship of Arrakis.

Giving Dune to Harkonnens had also another advantage for Emperor: by giving the control over such important planet to such infamous house, he was protecting himself from potential usurper. House Harkonnen couldn't count on popular support in the Landsraad, so they wouldn't be a potential political threat to the ruling House Corrino (like i.e. Atreides were). It was also done to balance the power in the favor of Emperor by keeping Atreides in check - move that is pretty obvious in the decision to appoint Dimitri's firstborn, Vladimir (famous for his hate to Atreides) as the next governor, instead of the more moderate Abulurd Rabban, Dimitri's youngest, yet favored, son.

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  • It should be noticed, however, that the prequel novels were not written by Frank Herbert, but by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. (I didn't want to edit this in the answer, because it could be seen as "changing the intent" of the answer)
    – lfurini
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 20:14

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