"The Sardaukar are excellent fighting men, no doubt of it," the Baron said. "But I think my own legions — "

"A pack of holiday excursionists by comparison!" Hawat snarled. "You think I don't know why the Emperor turned against House Atreides?"


The Baron rubbed his jowls. "Well, he has been recruiting rather heavily, to be sure. His agents make rather extravagant promises and — "

"Shall we say thirty thousand in round numbers?" Hawat asked.

"That would seem a little high," the baron said.

"Quite the contrary," Hawat said. "I can read between the lines of Rabban ' s reports as well as you can. And you certainly must've understood my reports from our agents . "

"Arrakis is a fierce planet," the Baron said. "Storm losses can — " "We both know the figure for storm accretion," Hawat said. "What if he has lost thirty thousand?" the Baron demanded, and blood darkened his face.

"By your own count," Hawat said, "he killed fifteen thousand over two years while losing twice that number. You say the Sardaukar accounted for another twenty thousand, possibly a few more. And I've seen the transportation manifests for their return from Arrakis. If they killed twenty thousand, they lost almost five for one. Why won't you face these figures, Baron, and understand what they mean? "

By all accounts, reinforced both by the Fremen themselves and by Hawat in this scene, the Sardaukar are much better soldiers/fighters than the Harkonnen troops (and indeed, anyone at the time, expect the Fremen and a small elite force of the Atreides). Yet Hawat seems to indicate that during their campaign against the Fremen they pulled a much worse casualty ratio (5:1) than the Harkonnen troops directed by Rabban. (2:1)

How is this possible considering that Rabban is not quite a genius, and that during the two years considered here the power and knowledge of Muad'Dib was spreading and making the Fremen even more adept in warfare?

  • 3
    Perhaps Rabban's troops aren't fighting the Fremen, they're terrorising those that live in and near the cities?
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 20:56
  • Very probably they are terrorising them, but the Baron clearly indicates 9000+6000 Fremen casualities over the reign of Rabban. Or do you suggest that the Harkonnen minions sent false reports, killing village-dweller Arrakeens and reporting that they have slain wild Fremen?
    – b.Lorenz
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 21:00
  • 3
    Rabban is a liar and a braggart. He's almost certainly under-reporting his losses and over-reporting his victories.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 21:01
  • 1
    Do we have any reason to believe the Baron’s estimate that the Sardaukar killed about 20,000 Fremen is accurate? If Rabban’s was too high (only really killed, say, 10,000 Fremen) and the Baron’s too low (they actually killed 35,000), then the numbers are in the Sardaukars’ favour. Two fairly big ifs, though. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 21:08
  • 1
    I imagine Rabban's forces taking a much more cautious approach than the Sardaukar would have, mostly waiting for targets of opportunity and only attacking when circumstances (and numbers) favoured them. The Sardaukar probably aren't used to doing that. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 21:23

3 Answers 3


I can think of two reasons why.

First reason is that the Harkonnens have a lot of experience with this particular enemy. They've been dealing with the Fremen for hundreds of years. They would know specifics about their enemy that the Sardaukar wouldn't know, which would give them an edge. The Harkonnens aren't completely inept or the Fremen would have ruled the planet ages ago.

The second reason would be that the Sardaukar were actively pursuing the Fremen and pushing into their territory, which would make the Fremen response more warlike and more determined. Put another way, the Harkonnens had the home court advantage and stayed in the cities and the safer fortified places they had made, and the Sardaukar did not. From Dune:

"What're they doing in there?" Paul asked.

She glanced back as they passed beyond the arch, said: "They hurry to finish the quota in the plastics shop before we flee. We need many dew collectors for the planting."


"Until the butchers stop hunting us or are driven from our land."

Paul caught himself in a stumble, sensing an arrested instant of time, remembering a fragment, a visual projection of prescience--but it was displaced, like a montage in motion. The bits of his prescient memory were not quite as he remembered them.

"The Sardaukar hunt us," he said. "They'll not find much excepting an empty sietch or two," she said. "And they'll find their share of death in the sand."

The Sardaukar were pushing the Fremen into the deep desert where the Harkonnens wouldn't even dare set foot. Fremen are a terrible enemy in any situation, but on their home turf and fighting for their homes they would be far worse.


I don't remember there being any Fremen reports of their losses against Rabban though the implication is that the Harkonnen losses were very high and likely mis-reported to the Baron. Given that the Fremen were at war with the Harkonnens I don't think the Fremen would have had losses as high as discussed by Thufir and the Baron. Most likely is lies and soft targets.


The Sardaukar were actually fighting the Fremen; the Harkonnen were doing their best to stay far away from any Fremen. It would be a fair assumption any kills by Harkonnen troops to be smugglers or even civilians.

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