From them moment Shaddam IV ordered him to Arrakis, Duke Leto knew that it was a trap. He was even aware that there was a traitor in their ranks. Nevertheless when the Duke was attacked by

Dr. Yueh

he didn't have any bodyguards with him. Moreover, the shield generator - which one would assume their most important line of defense - was so weakly guarded that not only could a complete stanger like

Esmar Tuek

get near it but it was also possible for a single person to eliminate all it's guards.

Given this, why didn't the Atreides guard themselves better?

  • 1
    @Valorum but they knew this wasn't the case. Thufir Hawat even distrusted Lady Jessica Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 11:33
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    He mistrusted her motives. I don't think he mistrusted her as a security threat until he was given a (mistaken) reason to think so
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 12:10
  • 8
    Here's a hypothesis I've toyed with: Frank Herbert was not that good a writer. Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 12:23
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    Plus Yueh was, IIRC, a doctor conditioned by the Suk School and supposedly incapable of betraying their patients or taking a human life (presumably out of medical context). Nobody had ever broken the Suk conditioning before, so this was a unique threat that could never be expected. Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 12:24
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    @Seamusthedog It was also much bigger than expected. As it was happening Thufir observes how it much it must have cost to pull off such an attack and how long it would take to regain the cost. He notes they never expected such a scale and even if they had, they would not have been able to prepare for such an attack especially in the time they had (or at all without either the Fremen or increasing the size of the small elite portion of their they had begun to train). Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


The short answer to the title question is: they were not. They had a multi-tiered defense, designed by a superhumanly powerful mind, Thufir Hawat, around a small innermost circle of VIP's who were arguably the very essence of House Atreides rather than, say, its titular head plus courtly parasites of questionable faithfulness.

It is not true that Duke Leto "was even aware that there was a traitor in their ranks" the moment he was ordered to Arrakis; if, that is, "their ranks" include the innermost circle. At this time, Hawat's computations included every possibility of a traitor without, not within it. This changed later in the novel; the Harkonnen Mentat had anticipated it, so that they were able to misdirect his suspicions long enough for the real traitor to act.

It is not true that "a complete stranger" could access the shield generators: only s/one as well-known and trustworthy as the Duke himself could and did do it. It is true that "a single person could eliminate the guards"; this was not just anyone though, it was a person who routinely protected them from poisoning attempts and kept them supremely fit to fight.

I'll also point out almost no-one, not even the Emperor and his Mentats and, most importantly, not even the Baron Harkonnen, could describe a practical way to recruit a traitor from this innermost circle: this is why the Fenrings could only warn that the Baron was convinced a traitor of his would do the job, not guess who the traitor was. Arguably, only the Bene Tleilax had any concrete plan to this effect and Piter De Vries was the only person in the entire Dune universe who knew the Tleilaxu plan had actually succeeded.

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