When Fenring attends the gladiatorial match, Thufir Hawat mentions the Atreides were training men to be the equal of Sardaukar, but it's never mentioned why Leto was so intent on upsetting the delicate balance of power between the Landsraad and an Imperial house. In addition, he has a good claim to the throne, the majority of Great Houses behind him and Corrino's power is clearly in decline. Is the Emperor's paranoia justified?

NB: asking in the context of Frank Herbert's novels only here.

  • 3
    scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/158407/… My answer there being, we can't really say either way. There isn't enough about Leto, especially if we limit it to Frank Herbert's work. Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 1:08
  • 2
    It sounds like the "training men to be the equal of Sardaukar" is the real-world equivalent of "Ira(q|n) is trying to acquire the bomb". The Duke was just training the local guard and happened to be in a place where this local guard could have reached the level of the Imperial shock troops, if a decisions might have been made to do so. There is the potential of danger to the throne. In the Dune universe, one would still have to hire the Guild services to deliver those troops and I think at that point, there was no realization by house Atreides what one could do with Dunic human capital. Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 6:56
  • 7
    The Duke is an honourable man and he's not planning a coup. But because the Emperor and his advisors aren't honourable men, they suspect him of dishonourable motives.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 9:06
  • 2
    @Valorum "Ahhh.... projection" Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 9:35
  • Just by existing he was an existential threat to the Emperor. He was young, popular, powerful, and unmarried. Even if he didn't want the throne, there were enough people who would want him to be have the throne. Though, one does wonder why he was training a corps of soldiers to be on par with the Sardukar. Once he crossed that line the Emperor HAD to act because that was essentially a declaration of war whether intended or not. Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


I believe the raising Sardaukar-style force by Leto, as mentioned by Thufir, would be the reason Corrino turned on Atreides.

True, Leto was a popular man, was one of Imperial Kinsman (actual, not just titular), with, apparently, strong claim to the throne, but all that was politics. Serious, complicated, but not really anything outrageously exceptional. Landsraad was, by definition, a counter to Corrino's power:

"You know as well as I do what forces surround us. We’ve a three-point civilization: the Imperial Household balanced against the Federated Great Houses of the Landsraad, and between them, the Guild with its damnable monopoly on interstellar transport. In politics, the tripod is the most unstable of all structures. It’d be bad enough without the complication of a feudal trade culture which turns its back on most science.”

So rising to prominence in the Landsraad is inevitably antagonistic to the Emperor, even though Shaddam had his own support there, too. Can't imagine this never happening before...

House Corrino rose to be Emperors almost exclusively due to their military power, which were Sardaukar.

Furthermore, the fact that Harkonnens didn't know why Corrino wanted Atreides gone is a strong indicator that it wasn't politics, it was challenging the Sardaukar. Considering what Leto said to Paul:

"They wish the Atreides name to become unpopular,” the Duke said. “Think of the Landsraad Houses that look to me for a certain amount of leadership— their unofficial spokesman. Think how they’d react if I were responsible for a serious reduction in their income. After all, one’s own profits come first. The Great Convention be damned! You can’t let someone pauperize you!” A harsh smile twisted the Duke’s mouth. “They’d look the other way no matter what was done to me."

It is quite obvious that dealing with Atreides in Landsraad in manner described above would be faster, cheaper, surer and less dangerous to balance of power. Especially since Shaddam IV had no heir, so Corrino would no longer have claim to Emperor's throne. So there was no legitimate reason to fear any Leto's attempt at it.

No, the real threat had to be to the powerbase of the Corrino, because this is the only thing that justifies risk of instant rebellion, had word of truth about Arrakis Affair got out. Because what was done to Atreides was one thing that everyone in the Landsraad was truly afraid of: being picked by Corrino one by one.

  • 1
    That’s assuming Shaddam knew about them, I would have to find the quote again, but from what I remember it seemed likely they were still small enough in number to be unknown outside of House Atreides. The Landsraad popularity combined with royal blood (even if Leto was far down the line of succession) was the more obvious threat. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 15:13
  • @suchiuomizu That is why I pointed out that for that character assasination works much better in every aspect. Remember, had truth about Arrakis Affair became known to Landsraad, Emeror instantly faces complete rebellion by every House (Piter De Vries says as much IIRC)... No, taking out Atreides by Corinno that way must have had another reason... Also, Atreides would win against Harkonnens alone. Maybe not easily, but they would win. It was the Sardaukar who tipped the scales even thiugh they were just 20% of the assault
    – AcePL
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 15:42
  • "as mentioned by Thufir" -- I looked it up just now to check the wording. In conversation with the Baron, Thufir says: "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." Then he explains he's talking about the Fremen. Recruit several legions' worth, and you could really upset the balance of power.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 2:19
  • The implication seems to be that the Emperor wasn't particularly scared of the small military forces that were loyal to the Duke when he was based on Caladan -- but the thought of his becoming the respected leader of a huge army of Fremen, trained and equipped to the same high quality as his preexisting forces, was a very different thing. That was why Shaddam was willing to (unofficially) send Sardaukar to reinforce the Harkonnen attack against the Atreides before the Duke could find a way to make a strong alliance with Fremen leaders.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 2:24
  • @Lorendiac Fremen were the enlargement in the explanation, true. However, they weren't the explanation. I don't believe Emperor knew about that part. Reasons: no one in the Empire knew the actual numbers on desert Fremen population (besides Atreides guesstimate), and the quality of the known Arrakis population was also known to be low. It's possible he knew after Arrakis Affair, but in this case, in connection with Baron's suggestion to convert it to prison planet this should spell the end of Harkonnen House, or at least not reverting it as subfief to Baron...
    – AcePL
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 7:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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