At the beginning of book 1 of Dune, the Duke Leto is appointed by the Emperor as a fief ruler for the planet of Arrakis. We learn that this is really a trap, and the Emperor is conspiring with Baron Harkonnen - the current fief ruler - to eliminate House Atreides once on Arrakis. We also learn that Leto knows this, or at least that he strongly suspects it.

So why does he accept? Couldn't he have said "Thanks, but no thanks, I'm good here on Caladan."?

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    Along with what the others have pointed out you have to remember that Arrakis itself was enormously valuable. If Leto managed to circumvent the trap they would gain insane wealth and influence. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 18:10
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    One does not look a gift horse in the mouth. Not when it is given to you by your master, the Emperor of All Space. And there is a tag around its neck that says "or else". And the horse you are currently sitting on (Caladan) has a tag that says "this, too, belongs to the Emperor. It's only yours to rule, not own". Atreides has no option but to obey.
    – PcMan
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


In brief, Leto has received a legitimate order from his Emperor. For all that he suspects that this is a trap, he has no good excuse to refuse and his only other option is to declare his House 'renegade' and to go into exile. Simply remaining on Caladan would put him into direct opposition with the Imperium and, presumably, subject to arrest.

A grin flashed across Piter’s face. It was like a mask grimace beneath those eyes like holes. ”But, Baron! Never has revenge been more beautiful. It is to see a plan of the most exquisite treachery: to make Leto exchange Caladan for Dune — and without alternative because the Emperor orders it. How waggish of you!“


“There are several tangential possibilities,” Piter said. “I indicate that House Atreides will go to Arrakis. We must not, however, ignore the possibility the Duke has contracted with the Guild to remove him to a place of safety outside the System. Others in like circumstances have become renegade Houses, taking family atomics and shields and fleeing beyond the Imperium.”

As has also been pointed out, by taking Arrakis, House Atreiedes massively increases its wealth and influence. Duke Leto severely underestimates the attack that will be coming, anticipating that it will be largely based on sabotaging their spice production. If they can prevent this, then he'll be sitting pretty.

In the face of Fremen attacks, the Harkonnen were able to extract "ten billion Solaris out of [t]here every three hundred and thirty Standard days". Duke Leto is anticipating that with the friendship of the locals he can exceed that. Quite the prize.

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    @ARogueAnt. - It's like the military. You either follow the orders you're given or you go to jail. You don't get to debate which ones you do and don't like.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 17:36
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    Heh. I have that exact quote in my paste buffer, I'm just too slow. :) Have a vote; this is obviously the exact reason.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 17:38
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    I was the first to vote for the record. I need a paste buffer. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 17:40
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    @user2723984 - I believe you meant ninth.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 18:37
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    @popctrl - I think you're wrong. Leto did accept a reasonable element of risk in moving to Arrakis (and knowingly exposed him son to danger), but the attack was of an unprecedented size. The Harkonnen basically bankrupted themselves launching it, and then added the Emperor's crack troops on top of that.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 17:45

His only alternative would have been to have gone renegade, moving the whole familly beyond the reach of the Imperium.

Leto suspects a trap, yes, but he doesn't know or suspect its true magnitude. House Harkonnen, an enemy of House Atreides, is expected to have left booby-traps, and to attempt to infiltrate the house-guard and generally mess with spice production operations, but he thinks that he can turn the situation around to the advantage of house Atreides.

The agreement between the Landsraad and the Imperium prohibited the emperor acting against any individual house openly, and Leto trusted that no Emperor would be so bold as to risk censure by the other great houses by acting this way.

Leto only discovers the true monstrousness of the conspiracy between the Emperor and the Baron when the House-shield has already been taken down and it's observed that some of the attacking troops, men in Harkonnen livery - were imperial Sardaukar in disguise.

That's also an explanation for why the Emperor's troops were disguised, so as to attempt to hide the Emperor's hand in the matter, and why Paul proposed to bring a "Bill of Particulars" before the Laandsrad High council, to show the Emperor's hidden guilt.

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