When Emperor Shaddam ordered the Harkonnens leave Arrakis and the Atreides to replace them, did he give an 'official' reason for doing so? By official, I mean a reason that would satisfy people so they would not suspect it's a setup to rid him of a potential political rival.

I seem to recall hearing somewhere Shaddam accused the Harkonnens of shoddy mining practices and failing to meet the quotas set out for them, but I can't remember where.

3 Answers 3


Officially, the Emperor is honouring Atreides

The house Atreides was gaining popularity in the Landsraad (a form of parliament made of the Great Houses), to the point that Leto was sort-of considered as a successor for the Emperor (especially since he was related to Shaddam) And with popularity comes to influence, so it is no surprise that the Emperor is trying to bribe Atreides vote by giving them such important position.

So officially, Emperor is taking the fiefdom from the disgraced House Harkonnen and giving the rightful recognition to the noble House Atreides. Unofficially (but visibly to everyone), he is buying more power for himself.


As far as I can tell, on the books it’s never explicitly stated what the official reason for the assignment of Arakis to the Atreides is. There are some remarks on the CHOAM being the one that assigns it to the Atreides which, in turn, is stated to be “controlled on the 56.7% by the Emperor” (or close to that effect)

It is generally implied although never explicitly stated that the Leto is a reference among a lot of the Houses that expect benefits from the CHOAM which derives a big part of those benefits from the spice.

This is later on explicitly confirmed on the latest Dune 2021 movie on the fact that the Emperor was official taking the control away from the Harkonen due to the insufficient performance of the mining (hence reduced benefits to the CHOAM). This this assignment was a reward for Leto and a punishment for the Harkonen.

This seems to be rooted on the hints on the books and, while never explicitly stated, it makes sense so I tend to take it as the official cause. Obviously the REAL motive is to get rid of Leto as he was becoming too popular.


The fief of Arrakis passes around the Great Houses every once in a while. The Harkonnens had it, I think, for eighty years. However, at least the pretense of the Harkonnens not being able to meet their spice quotas was used as an excuse.

Outside of the plot between the Emperor and the Harkonnens, I recall no reason or excuse for it being given to the Atreides in particular though.

EDIT - just recently read Dune - Heir Of Caladan. Set immediately before the events of Dune, this seems to add extra information, but also goes against (it seems) what is established in Frank Herbert's lore.

In it, Duke Leto infiltrates a terrorist cel which threatens the entire Imperium. He seeks to stop it from within, and dispatches his aide Gurney Halleck to the Imperial Court in order to tell the Emperor about his plans without arousing suspicion. The Harkonnens, however, capture Gurney in transit, discover the message, and withhold it from the Emperor.

Upon finding out about this, and that the Harkonnens also skimmed some of the spice to sell privately, the Emperor gives the Harkonnens a very public dressing down, stripping them of the fief of Arrakis while granting it to Duke Leto as a reward. However, he does note that the Atreides have risen in popularity, especially after Duke Leto risked his life to bring down the terrorists, and that this is a concern, concluding that he can "play the Atreides and Harkonnens against each other".

However, this happens seemingly mere days before the events of Dune, giving little time to set anything up, and the Emperor truly does seem to display hatred towards the Harkonnens - hardly conducive to jumping into bed with them.

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