Near the beginning of Dune, Herbert makes us secret observers to the Baron Harkonnen's private council. It becomes obvious that the Baron despises Leto Atreides and wishes to destroy him utterly. To kill him, cut short his legacy and cast the very memory of the Atreides to oblivion.

But why? What is the root of his hatred? And the Atreides hate the Harkonnens in no lesser measure, so what happened?

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    It's been a while, but ignoring the new books, I seem to recall it was explained in Dune as "never forgot that an Atreides had a Harkonnen banished for cowardice after the Battle of Corrin" or something to that effect.
    – K-H-W
    Jul 18, 2015 at 4:39

1 Answer 1


This is explained in the body of the original Dune novel by Frank Herbert;

The Baron cannot forget that Leto is a cousin of the royal blood — no matter what the distance — while the Harkonnen titles came out of the CHOAM pocketbook. But the poison in him, deep in his mind, is the knowledge that an Atreides had a Harkonnen banished for cowardice after the Battle of Corrin.”
The old feud,” Yueh muttered

and in its appendix;

VLADIMIR HARKONNEN (10,110—10,193)

Commonly referred to as Baron Harkonnen, his title is officially Siridar (planetary governor) Baron. Vladimir Harkonnen is the direct-line male descendant of the Bashar Abulurd Harkonnen who was banished for cowardice after the Battle of Corrin.

If you want to read about the genesis of the feud in more detail, Frank Herbert's son co-wrote a novel called "Dune: The Battle of Corrin" which covers the events that began the feud.

A story line followed throughout the novel is the relationship between Vorian Atreides and Abulurd [Harkonnen] ...

Erasmus has placed two million captive humans in an array of cargo containers rigged to explode once the human fleet advances, called the Bridge of Hrethgir. Vorian believes that sacrificing the captive humans is a necessary loss, but Abulurd disagrees. The two argue until Vorian relieves Abulurd of his command and has him confined to quarters. In a final attempt to save the captives, Abulurd deactivates the weapons for the entire fleet, making the Corrin attack more difficult and dangerous and eventually causing much higher casualties. Unknown to either, the robot Erasmus disabled the human shield programming, saving the humans in orbit.


Following the victory, Abulurd is discharged and branded a coward by Vorian, though not branded a traitor like his grandfather Xavier, and banished from the League. After Abulurd is sentenced to exile on Lankeveil, his children hear stories about how their nobility had been stolen from them. When Abulurd dies of a fever, his sons claim it was Vorian Atreides who had brought the fever to destroy the Harkonnens. When House Harkonnen returns to the empire, their wild accusations at House Atreides are accepted as truth. Thus begins the feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen.

  • Abulurd Butler or Abulurd Harkonnen?
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 18, 2015 at 14:11
  • @orangedog - Yes, that appears to be a typo on the wiki page. Corrected here.
    – Valorum
    Jul 18, 2015 at 14:35
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    @JanusBahsJacquet - Disobeying your Commander, during a crucial battle, lowering your side's defences and potentially putting billions of people at risk to save millions? Noble, but stupid.
    – Valorum
    Jul 18, 2015 at 15:59
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    @Thomas In the book which is book 3 in the trilogy (yes I've read them) the humans have finally overthrown the computer program that took over almost all of the human worlds in the galaxy, (why they don't have computers in dune) and the last instance, or controled planet by this computer overmind (omnius) on corrin, all of these planets had human slaves on them so this omnius uses the slaves as human shields surrounding the planet from orbital bombardment. at this point 100s of billions humans have died in this war, so to finish it a measly sacrifice of some slaves who(were wired to blow)
    – Himarm
    Jul 20, 2015 at 14:17
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    is not much of an issue anymore at this point, (also the humans have at this point blockaded this planet for 100 years and Vorin Atreides finally convinced humanity to end this threat) (because if omnius escapes this whole war will start over) so its basically an all or nothing effort to finally end this war, and the threat for humanity. and as richard said abulurd disables the weapons, so they basically have to land their ships and fight a ground war instead of orbital bombardment. which ends up loosing exponentially more lives.
    – Himarm
    Jul 20, 2015 at 14:20

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