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Literature / Children of Dune

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"I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid. I don't find it strange that all you want to believe is only that which comforts you. How else do humans invent the traps which betray us into mediocrity? How else do we define cowardice?"
The Preacher

Children of Dune is the third book in the original six-part Dune saga, written by Frank Herbert and published in 1976. Children of Dune was the first hard-cover science fiction best-seller and was nominated for a Hugo Award.

Children of Dune spawned its own Sci-Fi Channel miniseries adaptation Frank Herbert's Children of Dune which also covers the events of the previous book Dune Messiah.

Children of Dune skips ahead from Dune Messiah and follows what has happened to the Atreides Imperium after Paul Muad'Dib walked off into the desert. Paul's sister Alia rules as Regent in the name of Paul's son Leto II, however her increasing paranoia leads her to continue to consume more and more Spice, exposing her as a pre-born to increased risk of possession and "abomination". Alia pressures the similarly pre-born Leto II and his sister Ghanima to do the same in order to use oracular vision to suss out threats to their empire.

The Lady Jessica and Gurney Halleck also return to Arrakis to assess the condition of her daughter and grandchildren. Meanwhile, a plot is emerging on Selusa Secundas, where the remaining House of Corrino plans a move against the Atreides twins in a scheme to re-take the throne. A mysterious preacher has also emerged to challenge the religious message of Alia's priesthood and her rule.

Will Leto II and Ghanima be able to inherit the future from their lost father and ailing aunt?

Children of Dune contains examples of:

  • A God I Am Not: As "the Preacher", Paul actively works to destroy his own godhead. Also a case of Unwanted False Faith.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Paul dies Leto has his water drained and placed in a jar by his right elbow on the throne. According to Leto, the memory of Paul within him actually finds it quite humorous.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Alia's sanity degradation is something that Leto and Ghanima sympathize with and struggle to overcome. She ultimately becomes a pawn of the Baron and kills herself to prevent him from winning. At the end of the book Leto and Ghanima are able to conquer their condition and control their inner lives and Jessica dismays that Alia could have been saved too if they'd actually reached out before it became too late.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Many characters wonder if the Preacher is Paul and further, how did he survive his walk into the desert? A number of people believe he's Paul back from the dead while others wonder if Paul speaks through this desert Fremen. When seeing his face, Alia can't quite tell if it's Paul because of how the desert living has aged him. The Preacher confides to Alia that he is indeed Paul, and later tells Leto this as well. When he walked into the desert at the end of Dune Messiah, the Cast Out of Jacurutu were lying in wait and took him in, hoping to use his visions for their own ends. Paul consented to it in order to find a way to help prevent the future he envisioned.
    • Who is exactly Harum, the ancient king of Earth whose conscience Leto is instrumentalizing? The first thought that comes to mind given all the Islamic tones is Harun al-Rashid, but Leto goes to explain that Harum was revered as a god and fathered a dynasty that lasted 3,000 years, which has no equivalent in known history, unless it redirects to some Conan-esque prehistoric civilization known history doesn't remember anymore. Ultimately, nothing is clarified.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Alia’s continuation of Paul’s jihad.
  • Ancient Astronauts: A variant in that humans themselves fill this role, with the Bene Gesserit purposely spreading myths based on heroic and religious archetypes throughout fledgling colonies to make use of the people there later.
  • Animal Assassin: A daughter of the deposed Emperor develops a plot to assassinate Paul's children Leto II and Ghanima with conditioned Laza Tigers.
  • Anti-Villain: Farad'n Corrino is built up as the villain. The ending reveals that he becomes a trusted companion of Leto II, and that he is the one whose quotes have been peppered throughout the novel.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Leto II uses this on Stilgar to make him realize the true depths of decadence the Fremen have fallen to as a result of achieving their vision of Paradise. The narrative illustrates this beautifully by treating readers to Stilgar's internal monologue while musing on the reasons Leto chose to phrase it like that.
    Leto: "Have you noticed, Stil, how beautiful the young women are this year?"
  • Artistic License – History: A chapter showcases the quote, "When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom fecause that is according to my principles." The in-universe quotation has Harq al-Ada echoing real life pop culture by attributing it to 19th century French writer Louis Veuillot, but this is wrong. In reality, Veuillot was accused of criticizing liberalism with this quote, but he denied having ever uttered it, and the whole thing seems to have been made up by his political opponent Charles de Montalembert. The quote comes rather from Thomas Babington Macaulay, who phrased it as, "when you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me, for it is your duty to tolerate truth; but when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you, for it is my duty to persecute error."
  • Badass Boast: As the "Desert Demon," Leto gives one to the cast out.
    In a demon-voice he'd roared at them: "Fire will not touch me! Your knives will not harm me! I wear the skin of Shai-Hulud!"
  • Because Destiny Says So: Paul and Leto II's battle of visions. Paul locked himself into a terrible path, which necessitated Leto II taking a worse one with even more personal sacrifice.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Played With. The story starts with Alia and Wensicia Corrino as the main antagonists each a danger to the twins and a threat to each other. Alia continues the Jihad and exerts more power onto the empire whilst Wensicia wants to depose her and place her son on the throne. Halfway through the story, Wensicia's son Farad'n is informed of her schemes, and when he takes over the family he banishes her for all the child death she caused. Farad'n's leadership of the house is much less aggressive and they fall from their position as central antagonists while Alia is revealed to be possessed by the Old Baron whose villainy drives the plot.
  • Blessed with Suck: Alia has access to the genetic memory of all her ancestors. Unfortunately, this includes her grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Children of Dune, while treating incest as a theme, does not create such feelings Leto II and his sister Ghanima. Ghanima says "I will not bear your children, brother," to which Leto replies, "I love you, my sister, but that is not the way my thought tends." They do end up marrying each other, but it is nonsexual and actually meant to invoke pharaonic-archetypes of ancient Egypt.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Leto II and Ghanima are twins, as well as pre-born. This makes them the only people capable of mutually understanding each other in the entire universe. Paul and Alia to a lesser degree.
  • Bus Crash: It is revealed that the former Emperor, Shaddam Corrino IV, died in exile somewhere between book 2 and 3.
  • Call-Back: After the plan at Sietch Jacurutu goes belly up, Gurney leaves for Sietch Tuek. It's noted that the Sietch was named for the smuggler, Esmar Tuek, who died in book 1. Gurney laments how much of the old culture that Tuek was a part of has slowly faded away.
  • Came Back Strong: Leto II after his spice trial at Shuloch.
  • Casual High Drop: Leto II demonstrates his new post-transformation abilities by leaping off a cliff and into a canal.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Alia cannot bear their weight.
  • Character Tics: The Baron apparently tapped his fingers during anxiety or boredom, as shown in Children of Dune when Alia becomes possessed with her ego-memories of him.
  • Creepy Twins: Leto II and Ghanima, though they come off that way more to the reader who can watch in on their "games."
  • The Creon: The Bene Gesserit play this trope on an organizational scale. They do not believe that assuming direct control of the empire will be beneficial to them, and instead conduct extremely elaborate (millennia-spanning) schemes to remain advisors to the emperor while controlling the empire only from the shadows.
  • Culture Chop Suey: A classic example. Millennia of galactic colonization have created completely new unrecognizable ethnicities and modified versions of current Earth religions.
  • Darwinist Desire: the Bene Gesserit actually have Darwinist Desire Matchmaking. They've been secretly manipulating the marriages of all the members of the noble houses to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, a being capable of omniscience.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Paul named both of his Leto II after his father, but the first died years before the second came along.
  • Death Faked for You: Leto II’s gambit, which involves hypnotizing Ghanima so even she thinks he’s dead.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For The Chosen One, the Messianic Archetype, and hero tropes in general.
  • Depraved Homosexual In exchange for his "advice" the Baron is allowed to fully possess Alia during sexual encounters, he then constantly pushes her to take new lovers in what amounts to a psychic Bed Trick.
  • Dirty Old Man:Baron Harkonnen is back and horny as ever. A not-insignificant portion of his time is spent vicariously experiencing pleasure from his granddaughter having sex with other men. When Alia meets with Buer Agarves, they see Buer through two eyes one that sees him as he is and one that sees an eroticized version tinged with lust.
  • Dying as Yourself: When Leto demands that Alia take a Trial of Possession, it seems that Baron Harkonnen has completely taken over. However Alia forces her will through his control and commits suicide by jumping from her tower. Her last act to destroy the Old Baron.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: Paul and later Leto II can see possible futures and must choose the best one to carry out.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: The Bene Gesserit stress emotional control at all times as both proof of humanity and a basic survival tool with the Litany Against Fear. Unlike Vulcans, they're more than happy to use emotion as a tool to manipulate others — their emphasis is control, not denial
  • The Emperor: Alia as Regent, ruling in the twins' name until they're old enough to take over the job.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The voices of within her Genetic Memory have different tones, but Alia notes Baron Haroknnen's basso voice is the loudest amongst them.
  • Face Your Fears: The Litany against fear promotes doing this whenever possible.
  • Fake Memories: Ghanima creates false memories to convince herself that Leto had died as part of a prophetic plan.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: At the finale of Children of Dune, Leto II fights his way through Alia's elite guards before smashing down the door to her chambers, his extreme strength (due to sandworm-based enhancements) allowing him to basically sweep them aside. Since he was dragging his sister along during all of this, it means his Foe-Tossing Charge was one-handed!
  • Formerly Fit: Alia was shown to be a very adept fighter and athlete in her youth. However, the stress of leadership coupled with her lack of fieldwork has caused her to gain weight. It also serves as another sign of the Baron's presence in her mind.
  • Galactic Superpower: The Empire that reigned from the Butlerian Jihad to Leto II's planned Scattering.
  • Good Stepmother: Irulan is for all intents and purposes Leto and Ghanima's stepmother, being married to their biological father, Paul Atreides, and loves them as if they are her own children.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: The reason for Alia's increasing instability? She's fallen under the sway of her grandfather and the first book's villain, Baron Harkonnen.
  • History Repeats: Once again, one of the heirs of House Atreides eventually winds up in a loveless union with an avid writer from the Corrino family who grows up to the primary chronicler of their reign, taking up writing to fill the lonely hours of their life. "Harq al-Ada" is revealed to be an adult Farad'n, who's obligated to become Ghanima's concubine as a peace settlement with the Corrinos—effectively filling the same role as Princess Irulan in the original novel.
  • Improvised Weapon: Shields are never used on Arrakis as their frequencies attract worms. Assan Tariq uses a pseudo-shield as a means of offense rather than defense, planting it in hopes it will draw a worm to attack.
  • Kissing Cousins: The Baron has Alia conduct an affair with her distant cousin Buer Agarves. Alia being Stilgar's grand-niece and Buer being the grandson of Stilgar's cousin.
  • Leave No Witnesses: With the Laza tiger plan put into motion, Wensicia Corrino employs this along with You Have Outlived Your Usefulness in order to keep the plot secret. She has the tigers turn on the Levenbrech and kill him and then orders Tyekanik to kill the transporter after he delivers the animals. Tyekanik sardonically offers to do it to himself as well but Wensicia replies that the fact that he probably would kill himself if ordered is why he is kept around.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: A twofer, actually. Baron Harkonnen is father to Jessica and grandfather to Paul. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun in Children of Dune, when his genetic memory-self possesses Alia.
  • Meaningful Name: Ghanima, Leto II's twin sister. Her name means "spoils of war," because despite his seeing-the-future-vision, he'd never realized his wife was having twins. "Ghanima" also comes with added connotations of an object that is no longer being used for its real purpose — or for any meaningful purpose at all, in fact.
  • Memory Gambit: Ghanima hypnotizes herself to believe she witnessed her brother being assassinated by Laza tigers, when in actuality he had escaped.
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: At the climactic duel, Leto catches Alia's foot during her toe-pointing kick, after which he swings her easily around his head. However, he doesn't complete the trope move, rather letting her fall in a heap.
  • Mirroring Factions: Further comparisons between the Sardaukar and Fremen are brought up in this book with the Sardaukar taking a more active role since Dune Messiah. The current Sardaukar commander, Tyekanik, becomes quite interested in Fremen religion when ordered to study it and when he and Stilgar meet at the end of the book it's noted that a silent understanding passes between them.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: With the setting being what it is, murder is often touted as a good way to deal with anything. Stilgar wanted Farad'n assassinated before the book's events to snuff out a potential threat to their rule, Baron Harkonnen encourages killing Javid because he's gained too much influence, and the various schemes in the book incorporate a killing of Alia or Jessica as a means to gain power.
  • Older Than He Looks: The Preacher is supposed to be Paul's age but looks like an elderly Fremen. Gurney acknowledges how much the desert life has weathered the Preacher's skin, making him look even older than Gurney himself (Gurney being an older man at this point in his life). The Preacher actually is Paul.
  • Old Retainer: Gurney Halleck now serves the Lady Jessica.
  • One-Man Army: Leto II, after he merges with the Sandtrout, encasing himself in a second skin made of the creatures. The end result makes him incredibly strong, agile, and durable; able to leap distances and decapitate people with ease. He leads a one-man attack on the various Qanat's and single-handedly cripples the terraforming of Arrakis.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: A Bene Gesserit's "ancestral egos" can become troublesome. Alia finds this out the hard way.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: When she orders Paymon executed, Alia is racked with guilt as she acted hastily and not confirmed if his insults against her were true. Baron Harkonnen disagrees, saying that Paymon was a dangerous individual to have in her employ and that her decision helped maintain order in their society.
  • Regent for Life: Alia (she didn't start out that way, but shit happened).
  • Seize Them!: When Leto knocks the door to Alia's room off its hinges and enters her presence along with his sister Ghanima, Alia shouts at her guards to "Seize them!" Leto picks up the half-tonne door he just came through and throws it at the guards.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Alia gets taken over by the memory-construct of her dead grandfather Baron Harkonnen. It doesn't end well.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Many deaths have build-up or a fight based around them, but Javid's stands out. After Duncan and Stilgar have a conversation about what to do with the state of the empire, Javid walks in and Duncan stands up to leave before fatally stabbing him in the chest.
  • Tracking Device: When Alia sends Buer Agarves on a diplomatic mission to Stilgar, she conceals a homing signal in the new boots she gives him so her forces can follow him and capture Stilgar.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "An adult beefswelling" is used as a rather... unfortunate euphemism for "erection".
  • Voice of the Legion: The billions of ego memories within genetic memory-awakened individuals can appear like this, especially to the pre-born.
  • The War to End All Wars: Kralizec; in the oldest Fremen beliefs it is the Typhoon Struggle, the war at the end of the universe.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Leto has a moment when he tears into his grandmother over her letting the situation on Dune get out of hand.
    "I do not plan the unthinkable. I am not stupid. But I am shocked at you. You dare judge Alia. of course she's broken the precious Benne Gesserit commandment! What did you expect? You ran out on her, left her as queen here in all but name. All that power! So you ran back to Caladan to nurse your wounds in Gurney's arms. Good enough. But who are you to judge Alia?"
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: The pre-born, due to awakened genetic memory in the womb, never develop a personality of their own and are entirely intelligent even before birth.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Wensicia Corrino plots to kill the Atreides twins and as such has a pair of Laza tigers trained and conditioned for the job. Said tigers have been conditioned using twin children brought from off-world made to look like Leto II and Ghanima and then having the tigers sicced on them.