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Literature / Legends of Dune

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Exterminate!... EXTERMINATE!!!

Everything in the universe contains flaws, ourselves included. Even God does not attempt perfection in His creations. Only humankind has such foolish arrogance.
Cogitor Kwyna - Dune: The Butlerian Jihad

The Legends of Dune trilogy is a set of prequels set in the Dune universe, set during the Butlerian Jihad that was mentioned frequently in the original series, mostly in the context of a prohibition on technology. The story follows a human-machine conflict with humans as part of a 'League of Nobles' versus a sapient computer Omnius that has control of a machine empire. The Legends of Dune series is written by Frank Herbert's son Brian Herbert (Managing Partner of Herbert Properties LLC, the holder of Frank Herbert's intellectual property) and Kevin J. Anderson.

The story establishes the major families that we come to know in Frank Herbert's original Dune series, including the Atreides, Harkonnens, and Corrinos (the Butler family, which later changes its name). The events in this trilogy also setup for the author's attempt at a conclusion to the original series, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune.


The trilogy also plants the seeds regarding the great schools of the Dune universe, including sub-plots that lead to the formation of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, Spacing Guild, Suk Institute and the Order of Mentats, the great schools are the focus of a subsequent sequel trilogy Great Schools of Dune set after an eighty-year Time Skip from the Legends series.

The Legends of Dune series consists of:

  • Dune: The Butlerian Jihad (2002)
  • Dune: The Machine Crusade (2003)
  • Dune: The Battle of Corrin (2004)



The portrayal of the Butlerian Jihad in this series differs somewhat from the implied portrayal of the conflict in the original works, and from the portrayal of the Frank Herbert endorsed Dune Encyclopedia (see write-up on that page regarding canonicity), but the authors claim it is based on Frank Herbert's notes prior to his death (something not all fans believe).

The Legends of Dune trilogy contains examples of:

  • Awful Truth: The prequel timeline has the Jihad proper launched by the cold-blooded murder of Serena Butler by her trusted, supposedly personally loyal bodyguard, followed by the galaxy-wide dissemination of a faked video of Omnius torturing her to death in a cynical attempt to manipulate a rallying humanity into a war of extermination instead of a slave rebellion. She had actually attempted to bring about a ceasefire and a potential end to the war, which was the direct trigger for her betrayal.
  • The Battlestar: The Ballista-class battleships are the main warships used by the League Armada in the prequels. Besides formidable weaponry, they carry 20 troop transports, 15 shuttles, 50 patrol craft, and 200 kindjal Space Fighters. Each one also has a crew of 1500. They are later equipped with Deflector Shields and Holtzmann drives.
  • Brain in a Jar: The prequels have brain-jar villains riding around in giant war machines (just because they can), who cause the Butlerian Jihad through poor programming of their computerized inside "man" and wind up as minions/slaves themselves. Besides the Titans (giant war machines ), are the Cogitors, humans who gave up their bodies to spend millennia contemplating the mysteries of the universe. As a group they have declared themselves neutral in the war where humanity is being exterminated like rats.
  • Combat by Champion: Near the end of The Navigators of Dune, Vorian Atreides lures Valya Harkonnen to the ruins of planet Corrin in order to settle their feud once and for all. While Valya initially has no intention of fighting fairly, bringing several Sister commandos with her, the salvagers of Corrin force the other Sisters to watch on the sidelines. Valya proves to be the superior fighter and pummels Vorian, but her final death blow is stopped by Korla, the so-called Queen of Trash, who doesn't want to be involved in the death of a Jihad hero. Korla orders Vorian to flee the planet in his ship, her people holding the Sisters at gunpoint.
  • Canon Discontinuity: While Norma Cenva and Aurelius Venport are mentioned in the original novels, they are portrayed very differently in the prequels. Aurelius is described as an egotistical man in the original novels, who claimed Norma's invention as his own and demanded that she bear him five children, eventually being destroyed by his own realization that his accomplishments would never match his ego. In the prequels, Aurelius is a kind man, who cares deeply for Norma long before they begin a romantic relationship, while being her mother Zufa Cenva's lover. Eventually, Aurelius and Norma begin a relationship, and he finances her scientific work on the Holtzman field. He and Norma only have one child (although he may have produced more with Zufa), and Aurelius is killed shortly after, not by his own sense of inadequacy but as a result of a fatal misunderstanding, when he and Zufa are rescued from cymek captivity by a Titan named Hecate. Zufa assumes that Hecate is one of the evil Titans and unleashes a deadly psychic blast that kills herself, Aurelius, and Hecate. It's possible that Leto II was basing his knowledge of Norma and Aurelius on hearsay from biased sources, since there's no indication that one of his ancestors personally knew either one.
  • Cloning Body Parts: In the prequels the early Tleilaxu were known as suppliers of transplantable organs that they grew on trees. However, while they did do that it didn't provide enough organs to meet demand during the Butlerian Jihad so most of their products were a side of their slaving business.
  • Deus Est Machina: The backstory suggests humanity once created machines so advanced that life became incredibly easy and comfortable. It is implied that humans (or at least a large number of fanatics) became so abhorred by their perceived over-reliance on intelligent machines (and advanced computer technology in general) that they initiated the Butlerian Jihad, a violent purge of all Artificial Intelligence and advanced computers. When the Jihad ended, it became a crime by religious and secular law to create advanced computers (the chief commandment resulting from this war is that "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of the human mind"), with all of their functions in calculation and space travel adopted by specialized humans (who arguably become a human form of this trope). The prequel novels which detail the Butlerian Jihad as a more straightforward Robot War against oppressive ruler A.I.s did, of course, piss off the fans most mightily.
  • The Emperor: Just after the Battle of Corrin that finally ends the Butlerian Jihad, Faykan Butler (grandson of Xavier Harkonnen), who, at the time, carries the titles of Grand Patriarch and Interim Viceroy, combines both offices into Emperor, transforming the League of Nobles into Imperium. He then announces himself as Emperor Faykan Corrino I, changing his surname to commemorate the battle. Interestingly, Faykan's wife Jessica Boro-Ginjo is one of the last descendants of the fallen Emperor of the Old Empire (before the Time of Titans), meaning all of Faykan and Jessica's descendants are continuing that old line as well. Faykan's son Jules is known for supporting the creation of the highly controversial Orange Catholic Bible. Jules's oldest son Salvador turns out to be a weak and incompetent Emperor, mainly concerned with appeasing the Butlerian fanatics and increasing his own wealth and power at the expense of the Imperium. After his death caused by Josef Venport, his more competent younger brother Roderick takes the throne, however reluctantly, and proceeds to strengthen the Imperium and the authority of House Corrino. He also institutes the traditions of Royals Who Actually Do Something. It's under Roderick that the Spacing Guild is founded on the ashes of Venport Holdings.
  • Emperor Scientist: The cymek titans, who were philosopher kings and scientists, particularly ones that dealt with robotics, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Josef Venport's title isn't "Director". It's "Directeur".
  • Faking the Dead: Vorian Atreides at the end of The Navigators of Dune thanks to Valya Harkonnen's sabotage of his ship and his own timely detection of the sabotage, resulting in the ship blowing up without him in it.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: In The Great Schools of Dune trilogy, Valya Harkonnen develops a unique fighting style that combines the style she developed with her brother, the fighting style on Rossak, and the training of Ginaz Swordmasters. After becoming Mother Superior, she trains the style to the other Sisters, which eventually evolves into the prana-bindu technique millennia later. The surviving Sorceresses of Rossak even use precise telekinetic pushes to help them maneuver and stay balanced.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Achieved via the use of the Holtzman generators, folding space nearly-instantaneously to the destination. However, in order to avoid getting atomized on the way, Spacing Guild Navigators are required to envision the safe passage (since computers aren't allowed). The prequel novels show that a more conventional means of FTL travel was used before the invention of space folding, which took weeks-to-month to get from star to star. It was largely phased out after space folding became common, although it's mentioned in Sisterhood of Dune that non-critical cargo is still sent by (relatively) slow ships (i.e. using conventional FTL drives) in order to cut costs (this is before they start building the enormous Heighliners).
  • Humongous Mecha: Cymeks used large mechanical bodies with multiple limbs and devastating weaponry, with their Brain in a Jar plugging into special sockets, allowing them to control the bodies as easily as if they were their own. 80 years after the end of the Jihad, Venport Holding scientists recreate the technology and start making more cymeks using the brains of failed Navigators in order to counter the mindless hordes of the Butlerian fanatics.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Happens a few times in the prequels. Not so much in the main novels due to the Guild's monopoly on interstellar travel. Notably, Norma Cenva is able to do this even without a ship, as her powerful Psychic Powers allow her to fold space at will, unlike every other Navigator.
  • The Kingslayer: Josef Venport becomes this after his role in the assassination of Emperor Salvador is revealed.
  • Long-Lived: Vorian Atreides, the founder of what would be later known as House Atreides, and Gilbertus Albans, the first Mentat. Both of them used to work for the machines and underwent the Longevity Treatment created during the time of the Old Imperium (now forgotten), giving them potentially centuries of healthy living. The same is implied for the Cogitors and the Titans, given that their brains survive for far longer than normal human lifespan.
  • Loophole Abuse: At the end of The Navigators of Dune, Norma Cenva negotiates with Emperor Roderick Corrino and has him promise not to harm her Navigators, including anyone undergoing the metamorphosis into a Navigator. In exchange, she removes all VenHold ships from Denali, leaving her great-grandson Josef Venport nearly defenseless. However, just before Venport is taken prisoner, she appears before him and tells him that his only chance is to enter her spice tank and start the metamorphosis into a Navigator. When Roderick finds out, he is furious at being manipulated so but grudgingly learns to accept this fate for his enemy.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: After Emperor Salvador attempts to seize all spice production on Arrakis from Venport Holdings, Josef Venport lures him to the planet and invites him to inspect one of the harvesting operations, while his people lock down the controls and sabotage the Imperial barge in orbit. They then summon a sandworm that consumes the harvester and everyone inside. However, Salvador's guards manage to contact their ship and inform them about Venport's treachery before their deaths. Venport's ships try to destroy the barge, but it engages its Holtzman engines and flees. Venport hopes that the sabotage worked, resulting in the barge's destruction. Unfortunately for him, the barge survives and manages to limp back to Salusa Secundus, just as Venport is swearing an oath of loyalty to the new Emperor Roderick, revealing the truth. Venport only escapes capture, when his great-grandmother Norma Cenva uses her Mind over Matter abilities to fold space and transport them to Kolhar straight out of the throne room.
  • Mind over Matter: A percentage of women of the jungle world of Rossak have a mutated gene that grants them telekinetic abilities. During the Butlerian Jihad, they train themselves to fight cymeks by emitting powerful psychic blasts that destroy any organic brain in the vicinity, including their own. With sufficient training, Sorceresses can even levitate using their powers. An extremely-powerful Sorceress, such as Norma Cenva, is even capable of manipulating her body on a molecular level and reshape it at will and, after mutating into the first Navigator, becomes capable of folding space without a Holtzman engine. After the formation of the Sisterhood, the remaining Sorceresses become Reverend Mothers and possess Other Memory as well.
  • Moral Myopia: Manford Torondo doesn't understand why Prince Roderick blames him for the death of his daughter during one the rampages of Manford's Butlerian fanatics. After all, she was simply an accidental casualty of the mob blowing off some steam, all for the good of humanity. Manford wasn't the one who killed her, right? So what if he was the one who unleashed the mob?
  • Nothing Personal: Josef Venport's justification for assassinating Emperor Salvador Corrino, claiming it's for the good of the Imperium. He doesn't understand why the newly-crowned Emperor Roderick Corrino is so pissed off about his brother's death, claiming to want nothing more than to get back to "business as usual", even more than willing to pay a substantial financial penalty as recompense. Naturally, Roderick doesn't forgive him.
  • Nuke 'em: As the fight against the Thinking Machines grows desperate, the leaders of the Army of Humanity decide that they have no choice but to bombard machine planets with atomics, sacrificing the human slaves on those worlds, as trying to liberate them would probably cost more lives. Most machine worlds end up suffering this fate, starting with Earth (and yes, people initially react with shock to the suggestion of turning humanity's birthplace into a radioactive wasteland). After the end of the Jihad, atomics are made illegal and disposed of. Except Manford Torondo manages to obtain a cache of forgotten atomics eight decades later and uses them to lay waste to planet Kolhar, the headquarters of Venport Holdings. This is viewed as a great atrocity by the Emperor, who fears that Torondo may have more atomics lying around that he might use to threaten Salusa Secundus.
  • Prequel in the Lost Age: The novels cover the ancient history where machines ruled the galaxy. Not much is revealed from before that, however.
  • Really Gets Around: Vorian Atreides in the prequels. Of course, living for centuries gets lonely. After his first wife's (natural) death, he goes to track down any other descendants he may have from many encounters over the decades. Apparently, he has never heard of contraceptives or just doesn't care. Later on, he re-marries and has another family. After his second wife's death (not natural), he is once again free to do whatever (and whomever) he wants.
  • Robot War: The "Butlerian Jihad," which is referenced in the very first book but wasn't fleshed out in any detail, until this series. Led to a core tenet of civilization: "thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind"— by which we mean, No Computers Allowed. Various schools of mental training, such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit, were founded to produce humans who can do what Pentiums did (and eventually went far beyond that).
  • Shout-Out: Butlerian fanatics bring down a Humongous Mecha by using steel cables to trip the legs in a clear parallel of the second Star Wars film.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Averted initially with Valya Harkonnen, after she becomes Mother Superior. An exercise involves the sisters trying to safely get down a steep rocky slope. Valya makes sure that surviving Sorceresses of Rossak are on hand to catch any sister that slips and falls. Then one of the trainees demands that this safety net be removed, as she needs realistic conditions in order to succeed. It works, and the rest of the sisters demand this as well. While some end up bruised and hurt, all of them survive that day.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: After murdering Orry Atreides on their wedding night, Tula Harkonnen eventually ends up facing Orry's brother Willem, who is driven by the desire to avenge his brother, who hadn't done anything but bear the name "Atiredes" and genuinely loved Tula. As it turned out, Tula herself had grown to like Orry during their courtship and ended up consummating their marriage before slitting his throat. Just as Willem is about to shoot her, Tula reveals that she's pregnant with Orry's child. Willem is unable to bring himself to harm his brother's child. Tula's sister Valya is sickened by Tula carrying an Atreides child.
  • Super Prototype: Norma Cenva to every subsequent Navigator. However, this has less to do with her being first and more to do with her being a Sorceress of Rossak. Her prescience is greater than any other Navigator's, and she is able to fold space without a Holtzman engine.
  • invoked Technology Marches On: While Ballista-class battleships were the top-of-the-line human warships during the Jihad, 80 years later, they're largely obsolete. The modern Imperial fleet has powerful destroyers and fighters, although none of those are FTL-capable, as it's simpler to employ the services of a foldspace transportation company. Also, Venhold warships are even more advanced than Imperial ones and use technology that could be branded as illegal. During a space battle between several dozen Venhold warships and nearly 200 Ballistae operated by Butlerian fanatics, over half of the obsolete ships are wiped out by the far more advanced Venhold ships despite being outnumbered.
  • Tele-Frag: Traveling faster-than-light with a Holtzmann engine requires either extremely precise calculations of the kind that only forbidden computers can do or the use of a prescient Navigator, the secret of whose manufacture is kept by Venport Holdings, the only transportation company that provides safe foldspace FTL travel. As an example, a sizable portion of the Imperial forces is wiped out, when they use an EsconTran carrier to jump to Kolhar to punish Josef Venport for assassinating Emperor Salvador, only for the carrier to come out of the jump in the star's corona, vaporizing instantly.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Norma Cenva, a small, misshapen daughter of Zufa Cenva, the leader of the Sorceresses of Rossak, is thought to have inherited no Psychic Powers of her own, but has genius-level intelligence. At one point, she is kidnapped by the cymeks and subjected to torture. The torture awakens her latent (and quite considerable) powers, and she emits a deadly telekinetic blast that kills any cymek in the vicinity and disintegrates her own body. However, with her new-found powers, her consciousness survives, and she gains access to her ancestral memory. She then reconstructs her body molecule-by-molecule based on the template of her female ancestors and returns as the most powerful Sorceress in existence.

Alternative Title(s): Great Schools Of Dune, Dune The Butlerian Jihad, Dune The Battle Of Corrin, Dune The Machine Crusade


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