Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Children of Dune, Part Three

This week we’ve got to talk about what it’s like to remembering being your own dad. And also what it’s like to know that your wife is possessed. And also what it means to know the majority of human history as though you lived through all of it.

Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.

Summary (through “This is the fallacy of power…”)

The Preacher walks near the temple and Alia observes him, trying to discern if he is truly her brother. She wants him caught and brought before her, but as soon as she made mention the rumors started in earnest. There was a council meeting where they had to decide whether or not to accept the gift of clothing from House Corrino, and in the back and forth, Irulan shouted that they had “lost the ability to think well of ourselves.” That they have too much difficulty making decisions now. Alia thinks that Irulan will have to be killed. The Preacher begins speaking and has messages for Alia, Stilgar, Irulan, and Duncan; his message for Irulan advises her to flee, making Alia wonder how he could know the decision she had only just made. The Preacher then insists that those who adhere to the religion of Muad’Dib will pay for it, and he leaves. Alia can see that all the seeds are being sown for a collapse of Atreides power; a leader, a population that perceives how they are mistreated, believe that they might escape this. She decides that she must enact the baron’s plan to kidnap her mother and discredit House Corrino. She will also have the Preacher followed and watched for sign of weakness, so that she may discredit him.

Leto takes Stilgar out during the day to ask him questions regarding his personal dilemmas. He wonders again if he should take spice and gain prescience, though he knows this destroyed his father. He tells Stil that the place on which they stand is a place where he might die; he sees three possible futures, and in one of them he must kill his grandmother to somehow keep them from losing the spice monopoly. In another he and Ghanima are married for the sake of the Atreides bloodline. The final future requires him to “undeify” his father. He tells Stilgar to beware of Alia and that they need better people governing the Imperium. Stilgar notes that Leto will be able to do this when he comes of age, to which Leto points out that he is far older than Stilgar himself, remembering centuries of ancestry. He points to the problem of potential leadership; rulers use the past and traditions of their people to guide them, but Leto remembers too much, is too bound up in the past. He talks of the sloppiness of current stillsuit manufacture, how many have taken to using pills that reduce water loss as a result.

Leto tells Stilgar that the ruling from the past cannot hold true so long as circumstances continue to change. He recalls a conversation that Stil had with his father as though the conversation had occurred between them. He tells Stilgar that if he sees Leto’s blood on the rocks, he must leave Sietch Tabr and take Ghanima with him. He recalls Gurney telling Paul that Duke Leto would have been most concerned with the men he could not save, and charges Stil to do that, especially for Ghanima’s sake, as she will be the only hope left for the Atreides. Stilgar refuses to hear more, so Leto follows him back inside and makes smalltalk about beautiful young women. This disturbs Stilgar more than anything of their conversation as he is forced to think of how and why the young Fremen are beautiful, no longer water-starved and always bound by stillsuits. He remembers things that Paul said and knows that the young Fremen must see the changes coming and so will be able to meet them. Leto points out that tradition was not the guide he assumed it to be.

Alia is trying to convince Duncan to go along with her plan of kidnapping Jessica, though he is proving difficult to sway. As they speak. Duncan realizes that something in Alia has changed, and finally recognizes that she has been possessed. He points out that it would be easier to kill Jessica and sees that the idea pleases Alia before she can school her reaction. She has her argument broken down in a very convincing manner, but Duncan can tell that she is lying. He insists on not telling Alia where he will take her mother (saying that she’ll be safe before a Truthsayer that way), and makes her think that he intends to kill Jessica. As he leaves her, he cries.

Stilgar has increased the guard around the twins, taking Leto’s words to heart and knowing that something is wrong with Alia. He has learned much about the twins from this conversation, and even begins to align with their point of view. Jessica is talking to Ghanima, and they discuss Leto and how he tries to learn about their father by talking to people who knew him well. Ghanima points out that Jessica is bothered because they know intimate details of Paul and Chani’s life as well as Jessica and Duke Leto’s. Jessica realizes that by bringing up these details they are trying to teach her about the world from their perspective and she wonders who else they are teaching.

Alia is furious over the fact that the tribes are demanding Lady Jessica be reinstated to the council. She has called Duncan from his place with Jessica to have he and Irulan help her work out what is going on politically throughout the Imperium. they know they must keep a careful watch on the Great Houses and the next Landsraad, and Alia wonders if they don’t mean to assassinate her, but Duncan is certain that it’s the twins who are in danger. Alia and Irulan actually work out the means of assassination, knowing that it will have to be done with animals. Duncan knows that Alia is completely lost to the possession now and worries for the twins, but he’s reticent to tell Jessica, unsure as to whether she is truly working for the Sisterhood.

Jessica is called to meet with Alia, which confuses her. She talks with Javid, who wants to discuss the Preacher with her. Jessica deems him a healthy sign and thinks he should be left alone. David insists that he cannot be her son and that Jessica should denounce him—she realizes that this is Alia’s play. She refuses and dismisses Javid, knowing the rumors about he and Alia are true, and wondering if her daughter has willingly participated in Abomination. Alia finally sees her, and Jessica recalls that Duncan sent her a note that they must meet soon. She plans to see him when she goes back to Tabr.

Commentary

We get a little bit of Irulan throughout this section, and the things that she says are always interesting. For one, her point that “we’ve lost the ability to think well of ourselves” is a fascinating glimpse at how power is maintained among those who rule. Irulan concludes that without believing that what they do is right, they are weakened, and she’s not wrong in that. When Paul acted, he believed that what he did had to be done, and that at least allowed him to act surely. All that we see among Alia’s court is confusion about how to proceed and doubt that they are performing correctly.

There’s a point in the section with Stilgar and Leto where a place called “Mount Idaho” is brought up, which must be a place that was named or renamed for Duncan himself. It made me wonder about ceremonial namings and how quickly they take hold. Obviously it is more likely to rename something after someone on their death, which is probably what Paul did once he took over. But now Duncan is basically alive again, making this memorial piece of landscape an interesting focal point that clearly illustrates just how deeply the Atreides presence has changed Arrakis.

We get some very interesting turns of thought from young Leto when taking his extremely long view of history. He thinks of the Fremen as “half-tamed savages,” and while they have certain cultural practices that are deeply upsetting (such as leaving the blind to the desert), calling them savages seems wrong. On the other hand, I’m forced to wonder if practically everyone doesn’t seem like a savage to Leto, with his broad view of history that looks back on countless generations of slaughter and expansion. The long arc of the universe must be a disturbing thing to have measure of. There is that opening section that talks of the idea that a species has a very short memory overall—but the Kwisatz Haderach cannot forget the past, and that is in part what we are seeing here as well.

This even plays into Stilgar’s observations about the Fremen, about how the younger ones are water-fat and no longer wear their stillsuits by default. People do forget how quickly things change, and once they have changed, people are often quick to forget how it used to be. Even from casual observation of our own time, this is painfully obvious. I grew up as the internet was quickly becoming more of a given in day to day life, and the generation behind me will never know a world without that constant communication. It is easy to forget that I didn’t have a cell phone as small child, easy to forget that there was a point in my life where I knew people with full encyclopedia sets that are now largely defunct. It is easy to forget that rock music isn’t even a century old. It is easy to forget that women from the century previous generally never wore trousers.

But the Kwisatz Haderach remembers all these things all the time. And so do his pre-born children.

I am pleased with the distinction that even though Leto can remember his father precisely from knowing his experiences, he prefers to learn about him from people who knew him. It’s a sharp dissection of how a person exists in their own mind and the minds of others, and also a very deep philosophical question when you get right down to it; you know yourself and what you think and believe, but to anyone else, your motives cannot be known in the same way. And what another person perceives of you is their own truth. This is the angle that Leto is attempting to learn his father from, the parts that others perceived of Paul that he could not known himself.

Duncan’s gradual acceptance of Alia’s fall is more affecting that I had recalled it being on a reread. He is a mentat, but he still has emotions and he is cognizant that he has lost the woman he loves. But when we’re out of Alia’s head, I am constantly wondering how much of her questioning and probing is coming from the baron and how much is her own. Duncan has points where he believes that he can se the person possessing Alia essentially peeking out form her eyes, which always makes me think that a great deal of the paranoia and the constant probing are coming from him and then absorbed by Alia. It’s a deeply ugly situation.

Emily Asher-Perrin really does feel bad for Duncan, though. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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