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The Dune Houses Explained- What Do The Harkonnens Want?

The epic sci-fi saga written by Frank Herbert and continued by his oldest son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson is the story of political intrigue, enormous egos, romance, rebellion, and loyalty to family. It is also the most vivid take on big oil and unchecked Capitalism. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part 1 out now in theaters and on HBO Max is one of the most visually stunning spectacles in cinematic history. While the pacing could have been less plodding, the central villains and protagonists are thematic gold. Here’s everything you need to know about Dune’s Family Houses.

It is worth mentioning that although the Bene Gesserit are not a ruling house, the powerful organization of women spies has almost as much control. Their purpose is to use genetic experimentation, religion, and behind-the-scenes political intrigue to create their savior, the Kwisatz Haderach, and usher in an enlightened age of humanity.

House Atreides

The Atreides are of Greek descent on Earth and claim to be direct descendants of King Agamemnon, a son of Atreus, in Greek mythology. Paul, Lady Rebecca, and Duke Leto make up the royal family of House Atreides. They are fair rulers who are well-liked and respected throughout the Known Universe. Their home planet is Caladan which stands in stark contrast to Geidi Prime. Caladan is lush and offers opportunities for its citizens.

The Atreides governed using a form of government that relied on spiritual and practical happiness. Despite their commitment to fair rule, they maintained an effective army of their own that included Swordmasters, Warmasters, and Mentats. Mentats were the human equivalent of computers which were banned. House Atreides’ commitment, along with the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild, is in part what allows Leto II to become the God Emperor much later in the saga.

Paul’s importance to the greater story is followed very closely by the Bene Gesserit. Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, has been training him secretly. Although the Bene Gesserit knows he is important, neither the Sisterhood nor the other two houses foresaw just how influential Paul would be in the Freman rebellion, which eventually reclaimed Arrakis and took down House Corrino and House Harkonnen.

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House Corrino

They currently rule the Imperium and have what is considered the largest and most deadly army of any of the houses, the Sardaukar. This is the military force that the Harkonnen’s wield to take back Arrakis and kill Duke Leto. Although he seldom got their hands dirty, they weren’t above lending out their forces to whichever house they were backing at the time to maintain their absolute control. Through this often deceitful practice, they have had a stranglehold on the Golden Iron Throne and a more significant majority of the Landsraad Council than any other house.

After years of rule complacency and poor decision-making coupled with the backroom scheming of the Bene Gesserit, they had begun to lose respect while House Atreides star was rising. This is why the Emperor made a deal with House Harkonnen and arranged for the highly illegal attack on the planet that almost killed all of House Atreides. Luckily, Paul’s ability to command The Voice was unknown. He and Lady Jessica escaped into the desert, where Duncan Idaho’s fighting prowess and sacrifice allowed them to flee again, where they met the Fremen.

Although the plan initially looks successful, it is the catalyst for the eventual fall of the house. The rebellion led by the mysterious Muad’Dib, who is, of course, Paul, completely catches House Harkonnen and House Corrino off guard. As we know, whoever controls the spice controls everything. Once House Atreides ascends to the Imperium throne, the remaining Corrino’s are exiled, and Paul eventually marries Princess Irulan Corrino in a move that legitimizes Atreides’ rule.

House Harkonnen

They are the worst. Sting and Paul L. Smith first portrayed them, and in Villeneuve’s version Stellan Skarsgård and Dave Bautista takes up the roles. They ruled during the time of the Padishah Emperors. They originated from Finland and rose from a Minor House where they cornered the whale fur market and established themselves as ruthless and cunning businessmen. Their central tenants revolve around fear and intimidation to push productions while slashing costs. They amassed a massive stockpile of cash and a fearsome reputation. Military leaders were rewarded for treachery and punished for passivity. Assassination was not an uncommon way to rise in rank.

They rule on a destroyed industrialized planet called Giedi Prime. The Harkonnens maintain control by creating a neverending cycle of misery, poverty, and need. Giedi Prime is such a wasteland everyone lives in abject poverty and has no choice but to join the military to survive. This self-perpetuating system then, in turn, molds more and more people into brutal, untrustworthy killers who only care about staying one step ahead and maintaining the power they have. Unfortunately, the Beast Glossu Rabban is an integral part of that military prowess, and his coldhearted view on battle leaves no room for fair play.

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They are a cruel, greedy family who has ruled the spice planet Arrakis for roughly sixty years. Their persecution of the Freman coupled with their cheap production costs allowed them to squirrel away a supply of Melange, tithe to the Emperor, and make an obscene amount of money. However, despite all of this, Baron Harkonnen wanted more. He no longer wanted to share the rule with the other two houses and plotted to seize control of the current Empire controlled by the Corrinos and eradicate the Atreides.

The Harkonnens and the Emperor strike a partnership to take down House Atreides because both are jealous of the more popular House. They are huge targets because of the living conditions on House Atreides homeworld Caladan and their reputation in the Known Universe as reasonable and caring leaders. This is why the Emperor put Duke Leto in charge of Arrakis in the first place. He planned for the Harkonnen’s attack in hopes of eliminating all of the royal family.

It is too early to speculate what Dune 2 will look like exactly. Still, it would be reasonable to assume we will see the rise of Paul as the Kwisatz Haderach after ingesting the Water of Life and leading the charge against an increasingly cruel House Harkonnen and manipulative House Corrino.