The Dune Characters: The Houses of Atreides and Harkonnen Family Tree
If you haven’t seen Dune yet, well, you should. It’s that simple. You don’t have to take our word for it. The film has won critical acclaim in a whole roster of categories awarded by everyone from the Golden Globes, Grammys, and People’s Choice Awards, to the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards. Surely, between them, all these organizations know a thing or two about what makes a good movie? Don’t even get us started on that Hans Zimmer score. Absolute genius.
Consensus among critics and viewers alike is positive, no doubt about that. One criticism (for want of a better word) alludes to the movie sometimes struggling with “unwieldy” source material, though the film does rather well in the end. We would grudgingly agree, the original books are great, but between the different Dune characters, feuding houses, bloodlines and interplanetary politics, there is quite a lot to unpack.
It’s a lot like another story that kept us enthralled, it’s still a great watch, but it gets even better when you know and understand the family trees of the Game of Thrones Houses.
So in this article, we go over the Dune family tree. We describe the relationships between different characters of Dune, from House Atreides and House Harkonnen, to help unravel some of the nuances that underlie the plot. Family tree of Paul Atreides is available below. We invite you to build your own family tree using the Treemily app.
And here is the mandatory spoiler warning.
The original story is an award-winning 1965 science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert. For many, this seminal work was the beginning of an era in science fiction. In the introduction to Dune, Brian Herbert, the author’s son, says that after the Dune series, a number of science fiction writers went on to have national best sellers. Some go as far as saying Star Wars itself may have been inspired by Dune.
Whether you agree or not, the 2021 film directed by Denis Villeneuve, which was adapted from the novel, brings the creativity and vision of the author to the screen more than half a century later in a way that does the epic story justice.
The plot is complex, but in very simple terms, it is set in the distant future where interplanetary travel is possible using a substance known simply as spice. The emperor presiding over the known universe sets off a bitter conflict when he strips House Harkonnen of control of planet Arrakis, the universe’s source of spice, and hands it to House Atreides, knowing full well what the consequences will be. Needless to say, war ensues.
Villeneuve already did a stunning job of retelling the tale, so we won’t attempt it. What we will do, though, is take you through the Harkonnen family tree and House Atreides family tree, so you can appreciate the story better.
House Harkonnen is one of what is known as the Great Houses. Its home world is Giedi Prime and, until the imperial decree, it profited immensely from spice trade from Arrakis. The leaders of the Harkonnens are called Barons.
Dmitri Harkonnen is the father of Vladimir and Abulurd II. He is the ruler of Giedi Prime. He is married to a woman named Victoria. Dmitri has two sons from two marriages, Vladimir with Victoria, and Abulurd with his second wife Daphne.
Abulurd Harkonnen is the younger of Dmitri’s two sons and the more soft-hearted – a personality trait that does not serve him well in the Harkonnen household.. He is also referred to as Abulurd Rabban because he later takes up the last name of his wife Emmi. He was charged with governing Arrakis but with his kindhearted nature, was unable to assert the level of control the Harkonnens demanded. His more brutal half-brother is chosen by Dmitri to replace him, and his harsh methods eventually drive Abulurd to renounce his name and take up that of his wife.
The two have two children – Glossu Rabban and Feyd-Rautha Rabban.
Vladimir Harkonnen who later becomes the Baron of Giedi Prime, is one of the main characters of the story. He orders and plans the assassination of Leto Atreides and ignites the war between the two Houses with his attack on Arrakis. He is eventually killed by Alia Atreides, Paul Atreides’s sister.
House Atreides is another one of the major houses in the empire. Its leader goes by the title of Duke. Their home planet is Caladan, a water-rich planet in stark contrast to Arrakis.
The Old Duke
The Old Duke, Paulus Atreides, was the previous ruler of Caladan at the time the story starts. He is characterized as a compassionate and well-loved leader. His love for bullfighting however, proves to be his undoing as he is killed by a bull and authority passes to his only son, Leto Atreides.
Leto Atreides is the Duke of Caladan, a politically astute, well-loved and respected leader who is forced to take control of Arrakis at the emperor’s order knowing full well that it is a poisoned chalice. He is committed to Lady Jessica, his wife in all respects but title. Although he is undoubtedly in love, he refuses to marry her, understanding the dangers that poses politically. Despite his prudence, he is assassinated on the order of Baron Vladimir.
The two have a son, Paul – a teenager at the time of his father’s death, and a daughter, Alia – born after Leto is killed and while Jessica and Paul are on the run.
Paul Atreides has a complex storyline. He is a teen at the time of his father’s death and a reluctant heir to the throne. The injustice of the assassination, the brutality of the Harkonnens, and the subjucation of the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, all combine to spur him onto realizing the potential that has been bred into his bloodline over generations.
He forms an alliance with the Fremen, and falls in love with one of them, Chani. However, for reasons similar to those his father had with his mother, he is unable to take her as wife. Instead he has a childless and platonic marriage with the emperor’s daughter Irulan, as one of the terms of a peace pact.
Chani and Paul have a pair of twins, Leto II and Ghanima.
Leto Atreides II
Leto inherits his father’s considerable powers, including the ability to see into the future. In order to solidify his powers and the course to attain his position as a near-eternal ruler, he undergoes a transformation that leaves him no longer human. He therefore does not bear offspring but is able to rule the Atreides Empire for thousands of years with his newfound longevity.
The Dune epic is a fascinating read and an even more engrossing watch. Family trees of the Atreides and Harkonnens abound with interesting twists. Armed with a little more knowledge about the bloodlines and relationships between the Dune characters, you can appreciate the politics, nuances, and plot of the epic a lot more – something that should come in handy before you watch the second part of the movie, slated for release in 2023.