- "The Fremen see her as the Earth Figure, a demi-goddess whose special charge is to protect the tribes through her powers of violence. She is Reverend Mother to their Reverend Mothers. To pilgrims who seek her out with demands that she restore virility or make the barren fruitful, she is a form of anti-mentat. She feeds on that strong human desire for the mysterious. She is living proof that the 'analytic' has limits. She represents ultimate tension. She is the virgin-harlot - witty, vulgur, cruel, as destructive in her whims as a coriolis storm."
- ―St Alia-of-the-Knife as taken from The Irulan Report[src]
Alia Atreides (November 10191 AG - 10219 AG), also known as Saint Alia of the Knife and later Coan-Tean ("the female death-spirit who walks without feet") to the Fremen and called Hawt the Fish Monster on the outer worlds, was the posthumous daughter of Duke Leto Atreides I and his Bene Gesserit concubine Lady Jessica, born on the planet Arrakis. She was the younger sister of Paul Atreides. As regent of the Atreides Empire, she established an autocratic government based on the cult of her personality. She later leapt to her death in defiance of the possession by the spirit of a younger Vladimir Harkonnen retained in her Other Memory.
Alia was still in the womb when Jessica took the Water of Life. Thus she was pre-born, and highly susceptible to Abomination from before birth. After living with the Fremen for several years, she was present in the palace on Arrakeen when her brother and his forces successfully conquered the combined forces of the Emperor's Sardaukar and House Harkonnen.
During the invasion she poisoned Baron Vladimir Harkonnen with a Gom Jabbar, although not before revealing to the latter her familial ties to Harkonnen, and slew dying soldiers on the battle field for their water, earning her the name St. Alia of the Knife.
Establishing Her Rule
Later, upon the death of Paul, and with his children Leto and Ghanima still too young to effectively rule, Alia went from being a Princess to being the Imperial Regent of the Atreides Empire. She was corrupted by power and established a cult of personality, using rich trappings and grandiose titles such as the Mahdinate to build considerable political weight.
Shortly thereafter, Alia fell fully into Abomination, and was secretly tormented by the living personalities of countless ancestors. Chief among these was the personality of Vladimir Harkonnen, who sought to use his granddaughter as a tool to reclaim power from beyond the grave.
Alia had few close, genuine relationships, largely due to her mentally and emotionally imbalanced state. Her relationship with her mother was strained at best, and simmered with deep resentment. And her interaction with Fremen was tarnished at an early age by their fear of her abilities and knowledge.
Though she loved and admired Paul, her brother, she also partly resented his influence. And her love for the original Duncan Idaho ghola was ultimately destroyed by a casual affair with Javid, one of her priests who secretly served the Fremen insurgents who plotted against her.
During the same years in which she held herself aloof from family and friends, Alia indulged in massive doses of melange, ostensibly for the purpose of broadening her prescient vision. However, Alia lacked her brother's prescient ability, and the spice trance most often failed her. The same drug which had initially keyed her sensitivity to her ancestral voices could be depended upon to keep those same voices from becoming blurred or unavailable. As a result, Alia's heavy melange consumption became a means of maintaining contact with her internal advisors and gave them power.
Alia's actions during her Regency were those of a power-hungry woman aided by the memories of generations of ambitious rulers and princelings. Her people began to mistrust and fear her, calling her, by the time of Children of Dune, Coan-Teen, the "female death-spirit who walks without feet." Her every maneuver including her marriage to the first Duncan Idaho ghola, was seen as having been performed in order to solidify her own position, and her manipulation of the children in whose names she ruled was also considered a devious maneuver. Not content with having destroyed herself, she set about to lead her niece and nephew into similarly destructive ways. Since the most direct way of achieving this goal involved the children's becoming enmeshed in their ancestral memories, Alia continually tried to interest them in the spice trance.
After increasing pressure and control from the internal genetic council of Vladimir Harkonnen, Alia orders the assassination of The Preacher, despite knowing it was her beloved brother. Upon Leto's return from the desert and a subsequent battle, he gives her a choice, the Trial of Possession or suicide. In a final act of defiance against the surmounting internal control from the Baron, Alia throws herself from a high window to her death, a death that was witnessed by her mother Jessica, the Atreides twins, and Farad'n Corrino.
Had it not been for her death, Alia could have continued to rule for several centuries by regenerating her cellular structure. According to Fremen tradition, as with all Abominations the only cure was death.
The impact of Alia's religious powerbase was long-lived. Many considered her a revered figure for several hundreds of years after her death. In the months prior to Leto II's death, a Cult of Alia was discovered on Giedi Prime by Duncan Idaho's agents. Ultimately, Alia's influence vanished after Leto's death, some three and a half thousand years after her own death.
Images of Alia
Behind the Scenes
- In the Children of Dune TV mini-series, Alia kills herself with a crysknife, instead of committing suicide by autodefenestration.
- Alicia Witt portrayed Alia in the 1984 movie. While still directly responsible for Harkonnen's demise, her method of killing him is slightly different, as she instead telekinetically shoves him out of a window and has a sandworm devour him.
- Laura Burton portrayed the child Alia in the Dune 2000 miniseries, while Daniela Amavia took over the role of the teenaged and adult Alia in the 2003 Children of Dune miniseries.
- Amavia is actually nine years older than Alec Newman who played Alia's much older brother Paul.
The name Alia (also spelt Alya or Aaliyah) means "sky, heaven, loftiness" in Arabic and "other, another, else" in Latin. In the 1984 film, Alicia Witt portrays the character wearing a Hijab, a headscarf commonly worn by Arab and Muslim women.
Though it was not shown in the films, in the books Alia was stated to have begun to gain weight toward the end, A "plumpness which had begun to bulge her body", showing she might have been overindulging due to the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's influence.
- Dune Messiah
- Children of Dune
- God Emperor of Dune (Mentioned only)
- Heretics of Dune (Mentioned only)
Paul Atreides (Emperor)
|Regent of the Atreides Empire
10210 AG - 10219 AG
Leto Atreides II (Emperor)
- Book II of Dune ends in mid-autumn, which is late October or early November. Alia has still not been born. Early in Book III, Alia is stated to be about two years old. We also know that it is still 10,193 at the end of Book III, due to Appendix IV. It seems very unlikely that Book III covers just a month, so we can make a fair assumption that Alia was born in November 10,191.