Dune Wiki
Dune Wiki
Ordune This article or section refers to elements from Original Dune
There are separate pages for this subject as it appears in the other canons, the reasons for this are explained here

Bene Tleilax, or the Tleilaxu as they were more commonly called, were a group of secretive, genetically altered humans who inhabited Tleilax, the sole planet of the star Thalim. The customs and ethics of the Bene Tleilax led to widespread revulsion by the other cultures of the Known Universe, a reaction that did little to quench the Tleilaxu's hunger to subjugate their rivals. Their skills with genetic engineering, however, made them effectively a "necessary evil".



The Bene Tleilax were spawned from Zensunni ecumenism at some point before the time of Muad'Dib's Jihad, beginning as a purely religious group emerging from a combination of Zensunni and Zensufi theologies. Over time, they hid their religion and became widely known as a secretive guild of genetic manipulators.

Plot to destroy Muad'Dib[]

After the Emperor Paul Atreides overthrew Shaddam Corrino IV and ascended the Golden Lion Throne, sending a Jihad of Fremen across the universe, the Tleilaxu directly participated in the plot to destroy the royal family with the gift to Paul Muad'Dib of Hayt, the ghola of Duncan Idaho. In reality, however, they hoped to use Hayt to finally figure out how to restore a ghola's memories. The secret Tleilaxu Master Bijaz who had been grown in the same axolotl tank as the ghola, was instrumental in reawakening his memories as Duncan by getting him to attempt and fail to kill Paul. When Chani Kynes died giving birth to the twins Leto Atreides II and Ghanima Atreides, the other key Tleilaxu in the conspiracy and the organizer of the attempt at reawakening, the Face Dancer Scytale, was killed by Paul himself with the help of his new-born son after he attempted to bargain with Paul with a fully reawakened ghola of Chani. After his death, Bijaz tried in his place to tempt Paul, but was killed by the Duncan Idaho he had helped reawaken.

Beginning of ghola "immortality"[]

However, this incident was in no way a complete failure for the Bene Tleilax, who had now learned how to renew the flesh and reawaken the memories of a ghola. With this new innovation, the Tleilaxu achieved a kind of immortality through gholas. However, they condensed this new power into a single government whose potency was confined lest it be demanded everywhere. Scytale, as the one who had made this new eternal life possible, was brought back to life, reawakened and promoted to Tleilaxu Master.

Leto II[]

During the 3,500-year reign of Paul's son, Leto Atreides II, the Tyrant God Emperor, the Tleilaxu chafed just as all of the old power brokers struggled against his complete authoritarian rule. Throughout his long reign, they continuously supplied him with further Duncan Idaho gholas who were reawakened in the same fashion as Hayt, but using a Face Dancer to mimic Paul. Only once did they attempt to change the cellular nature and the psyche of the original Duncan, for which they paid dearly, and they dared not try such a thing again.

Up until the end of Leto's rule, they frequently attempted to create an alliance with the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood in a joint venture, the avowed purpose being the production of a totally female society without the need for males, but were denied each time they renewed their efforts. In the final year of the God Emperor's reign, they participated in a direct assassination attempt against him in the festival city of Onn, formerly Arrakeen. They also engineered his eventual fiancee' and love, Hwi Noree, from the cells of his old friend, Malky, before Leto's death in the Idaho River.

When Leto died, and the Famine Times began, the Tleilaxu, just as the rest of humanity, spread throughout the cosmos in the Scattering, in an attempt to find hospitable worlds. After Leto's death, they began supplying Idaho gholas to the Bene Gesserit instead of the God Emperor, although they kept killing them after only a few years.

During the Return from the Scattering[]

As the return from the Scattering began, the Bene Tleilax set out to conquer humanity and convert it to their Great Belief, having waited for millennia. Seventeen years later, at the beginning of the War of the Sisterhoods, their plan for the twelfth Duncan Idaho ghola they gave to the Sisterhood succeeded when he overwhelmed the Honored Matre Murbella in combat on Gammu, and all of the memories of the hundreds of previous Duncan Idaho gholas were released. All seemed to be going to plan.

However, disaster struck them when the Honored Matres, seeking revenge against all Tleilaxu males, attacked and decimated Tleilax and all of the worlds of the Bene Tleilax; and the only known Tleilaxu Master survivor was the most junior Master Scytale, who was saved by the Bene Gesserit and brought to Chapterhouse. However, his possession of numerous individuals' genetic material (including that of many Tleilaxu) made it possible for him to recreate his culture. Additionally, the successful spread of the Tleilaxu that were sent out during The Scattering, made it possible that others survived in uncharted space, undiscovered by the Honored Matres. When some of these returned to the Old Imperium, they were known as the Lost Ones. The Matres also killed the elder Tleilaxu Master, Tylwyth Waff, as he was on Rakis when they attacked the planet with ultra-destructive weapons. This caused widespread revulsion amongst the surviving Tleilaxu, as they considered the sandworms of Dune to contain an essence of the God Emperor, their Prophet.

The last master, Scytale, was imprisoned in a no-ship on Chapterhouse for ten years before he escaped with Reverend Mother Sheeana Brugh, the twelfth Duncan ghola and others. Within his body lay a vial containing genetic samples of numerous individuals, including the Tleilaxu Masters, making it possible for him to recreate his culture.


The Tleilaxu were an inherently isolationist culture that was dominated by a strict hierarchy and an overriding religious zeal. They had long focused their efforts on genetics, and the pursuit of spiritual elevation through physical refinement. Their culture and religion is highly suggestive of extreme male chauvinism; a counterpoint to the perceived extreme female chauvinism of the Bene Gesserit.


The Tleilaxu were separated into several different classes, each of which had a distinct physical appearance and role within their society. The primary groups were:

  • Tleilaxu Masters: They looked physically similar to small humans, most often with small close-set eyes and a set of small, pointed teeth.
  • Axlotl Tanks: Little more than incubation vessels, this class bred all Tleilaxu, as well as other beings (such as gholas). It is believed these were what remain of the female sex of the Tleilaxu.
  • Face Dancers: The warrior and worker class, who were capable of adapting their physical appearance to a specific task at hand. Their doppelganger ability was also used to perform espionage against other groups.


The Tleilaxu followed a strict and fervent spiritual ideology that derived itself from both the Zensunni and the Zensufi theologies. As with most cultures within the Known Universe, their faith was monotheistic. While they did not place significant importance on the Giant Sandworm, they did credit great importance to Leto Atreides II, whom they saw as "God's Messenger". The details of their religion remained largely hidden until the arrival of the Honored Matres.

List of Known Tleilaxu by Class[]


Tleilaxu Masters[]

Ambassadors and Envoys[]

  • Duro Nunepi
  • Wose
  • Ledden Pook


Behind the Scenes[]

The true reason for the revulsion of the Bene Tleilax was not cataloged by Frank Herbert. However, The Dune Encyclopedia contains important insights. It states that while the Bene Tleilax's clientele benefited from their technological goods and services, they were also wracked with guilt for violating Butlerian ethics. The entry concludes with the following observation:

While their numerous particular actions and products generated significant ill will, it is more likely that the Tleilaxu were generally loathed for a more primordial reason. Their genetic manipulations maimed life and nature. The Bene Gesserit could be tolerated, even admired, for their pretension at improving humanity, but the Bene Tleilax's distortions only inspired primal horror.