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.
During the Butlerian Jihad
Around the years of the Butlerian Jihad, Tlulax was an Unallied planet. The Tlulaxa worked as merchants and slavers. Tlulaxa scientists were noted geneticists and cloners and the planet was known for its organ farms. During the war, due to the heightened demand, slaves were taken as organ reservoirs. This was revealed by Vorian Atreides, and public opinion had been inflamed against the genetic researchers; outraged mobs destroyed the organ farms and most of the Tlulaxa went into hiding, hated by the League.
The Corrino Empire
Ten thousand years later, during the time near the end of Corrino Empire, the Tleilax had re-established themselves, and had curried positions of favor with the Imperial House. The Master Researcher Hidar Fen Ajidica, presented a plan to synthesize melange to Emperor Elrood Corrino IX, and persuaded him to allow the Tleilax to conquer Ix from House Vernius.
Though the Tleilax tried in vain to completely synthesize spice, delusions of grandeur came into the thoughts of Ajidica, as he came close to mimicking melange with amal, or as he called it, Ajidimal. Ajidica envisioned the advent of Tleilaxu hegemony throughout the Known Universe, and sent out colony ships of Enhanced Face Dancers, to prepare "the way" for his ascendancy. Project Amal, as the doomed venture came to be known, fell apart; as Ix was re-conquered by House Vernius, Ajidica died from an overdose on Amal, and the Enhanced Face Dancers were lost contact with.
The Atreides Empire
After Paul Atreides ascended the Golden Lion Throne, the Tleilaxu tried in vain to create a rival Kwisatz Haderach, to challenge Paul's rule. From Thalidei, on Tleilax, gholas named Thallo were grown, and the first was awakened. After just a short time, Thallo, used his prescient ability to discern that he was a failed attempt to create a super-being. Distraught, Thallo attempted to mass kill the citizens of Thalidei with nerve gas, but was instead killed by Marie Fenring, the assassin-trained daughter of Hasimir Fenring and Margot Fenring.
The Tleilaxu then participated directly in the plot to destroy the royal family with the gift to Paul Atreides of Hayt, the ghola of Duncan Idaho. When Chani died giving birth to the twins, Leto II and Ghanima Atreides, the Face Dancer Scytale was then killed by the Emperor, with the help of his new-born son.
The Scattering and Return
Under Leto II, the Tleilaxu chafed just as all of the old power brokers struggled against his complete authortarian rule. Near the end of his reign, the Tleilaxu participated in a direct assassination attempt against him in the festival city of On, formerly Arrakeen. They also engineered his eventual fiancee' and love, Hwi Noree; from the cells of his old friend, Malky; before the God Emperor's death on Dune.
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. Centuries into the Scattering, some of the female Tleilaxu, all of whom had been reduced to Axlotl Tanks, revolted against their male keepers. These same females merged with Scattering-oriented Fish Speakers and Scattering-oriented Bene Gesserit, and formed the ultra-hostile Honored Matres.
During the Return of the Honored Matres in to the Old Imperium, the Honored Matres, seeking revenge against all Tleilaxu males, attacked and decimated Tleilax; and the only known Tleilaxu Master survivor was the most junior Master Scytale. 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 they returned to Known Space, they were known as the Lost Tleilaxu.
Erasmus, Khrone, and the Enhanced Face Dancers
Separately, the Enhanced Face Dancers that were sent out by Ajidica millenia earlier were "found" by Omnius and Erasmus of the re-born Thinking Machine Empire. Erasmus, especially of the two, further changed the Dancers in three main ways.
First, he put in their genetic make-up a strong desire to be able to return and find their way back easily to Synchrony, capital of the Machine Empire. Second, he further improved their mimicking ability, such that they simply could not be detected by any means, except by the Whistling language of a Tleilaxu Master. Third, Erasmus, believing the ability to mimick and then having to kill the person their mimicking to be "evil", Erasmus installed a genetic "kill switch" at the base of each Enhanced Dancers cerebellum, as a "safety" back-up to protect Machine interests.
After these changes had been made, Erasmus sent the Enhanced Face Dancers, under their leader Khrone, back into human-space.
Burah and the Enhanced Face Dancers
Concurrently, as the Lost Tleilaxu returned into the Old Imperium, their remaining Tleilaxu council, led by the Elder Burah, came upon, and then thought themselves the masters of the Enhanced Face Dancers; but did not know that they were secretly under Machine control. As Burah sent out the Enhanced Dancers into the worlds of human-kind with the expressed intent of taking over key leadership positions amongst humanity; for a time the Enhanced Dancers pretended to be led by the old surviving Tleilaxu council. Khrone, who as a Dancer, himself feigned obeisance to the Tleilaxu Elders, but waited for the moment to rid himself of his Lost Tleilaxu leaders..
When the leadership of the Administrator branch of the Guild, the Honored Matres, the Bene Gesserit, CHOAM, and key leaders throughout humanity reached a point appointed by Erasmus; Khrone and the Enhanced Dancers rose up and killed the Tleilaxu Eldership, including Burah, replaced them with Enhanced Dancers, and kept only the Scribe Uxtal alive.
Scytale on the Ithaca
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.
Originally trade also formed an important part of their culture. However, following revelations of their organ harvesting methods during the Butlerian Jihad they became collectively scorned and despised. This, coupled with active persecution against them, caused their trading connections to be dramatically reduced, and led to a significant change in their overall attitude to the wider universe. ==References and notes==
Tleilaxu merchants grew a long braid; the braid symbolizes prosperity -- a merchant must cut his braid if he were to experience an unsuccessful year. Tleilaxu also sharpened their teeth.
The Tleilaxu were separated into several different classes, each of which had a distinct physical appearance and role within their society. The main groups were:
- Tleilaxu Masters: Physically they looked similar to small humans, most often with small close-set eyes and a set of small pointed teeth.
- 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. This group also included Enhanced Face Dancers created by Hidar Fen Ajidica and improved upon by Erasmus.
- 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.
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, who they saw as "God's Messenger".
The details of their religion remained largely hidden until the arrival of the Honored Matres, at which point the leadership of the Bene Gesserit, one of their great rivals, discovered some key posits of their faith.
List of Known Tleilaxu by Class
Ambassadors and Envoys
Traders, Scientists, and Scribes
In addition to their biological classes, Tleilaxu society and structure was strictly organized by rank.
- Mahai or Abdl: the Master of Masters, leader of the Tleilaxu
- Masheikh: rulers chosen from the Master class
- Khasadar: guards and combat-ready personnel
- Domel: domestic servants and low-level personnel
Behind the Scenes
The true reason for the revulsion of the Bene Tleilax was not cataloged by Frank Herbert. The organ harvesting plot was outlined by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson in their Legends of Dune prequel novels.