Duncan Idaho was originally a Ginaz Swordmaster in the service of the honorable House Atreides during the last days of the Corrino Empire, and one of the Duke Leto's right-hand men, with Gurney Halleck and Mentat Thufir Hawat, and regarded as something of a ladies' man.
After falling in the Desert War on Arrakis, he grew in importance from this relatively obscure role through a series of Tleilaxu ghola incarnations over the next five thousand years, first playing a key role as a Mentat in the final plot against Pa n becoming the husband of the Regent Alia Atreides, which was followed by his time as the Commander of the God Emperor's forces, and finally as an important figure in the war between the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres.
Original life (?-10191)
- "Duncan Idaho. Killer extraordinary. Lover of many women. Swordsman soldier. Atreides field-hand on the field of battle."
- ―Bijaz describing ther original Duncan to Hayt[src]
Duncan was born and raised on Giedi Prime. His sister died there as a victim of the Harkonnens. He was rescued from Harkonnen bondage by the Old Duke Atreides and came under the service of the Atreides on Caladan after observing that they ruled in stark contrast to the Harkonnens. He was then trained on Ginaz where he graduated as a Swordmaster.
The Atreides appeared to garner fierce loyalty from those who served them, and Duncan was no different. However, as Atreides Swordmaster he maintained a hypervigilance against potential threats to the Atreides, even within their own ranks. As a result, he developed a distrust of the Lady Jessica, the concubine of the Old Duke's son Leto Atreides, as he knew that her Bene Gesserit origins were likely to involve some secret scheme against the Atreides. However, Duncan underestimated Jessica's love for her Duke, which was so strong that she disobeyed her Sisterhood. Indeed, in matters regarding the Lady Jessica, Duncan's judgment was somewhat clouded, since he was secretly in love with her.
Duncan was charged by Duke Leto with training his son Paul in the art of war. This involved hand-to-hand combat and military strategy. These skills Duncan imparted on the young Paul in conjunction with the Mentat Thufir Hawat and Gurney Halleck, a man who was also rescued from Giedi Prime by the Old Duke. When compared to Gurney, Duncan appeared to fight with more finesse but Gurney was regarded as more lethal, typically beating Duncan six times out of ten. This seemed to give Paul a well-rounded education.
War of Assassins with Grumman
At some point, a War of Assassins ignited between House Ginaz and House Moritani, the ruling class of the planet Grumman, in which he emperors of House Corrino, particularly Shaddam IV, supported House Moritani, and House Atreides supported House Ginaz. This war was Duncan's first real experience in mortal combat and was where he first killed, slaying a Harkonnen.
Move to Arrakis
Later, when the Atreides gained the Arrakis fief under the order of the Padishah Emperor in 10191 AG, Idaho went a week early to the desert planet to lead the second wave onto the planet. Encountering Naib Stilgar and Sietch Tabr, he later became Duke Leto's ambassador to the Fremen, the people native to Dune that Leto hoped would ally with him in the feud against House Harkonnen. Idaho was so impressed with the Fremen, that he took dual allegiances, one to the Atreides, one to the Fremen.
When the Emperor launched an attack on Arrakeen in the guise of Harkonnen troops, Idaho escaped the massacre. He initially met up with Planetologist Liet Kynes, Lady Jessica and Paul, hiding in a botanical testing station abandonded long ago. However, they were not there long before the station was attacked by Sardaukar.
Duncan was killed by one by a blow to the head, but not before he dispatched no less than nineteen Sardaukar soldiers single-handedly. In so doing, he rescued the Duke's son Paul Atreides, who later became the first Emperor in the dynasty of House Atreides, and Duke Leto's concubine, the Lady Jessica, allowing them to escape in an ornithopter.
First rebirth (10196-10219)
After Paul's ascension to the throne in 10196 AG, Idaho was returned to life as a ghola, a clone made by the Bene Tleilax and gifted to Paul Atreides, which was supposed to tempt the Kwisatz Haderach into becoming that which he despised. Known as 'Hayt' in his ghola incarnation, Idaho was trained as a Mentat and a Zensunni philosopher. He had no memory of his former life, but constantly felt vague hints and reminders of his previous incarnation that made him hope he could recover those memories (this had never previously been possible with gholas).
Failing to destroy the Emperor psychically, Hayt was programmed to kill Paul against his will. In the ensuing trauma imposed by his inability to reconcile his programming and his innate love for the Atreides, Hayt recovered his memories as Duncan Idaho, up to and including his death at the hands of Imperial Sardaukar. He stopped the attempt on Paul's life, and became once more a loyal Atreides servant. This became the crux of a Bene Tleilax plot to overthrow Paul by demonstrating that they could create an exact equivalent of his dead wife Chani, but only if he abdicated his throne.
Idaho married Alia, Paul's sister and Imperial regent to Paul's children Leto II and Ghanima, in 10210. However, Alia became possessed by the memory-ego of her ancestor, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who sought to destroy the Atreides empire. Recognizing this, Idaho remained loyal to the Atreides and escaped to the desert to protect the children.
In 10219, in order to get Stilgar to join the Fremen opposition to Alia's rule, Duncan killed Javid, Alia's secret lover, on the neutral ground of Sietch Tabr, then insulted the Naib Stilgar so deeply that he was forced to kill Idaho. Duncan's second death, as Duncan knew it would, brought the Fremen into direct opposition to Alia.
Incarnations under Leto II (10219-13728)
Idaho then reappeared as a series of gholas when Leto II ruled as a human-sandworm hybrid for 3,508 years. After the death of every ghola, Leto would have him replaced with a new one. Thus, Leto continually had an Idaho ghola to serve him as Swordmaster at all times, and as leader of the Fish Speakers. To Leto, Idaho represented loyalty, humanity and the spirit of the unknown, something which the God-Emperor, having perfect prescience and memories of all his ancestors, knew nothing of (Leto also implied that Duncan was needed for the Golden Path to come to fruition). The ego-memories of Leto I and Paul within Leto II loved Duncan, which was another reason why the God Emperor enjoyed Duncan's presence.
The Idaho gholas, with their memories restored, fought to deal with what the Atreides had become in Leto II, which Duncan saw as a corruption. Prior to Leto II's rule, the hallmark of Atreides rule was justice. However, Duncan believed that Leto II's reign was one of religious tyranny and oppression. Idaho's old-fashioned conscience would rebel, leading some of the Idaho gholas to attempt to kill Leto (who was invulnerable to all but water and the extreme violence of a sandworm).
Leto noted that only nineteen of "his" Duncans had survived long enough to die of what was considered "natural causes". In just about all of these rebellions, the Idaho ghola was killed by the God Emperor himself, and in at least one instance he died under the knife of a Fish Speaker assassin - in another, he died under a Sardaukar sword, when Leto still used them as his fighting force. In one anomalous occasion, Idaho died in a 'thopter crash. In another even rarer occasion, Duncan had accidentally blew himself up after an attempt on Leto's life which he abandoned when the Emperor convinced him he was doing the wrong, causing him to toss the explosive, in which the materials were unstable, to the side.
After a brief period of mourning, the God Emperor would order another Idaho ghola from the Tleilaxu. The man usually showed up believing he had gone insane, in shock at how the Universe had changed since his "death" since most Duncans only possessed the memories of the original Idaho. If the new ghola survived Leto II's first interviews, he would serve the God Emperor until his almost inevitable rebellion.
Suppression of Wallach IX
In 13650, Duncan was charged by Leto to travel to Wallach IX, where he would extinguish the Mentat School the Bene Gesserit thought they had hidden on the planet in order to enforce Leto's ban of the ancient Order of Mentats. This brought him great pain, as he, a Mentat, was forced to suppress a school that trained people the way he was trained.
During the suppression, he talked to Sister Tersius Helen Anteac, one of the Mentat trainees who escaped the planet shortly after, renaming herself Tertius Eileen Anteac, under the name of which she would later try and kill the God Emperor. Other Mentat-Sisters escaped as well, hiding their identities and continuing work for the Sisterhood. This incarnation of Duncan died just ten years after the suppression.
Penultimate Incarnation under Leto
In his penultimate incarnation still serving the God Emperor, the one after his life in which he suppressed Wallach IX, Duncan had two children with the Fish Speaker Irti in Goygoa; one in 13712, and another in 13720. In 13727 he made his last unsuccessful attempt on Leto's life after fifty-eight years of service, in which he attempted to kill him with a lasgun supplied to him by the Ixian Ambassador Iyo Kobat. This failed when Leto attacked and killed him.
Last incarnation in Leto's service
After this last time in which he was killed by the God Emperor, a new Duncan was given to Leto by the Bene Tleilax in 13728. This Duncan fell in love with Siona Atreides, a girl hidden from prescience who rebelled against Leto, and became good friends with Siona's father and Leto's majordomo, Moneo Atreides, despite Moneo easily beating him in combat and thus shaming him later on.
Ultimately, Duncan joined a final attempt on Leto's life with Siona and her assistant and co-conspirator Nayla. During the God Emperor's wedding with his love, the new Ixian Ambassador Hwi Noree, Siona ordered the bridge they were crossing to be cut by a lasgun by Nayla. Leto, Hwi and Moneo fell to their deaths into the Idaho River, named after Duncan In dying, the God Emperor released the dormant sandtrout from his body. These began to reverse the terraforming on Arrakis. The planet begin to revert into a desert world from the realized Fremen dream of a lush paradise.
After Leto's Death
After the assassination, Duncan had nine daughters and a thousand sons with Siona - these children and these children's children, and so on, were hidden from prescience. The significant descendants of these many children, which were said to have "Siona blood", meaning they were shrouded from the prescient vision, included Hadi Benotto, Darwi Odrade, Lucilla, Miles Teg and Sheeana Brugh. Duncan and Siona also inherited a portion of Leto's empire, which rapidly detoriorated into the Famine Times and the Scattering.
Ultimately, long after the death of this incarnation, the Bene Gesserit became the consumers of Idaho gholas. However, the Bene Tleilax kept killing the gholas after only a few years. Not knowing exactly what purpose Idaho would serve, the Bene Gesserit suspected that the Tleilaxu were using the gholas to control the timing of his release upon the universe, implying some Tleilaxu purpose in addition to their own. However, the twelfth ghola, born in 15216, survived.
Final incarnation (15216-15240)
In 15229, on Gammu (formerly Giedi Prime), Duncan fled to an old Harkonnen no-globe with Miles Teg, the Bene Gesserit Bashar, and Reverend Mother Lucilla, after an attack on the Bene Gesserit Gammu Keep. Miles Teg was commissioned to restore Duncan's memories, and managed to do so. Duncan, Teg and Lucilla were ambushed during an operation with the general Burzmali. Teg was captured but Duncan managed to escape with Lucilla.
When Murbella, a captured Honored Matre, tried to bond with Duncan, the Tleilaxu plan came into play when he overwhelmed Murbella in combat, and all of the memories of the hundreds of previous Duncan Idaho gholas were released. Duncan and Lucilla were located by Miles Teg and brough to Rakis with him and the now-hostage Murbella in a no-ship. Duncan, Murbella, Lucilla, Sheeana Brugh, Darwi Odrade and Tleilaxu Master Scytale were put in the no-ship with a sandworm while Teg launched a final suicidal defense of Rakis.
Imprisoned on Chapterhouse
After the destruction of Rakis, the no-ship was brough to Chapterhouse in a no-ship, which became their prison, as well as Scytale's, by the Bene Gesserit. Over the next ten years, Murbella and Idaho sired four children. Idaho was then used to tutor and condition a young Miles Teg ghola. By this time, he had been allied with Reverend Mother Sheeana Brugh for some time, who stole the keys to Duncan's no-ship prison. Over the decade he spent imprisoned within the no-ship, he had continous visions of a pair of mysterious and powerful elderly-looking entities known as Daniel and Marty and something he began to call "the Net". He deducted that these beings had found a new way to apply the ancient theories of Holtzman, and was almost certain they were the Ones of Many Faces who had chased the Matres back into the Old Empire.
Escape from Chapterhouse
In 15240, after Murbella became both Mother Superior of the Bene Gesserit and Great Honoured Matre of the Honoured Matres, and began the combination of the two groups, Duncan escaped with his ward, Sheeana and others aboard the no-ship into unchartered space to escape from the now-combined Gesserit/Matres group, the New Sisterhood. Exhibiting prescience abilities, Idaho was the only person that could see the net that Daniel and Marty cast to ensare the no-ship. To escape this net, Duncan Idaho deleted all of the navigation records of the no-ship, rendering those onboard truly lost. Duncan and the others' fate from this point remains unknown.
Abilities and skills
Note: As originally the memories of each rebirth of Duncan would pick up with his death on Arraksi, some incarnations had abilities which others did not. All of the following, however, were possessed by his final incarnation, who regained the memories of all of his previous lives.
- Swordfighting: Duncan was trained as a Ginaz Swordmaster, which made him an adept at swordfighting, giving the Atreides a great warrior. Duncan's abilities in this area were demonstrated in multiple instances, perhaps the most notable being his killing of a full nineteen Sardaukar, the finest warriors in the Imperium, in a short time before his first death. This was one of the many motivations of the original taking of his cells by the Emperor's warriors, as well as one of the reasons why the God Emperor appointed him as Commander of his forces and continously brought him back and why the Bene Gesserit continued to resurrect him after Leto II's death.
- Resistance to Voice: In his original lifetime, Duncan was taught by Paul Atreides the techniques used to resist the Bene Gesserit Voice of command, an ability which gave the Sisterhood less power over him, such as when the Reverend Mother Lucilla tried and failed to use Voice on Duncan in his final incarnation on Gammu.
- Mentat training: In his first rebirth as the ghola Hayt, Duncan was trained by the Bene Tleilax as a Mentat in addition to a Zensunni philosopher. The God Emperor later trained him as a Mentat in a few of his later incarnations.
- Truthsayer: Leto II also trained him as a Truthsayer in a few of his lives.
- "Duncan the moral."
- ―Paul's opinion of his teacher[src]
Duncan had a close bond with his beloved Duke's son Paul, who he taught in swordfighting from his earliest years, and Paul was greatly distraught when he fell in battle with Sardaukar on Arrakis, saving him and Jessica. When the first ghola of Duncan, "Hayt", was presented to Paul by the Tleilaxu in 10208 AG, Paul found himself unable to turn the gift down due to his previous friendship with his mentor and his guilt for Duncan's death, and grew a bond with Hayt almost as strong as that he had had with the original Duncan, whose memories were awakened in Hayt after he failed to kill Paul shortly before his walk into the desert and supposed death.
- "Your water is ours, Duncan Idaho. The body of our friend remains with your Duke. His water is Atreides water. It is a bond between us."
- ―Stilgar shortly after the agreemenet of Duncan's duel alleigance[src]
When Duncan was sent by the Duke Leto to make contact with the Fremen, the first he befriended was Stilgar, Naib of Sietch Tabr, which was the first sietch which Duncan found. In the relatively short time the two knew each other, they grew great respect for each other, Stilgar aknowledging that Duncan measured well in his sietch and observed the customs and honor among the Fremen people. Because of this, when Stilgar met the Duke Leto they agreed that Duncan would have duel alleigance to the Atreides and the Fremen.
Eighteen years later, when Duncan's first ghola Hayt was presented to Paul, Stilgar initially mistrusted Hayt, declaring that Duncan was dead and this was not him, but ultimately grew a new friendship with the ghola, which grew even deeper when Hayt's memories were restored. At the last, however, Stilgar and Duncan were enemies once more; after Duncan murdered Javid and gave Stilgar the three greatest Fremen insults, he was forced by his honor to finally kill Idaho, an act which Duncan nevertheless called the right choice and one which forced him to subsequently move against the Regent Alia.
- "We are like brothers. We grew in the same tank: I first and then you."
- ―Bijaz describes his connection with Duncan while imprisoned in Arrakeen[src]
Duncan first met the dwarf Bijaz as Hayt, before he regained his original memories. He took an instant dislike to him, mistrusting the dwarf and being wary in his presence and particularly distraught at Bijaz's provocative use of his original name of Duncan Idaho. However, Hayt and Bijaz also had a fundemental connection in that they had been grown in the same Tleilaxu axolotl tank, making Bijaz compare them to brothers.
During Hayt's conversation with Bijaz after their initial meeting, the ghola noted that he radiated a charismatic alertness that made the observor think of ancient idols and threatened to order a guard to strangle him in an attempt to indimiate the dwarf, who also was not fond of Hayt, calling him a callous lout. When Hayt asked what Bijaz planned to do with him, he said that he would do him a simple kindness. Following the reawakening of Duncan's memories in Hayt, Paul ordered him to kill Bijaz before he succumbed to the Tleilaxu plan, and Duncan obeyed without hesitation, saying that he had been the one to do Bijaz the 'kindness.'
Over many ghola incarnations in the latter days of the reign of Leto II, the God Emperor's majordomo Moneo Atreides grew a great affection for Duncan, although after each rebirth Duncan experienced meeting Moneo all over again. Duncan's last incarnation under Leto II, the one which assassinated him, was at one point easily bested by Moneo in combat, embarrassing him and creating somewhat bitter feelings between them, although the majordomo later apologised.
During the long training of his final incarnation in the Bene Gesserit Keep on Gammu, Duncan had many Bene Gesserit teachers, but he despised none above the Reverend Mother Schwangyu, who was a member of the faction who opposed Mother Superior Tararza and also became a traitor to the Sisterhood for the Bene Tleilax. He eventually repeated the private mantra, 'Damn Schwangyu!', and showed little if any regret for her murder by Honored Matres when the Keep was attacked.
Behind the scenes
- Idaho is portrayed by the late American actor Richard Jordan in the 1984 film adaption of Dune.
- James Watson portrayed him in the 2000 miniseries adaption, but for the 2003 sequel adaption of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, Edward Atterton was recast as Duncan to play his first ghola (Hayt).
- In the 2021 film adaptation, Duncan was portrayed by Aquaman star Jason Momoa.
- Alejandro Jorodowski wanted French actor Alain Delon to portray Duncan in his unsuccessful attempt to produce a film adaptation of Dune. Delon is notably known to have been a screen sex symbol from the 1960s and 1970s.
- Duncan is the only character to make an appearance in all six of Frank Herbert's original Dune novels, albeit in different incarnations.
- The Canon Status Prelude to Dune trilogy describes Duncan's true childhood and exploits on his homeworld Giedi Prime, and the Basic Dune Heretics of Dune also states he was born there, but the non-canon dune-encyclopedia predictably and laughably lies that he was supposedly a native of Caladan. The true Prelude, however, rightly differs from less complex Base Dune novels, of lower quality, by having Duncan in mortal fights before the Grumman conflict, while both the simple Base Dune series as well as the children's encyclopedia bizarrely lie that Grumman was somehow the first time he had actually killed, a likely joke dismissed by serious Dune fans.
- "He had been told it was difficult to determine if his eyes were dark blue or dark green unless the light were just right" - Heretics of Dune
- The ghola incarnation known as hayt had "gray metal eyes"
- Heretics of Dune, Chapter 3 (Bene Gesserit Analysis) - "Gammu . . . the original Duncan Idaho was born and raised there."
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 5 - "“Your sister died there, a victim of the Harkonnens".
- Heretics of Dune, Chapter 31 (Songs of Gurney Halleck) - "Duncan saw only the face of the Old Duke telling him to obey. It was too much."
- Dune, Chapter 4 (Muad’Dib, Family Commentaries) - "There were Duncan Idaho, the Swordmaster of the Ginaz..."
- Dune Messiah, Chapter 3 (Tleilaxu Theorem) - "The body was sold to the Bene Tleilax as that of a master swordsman, an adept of the Ginaz School."
- Dune, "Terminology of the Imperium"
- Dune, Chapter 17 (The Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib) - "My sword was firs’ blooded on Grumman! Killed a Harkon ... Harkon ... killed ’im f’r th’ Duke."
- Dune, Chapter 4 (A Child's History of Muad'Dib)
- Dune, Chapter 12 (Manual of Muad'Dib)
- Dune, Chapter 25 (Arrakis Awakening)
- Children of Dune, Chapter 32 (Stilgar’s Report to the Landsraad Commission) - "The Sardaukar who’d slain him reported his prowess: nineteen of their number dispatched by Idaho before he’d fallen."
- Dune Messiah, Chapter 6 (The Emperor Paul Muad’dib)
- Dune Messiah, Chapter 23 (Children's Verse)
- Children of Dune, Chapter 55 (The Story of Liet-Kynes)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 7 (The Stolen Journals)
- Heretics of Dune, Chapter 42 (Ancient Drinking Toast)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 5 (The Stolen Journals)
- Chapterhouse: Dune, Chapter 27 (The Coda)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 17 (The Stolen Journals)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 26 (The Stolen Journals)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 41 (The Stolen Journals)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 53 (The Stolen Journals)
- God Emperor of Dune, Chapter 54 (Excerpt from the Hadi Benotto secret summation on the discoveries at Dar-es-Balat)
- Chapterhouse: Dune, Chapter 6 (Leto II (The Tyrant)) - “I have Siona blood. He cannot see me.”
None (position created)
|Commander of the Fish Speakers
c. 10500 AG - 13728 AG