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The original Duncan Idaho (10158-10191), known as Duncan-the-First or Duncan Prime, considered one of the finest fighters in history. He was a swordmaster of the Ginaz, a warrior of superior abilities. Duncan Prime was one of three major aides to the original Duke Leto Atreides, along with Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat, when House Atreides ruled Caladan and later Arrakis. Born the son of undistinguished lower-class parents, Duncan spent most of his early years on Caladan, His attitudes and intelligence were discovered during one of the Atreides' regular assessments of the population, and he was apprenticed to House Ginaz. Duncan's abilities and aptness quickly singled him out as one of the few who would be trained in the multiple skills of a sword-master. He demonstrated extraordinary proficiencies and, prior to the War of Assassins, he had far outstripped his contemporaries and most of his teachers. Caught up in the War of Assassins between House Ginaz and House Moritani shortly after his graduation, he energetically threw himself into combat, partially to ease the sorrow of having not been returned to House Atreides. Decades after his death, troubadors related his exploits, and it is still sung that he was finally captured only through the craven use of a hunter-seeker armed with a soporific. With everyone in his patrol dead, he stood with his back to the door while the Ginaz family attempted to escape, defying the finest swordsmen of Grumman. The ballads tell that he slew eighteen before the hunter-seeker finally took him. After his capture, he was a slave on Grumman with his keepers hoping that he could be used as a trainer. However, his constant escape attempts, his disruption of even the most sophisticated imprisonments, and his tactical leadership of three slave revolts forced his sale to House Harkonnen in 10180, when he was twenty-two years old. Again, Duncan demonstrated that his desire for freedom and a return to House Atreides overcame any value his skills had to the Harkonnens. Like other incorrigibles, he was condemned to the mines on Hagal, almost always a death sentence. These mines, a minor CHOAM fief, had been largely exhausted of their jewels during the reign of Shaddam I. The Harkonnens were attempting to gather what little profit remained and could do so only by operating at the lowest cost. The conditions were savage, with the slave mortality rate over sixty percent. Duncan survived the darkness and the starvation for over three years. He had evidently learned subtlety from his unsuccessful escape attempts on Grumman, and in 10184, through a series of bribes paid with hoarded jewels and the seduction of the daughter of the Harkonnen governor, he was able to send a message to Caladan and escape with the girl into Hagal's vast veldt. Six months later, Idaho was found by an Atreides commando force led by Gurney Halleck. Duncan was heralded as a hero on his return to Caladan, and the large expense involved in his rescue demonstrated his value to the Atreides and the reality of the Atreides boast that they took care of their own. Duncan reciprocated with absolute loyalty. In the Atreides he saw his origins, his life, and his resurrection. He brought to them a personal integrity and an inherent morality that would continue to be of value to the God Emperor himself. Idaho was a military genius, and his training as a swordmaster enabled him not only to plan military campaigns but also repair force shields, create linguistically complex battle languages, design military support facilities, and improvise weapons. His greatest long-range contribution to House Atreides, however, was his training of the young Paul Atreides, or as Duncan was fond of calling him, "young master." Even though Duncan was not quite the swordsman that Gurney Halleck was, he was a superb teacher. Paul often remarked that Duncan's feline movements and swift reflexes made him a difficult teacher to emulate. However, Duncan's success is easy to measure in Paul's triumphs over the Fremen Jamis and the na-Baron Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. More important to Paul's leadership to the Fremen, Duncan also made him a master tactician, and it would be foolish to expect that Paul ever would have been accepted by the Fremen, even with consideration of the religious forces, if he had not been a complete warrior. Sadly typical of Duncan's services to the Atreides, his skill as a teacher brought House Atreides woe as well as joy. One of the primary reasons Shaddam IV and House Corrino supported Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's attempted destruction of House Atreides was that Duncan and Gurney Halleck had trained a small force to equal the Padishah Emperor's Sardaukar, and Arrakeen Fremen held great potential for expansion of this small group. It was Duncan who first recognized the military potential of the Fremen. As the leader of the second wave onto Arrakis, it was his responsibility to initiate contact and negotiations with the desert commandos. The success with which he did this demonstrates Duncan's thoroughness and care in matters relating to House Atreides. He was the one who learned of the danger of Shields in the desert, who delivered the first crysknife to Duke Leto, and who stopped Leto's anger when the Naib Stilgar spat on the table to honor the Duke. He also established a temporary truce with the Fremen. While he was never the ideal diplomat, his character made him the ideal liaison with the Fremen. His morality, pride, ruthlessness, loyalty, prowess, and fondness for the truth were a perfect match with the puritanical, rigid, and brutally direct Stilgar. In addition, his honoring of the slain Fremen, Turok, shortly after the Atreides arrived in Arrakeen, created the opportunity for Duncan to accept dual allegiance. Duncan's familiarity with the deserts of Arrakis, gained during his time in the sietches, would later be an irreplaceable asset following the Harkonnen/Sardaukar attack. His knowledge enabled him to guide Paul and the Lady Jessica to freedom and to find Liet-Kynes. In spite of his obvious skills and singular loyalty, Duncan Prime's life was filled with bitter anomalies. His impulsive actions, which often spelled the difference between life and death, were out of place, in the Atreides world of intrigue, politics and prescience. Duncan was unreflecting and imprudent, frequently as the result of inner forces he could not understand. For example, directed by Duke Leto to watch the-Lady Jessica, who had been falsely accused as a spy by a Harkonnen ploy, Duncan became drunk on spice beer. Troubled by his homesickness, misguided by his lack of understanding, marked by his characteristic doubt and intrinsically self-destructive, he unthinkingly accused Lady Jessica. Even his rescue of Paul and Jessica, following the Harkonnen- Sardaukar attack, was tainted. Having successfully led them into the desert and gone for Liet-Kynes, he unwittingly led the Sardaukar back to the three where they hid in the ecological testing station. Yet he gave his life to save theirs, taking with him such an astonishing number of the Sardaukar commandos that his body was frozen and sent to the Bene Tleilax axolotl tanks for regeneration. Amid the cosmic concerns and Machiavellian forces that swirled around him, Duncan contributed the glories of ancient times to a millennium that might otherwise have been sterile in its preoccupation with great issues. His devil-may-care humanity and frailty provided color and excitement.


A true swashbuckler, his black goatish hair over sharp, dark features, his chin marked by a small mole, his never- relinquished habit of the insignia-less, black uniform of the Atreides' House Guard, and his gently observant eyes melted women's hearts and often made him the designated Atreides' escort. Duncan was a man out of his time who carved magic in an age of rationality and contrivance. He recalled an age when noble action was always the most admirable choice, when virtue was self- evident and at the call of the bright and the good, and when loyalty was the greatest gift. The many gholas of Duncan Idaho created over the ensuing centuries retained the original Duncan's unique characteristics. The God Emperor recognized Duncan's charms, and used it to maintain the Fish Speakers' bond to the Duncans, and the gholas were the asexual Leto II's gift to his amazons. However, in his fear of the relationship between Duncan-the- Last and Hwi Noree, Leto II remarked in his diaries that Duncan could always see into the souls of women and get them to do whatever he wanted. While he was rarely simply a Lothario, Duncan was a romantic figure, often called "an aristocrat of the sword." Even as a ghola, he was a poet in actions and words, and "The Ghola's Hymn," Duncan-10208's eulogy for his young master," remains one of the tenderest expressions of the spirit of Duncan and the House Atreides. In her commentaries and before her abomination, St. Alia-of-the-Knife described Duncan as a vulnerable "child-man-adolescent" under seige. His whimsy and attractiveness were always constants in the eyes of the Atreides, much to their misfortune, but certainly to the betterment of later ages.

-R.S.

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Other VersionsEdit

According to Prelude to Dune Duncan was not a native of Caladan but born on Giedi Prime.The child of a family of minor government office workers fallen into disgrace, Duncan was one of many children trained to be hunted for sport.Having escaped his Hunters two times after the murder of his parents by the hands of Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, he was saved by the very woman who had betrayed his family to the Harkonnens, Janess Milam, and could flee the planet on a cargo-craft spaceship.He eventually came to caladan where he entered the serbice of House Atreides.

Prelude also differs from Original Dune by having had Duncan in mortal fights before the Grumman conflict, while both original Dune as well as the Encyclopedia state that Grumman was the first time he had killed.

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