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Tleilaxu Face Dancer as depicted in the Computer game Emperor: Battle for Dune

Also known as Shape Changers and Jadacha hermaphrodites, Face Dancers were a sterile race of metamorphic transhumans engineered by the Bene Tleilax. Born from axlotl tanks and unable to breed on their own, their standing in Tleilaxu society fell below that of the child-like Master, but their fluent ability to manipulate both form and personality made them popular for numerous offworld roles - especially entertainment - with a minority serving as spies and assassins.

Anatomy & Psychology[]

Possessing more muscle and nerve linkages than natural humans along with advanced prana-bindu training and a specialized insight into different psyches, Tleilaxu Face Dancers could easily replicate the appearance, voice and personality of other human adults - regardless of their age, build, height or sex. Their name came from the fact their facial features would appear to "dance" when their flesh and bones reconfigured.

Their default communal forms are briefly described in Heretics of Dune:

"Two small men as alike as twins. Almost chinless round faces, pug noses, tiny mouths, black button eyes, and short-cropped white hair that stood up from their heads like the bristles on a brush."

Also touched upon is their psychology and lack of self-identity, being more akin to hive creatures with no apparent ethical code beyond preserving their own life unless ordered to die for their Masters. That isn't to say they were thoughtless drones, however, given their sharp intellect, cunning theatrics, emotional reactions and mindfulness of social consequences.

The one system of honor they did possess - according to Dune Messiah - demanded some obscure means of escape for their victims, but it's unknown how long this practice persisted into later eras.


Face Dancers could generally mimic individuals to an almost perfect level of precision. As such, the Bene Tleilax would often use them to infiltrate powindah organizations and governments, with some of these impostors acting successfully for many years.

However, Face Dancers were not infallible.

For most of their existence, experienced Reverend Mothers could detect mimics by their pheromone signature, along with other physical incongruities. Indeed, the Bene Tleilax were largely unaware of this subtle flaw, much to the Bene Gesserit's advantage.

However, during the turbulent centuries between the Scattering and the arrival of the Honored Matres, Tleilaxu ingenuity had refined their Face Dancers to such a degree that even the Bene Gesserit had difficulty identifying them. Furthermore, they were now capable of absorbing memories through physical contact - even from the recently deceased - so that any individual could be replicated with utmost accuracy, right down to their most personal secrets. This powerful new breed was orchestrated by the ruling council of Masheikhs to conquer the Old Empire from within and convert every world to the Zensufi faith or "Great Belief."

Unfortunately for the Tleilaxu, if such a Face Dancer had been acting as a specific person for a long enough time, they would become delusional and start to believe they were actually that individual. With all former loyalties nullified by their stolen psyche, numerous mimics such as the imposter of Hedley Tuek fell outside of Bene Tleilax control and ended their plans of religious tyranny.

See also[]

Behind the Scenes[]

Tleilaxu Face Dancers are featured prominently throughout Frank Herbert's Dune novels after their introduction in Dune Messiah.