Along with Thufir Hawat and Duncan Idaho, Halleck was one of Paul's principal teachers during his early years on Caladan. He was a ruthless, yet noble and romantic warrior of enormous talent. Described as "an ugly lump of a man", he was regarded the most loyal of friends to those he loved, and to those he hated there were few enemies more terrifying. A traditionalist and purist at heart, Gurney Halleck did not indulge in melange addiction or other methods to prolong human life.
Halleck was a talented minstrel who was skilled in the use of the baliset. He would often play music on this instrument to entertain his guests, or to fill the dining halls of House Atreides with music when he was in their service. Moreover, Halleck was also fond of sprouting verse from ancient epic tales, and would frequently find an appropriate verse for almost every situation. Indeed, at times his quotations were so appropriate they were almost prophetic.
Halleck's fighting abilities were second to none. In a fight against Gurney with sword or knife, few opponents lasted more than a few moments, including even battle-hardened Sardaukar. Gurney was also skilled at various other weapons, and astonished Fremen later saw that he could adapt to his environment, as witnessed by the fact that he taught himself to ride sandworms as they did.
However, it was the way in which Halleck managed to fuse the minstrel and warrior that made him so unique. According to Idaho, "He could be killing you while he was singing and never miss a note."
Halleck was born and raised on Giedi Prime, under the rule of House Harkonnen. Like so many people from Giedi Prime, Halleck was used as slave labour to drive Harkonnen machinery. At one stage Halleck challenged Beast Rabban, who was the slave master at the time. As a result of this confrontation, Halleck's jawline bore a scar from an inkvine whip wound inflicted by Rabban. This scar would serve to remind Halleck of his origins, as it had left a permanent poison in his skin that would irritate him and cause him to rub the scar frequently, for the rest of his life.
After an incident with the local militia and the murder of his sister Bheth, he escaped Giedi Prime and met up with the rogue House Vernius. Eventually, after a string of conflicts and the death of Dominic Vernius, Gurney Halleck arrived on Caladan seeking the exiled Prince Rhombur Vernius. After helping to reclaim the planet Ix for House Vernius, Halleck returned to Caladan.
Life with House Atreides
Gurney eventually found service with House Atreides on Caladan during the rule of Leto I. He eventually became Warmaster and a loyal friend to Duke Leto Atreides and his concubine, the Lady Jessica. When Leto and Jessica had a son, Paul, Halleck later served as one of Paul's instructors in war and hand-to-hand combat.
Lady Jessica, who knew him so well, recalled in him an epigram written on the wall of a Muslim palace in the country of Spain, which once existed on Old Earth. She called him Gurney The Valorous from that Islamic ode:
- "There are four pillars which support the world...the wisdom of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave."
War of Assassins of 10,187 AG
During the great conflict of the War of Assassins of 10,187 AG, Gurney Halleck was present during the failed assassination attempt of Duke Leto's life at his marriage ceremony to Ilesa Ecaz, who sadly was killed. Halleck accompanied Duke Leto a few weeks later, when Leto dispatched Prad Vidal on the Elacca sub-continent on the Ecazi home-world.
When full blown war broke out between House Moritani and House Ecaz later that year, Gurney Halleck was on the Moritani homeworld of Grumman, as a leader of the Ecazi/Atreides' forces. Halleck discovered that it was none other that Glossu Rabban who on Grumman as a secret leader of the disguised Harkonnen and Moritani forces. Rabban was pursued by Halleck and Atreides forces into the underbrush and hills surrounding Grumman's main city of Ritka. Before he could be captured by Halleck, he fell into a raging river, and was lost sight of in the rapids. Halleck and the Atreides forces returned to Caladan victorious.
Life on Arrakis
Three years later, like the entire Atreides staff, Halleck accompanied the Duke and his family to Arrakis. Unlike other Atreides lieutenants such as Duncan Idaho, Halleck survived the fall of the Atreides on Arrakis. In the years after the attack, he fell in with spice smugglers, eventually becoming a powerful figure, both in their ranks and on Arrakis in general. Approximately two years after the fall of the Duke Leto, Halleck and his smugglers fell for a Fremen trap - a fake hoard of spice - and were almost killed before Paul, who had now become the Fremen leader Muad'Dib, recognized him among the smugglers. Upon returning to Sietch Tabr with Paul, Halleck almost killed the Lady Jessica, because he was under the mistaken impression (as others were) that she was responsible for the betrayal of House Atreides to House Harkonnen.
Leader in the Jihad
Few men, other than the Atreides, could have been more satisfied to see Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his House fall, especially at the hands of the Atreides, whom Halleck so deeply loved. After Paul ascended to the Golden Lion Throne, Halleck at first became responsible for training the Fremen for their role as Jihadi soldiers.
One such training time came as Halleck prepared the Arrakan natives to fight off-world on water-oriented planets. Gurney threw a Corrino solari to the bottom of a tank of water, and then encouraged the Fremen faithful to retrieve the coin in the 8 foot deep pool. One such bright student, Enno, desired to show himself especially faithful to Muad'Dib; and swam and brought the metallic object to the surface. Much to Halleck's dismay, Enno almost died, as he consumed large quantities of water into his lungs. It was then at this time that Gurney realized the fanaticism of the Fremen for Paul.
Later, as the Jihad armies brought the planet Galicia under the domain of Paul, Gurney was deeply troubled by the viciousness of the attack on the villa of that planet's Landsraad representative Lord Colus. The Fremen soldiers burned the entire village that surrounded the villa to ruins; and Enno, who thought himself fervent in the service of Muad'Dib, threatened Colus even as the nobleman surrendered to Halleck. Later, when Halleck inspected the battle damage, he saw that Enno had severed Colus's head, and placed it on a spike. To restore discipline, Halleck slit Enno's throat, and placed his head on the spike, as a reminder that basic rules of war must be obeyed.
Baron of Giedi Prime
In 10197 AG, Halleck returned from the Jihad to Arrakeen, when Paul immediately rewarded him with the fief of Giedi Prime, and made him the Baron of the planet. When Halleck arrived on the planet, he visited the village of his youth, Dmitri, when so much anguish took place in his life. Halleck remembered the so-called pleasure houses, where his sister, Bheth Halleck, had been a constantly raped sex slave. As a final act of revenge against the Harkonnens, Gurney visited the pleasure house of Rulien Scheck, where Bheth was used and taken, and had Scheck put to death. Then promptly, Halleck overturned all of the slavocracy that existed, and outlawed the practice.
But Giedi Prime was not where Halleck wanted to be, as the planet brought back too many bad memories. When the Lady Jessica visited Paul on Arrakis, Halleck happened to return on the same heighliner, and Paul relieved him of his Giedi Prime duties. Paul instructed Gurney to become the Duchess Jessica's principal officer, and returned to Caladan with her in late 10,197 AG.
Earl on Caladan
In 10200 AG, as the Jihad spread throughout the Imperium, the Qizarate of Muad'Dib wanted to rename Caladan a name honoring Paul's youth. Aided secretly by the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Mohiam, the water world declared itself independent of Paul's Empire. Gurney, who had been made an Earl of the water-oriented world, tried negotiating with the secessionsit leaders, again and again, to show them the error of their ways, but it was to no avail.
When the Duchess Jessica returned to Caladan returned from a visit with Paul and Bronso Vernius of Ix, she was alarmed at the rebel situation in Cala City as it was spreading throughout the Western Continent. She asked Gurney to summon ten of the secessionist leaders to Castle Caladan for an all night negotiation on the future of Caladan. While there, Jessica dismissed Gurney, and poisoned each of the ten leaders to death; knowing it was for the good of the Imperium.
Friend of Jessica
It was said that during this time, when Paul was Emperor, Gurney Halleck became the lover of the Lady Jessica, though the two of them kept their relationship out of the public eye to avoid scandal. It would appear that Halleck spent the remainder of his days assisting the Lady Jessica in ruling Caladan.
Halleck still retained the title of Baron of Giedi Prime, and as well as outlawing slavery on the world, he ecologically improved the entire infrastructure on the planet, with the help of the Caladani people. Included in this massive project was the reseeding of natural flora and fauna, as well as the renaming of places and cities.
Attempted Ghola During Kralizec
After the time of the Ascension of House Atreides, the reign of the God-Emperor, and The Scattering, the end of the age and the coming of Kralizec began. Duncan Idaho and Sheeana, with various crew and captives, escaped in the no-ship, the Ithaca, from the united Honored Matres/Bene Gesserit capital of Chapterhouse. They were subsequently pursued by the Outside Enemy who tried to ensnare them in their Tachyon net, but the Ithaca escaped by folding space.
As the Ithaca began its' journey from one part of the Universe to another, it was revealed that one member aboard the ship, Scytale, a Tleilaxu Master, had cells of Halleck and other leaders from mankind's history, that he kept in a Nullentropy tube. The Bene Gesserit Sheeana, her sisters and acolytes, specifically chose to create a ghola of Halleck and others in an Axlotl Tank, as Sheeana suspected Halleck's fighting skills would be a great asset.
Unbeknownst to them, the Jewish Rabbi aboard the Ithaca, was really an Enhanced Face Dancer. As he pretended to pray with Rebecca, who had volunteered to be an axlotl tank, the Rabbi killed the unborn ghola of Halleck and two others. No more attempts were made to create a ghola of Halleck, before the no-ship was captured by the Enemy.
According to The Dune Encyclopedia Gurney was originally a native of Chusuk who had come into Harkonnen slavery through one of Glossu Rabbans raids on that world.Also in this version his sister is called Annette instead of Bheth and she was murdered by a Harkonnen officer on her first day at the Harkonnen pleasure-house and so she had been spared a life of brutalization.
Behind the Scenes
In David Lynch's film version of Dune, he was portrayed by Patrick Stewart, while in the Sci Fi Channel mini-series, the role was played by P. H. Moriarty.