House Harkonnen was a Great House during the time of the Padishah Emperors. Their capital was Giedi Prime, a heavily industrialised planet with a low photosynthetic potential. House Harkonnen was most famous for its underhanded and sinister political tactics, and for an ancient feud it maintained with another Great House, House Atreides. In addition, House Harkonnen had a reputation for ambition, malevolence, hatred and brutality. It was typically ruled by a Siridar Baron.
The Harkonnen name was believed to originate in what was western Russia on ancient Earth, and the region of Earth called Suomi, also Finland. It has been suggested that the Harkonnen name comes from Sweden as a derivation of Hakkon - but it is likely that it is indeed from Finland, as Härkönen is a 20th century Finnish name.
The Harkonnen family during the time of the League of Nobles maintained a burgeonning commercial empire, and owned mining operations on the planet Hagal. The patriarch of the family, Ulf Harkonnen, and his wife, Katarina, were caught by Cymeks in their starship, above the planet Caladan. Piers, a son who accompanied them, was ejected down to the planet's surface, was never heard from again, and was presumed dead.
His brother, Xavier Harkonnen, was raised by adoptive parents of the Tantor family, Emil and Lucille, on the League capital world of Salusa Secundus. Xavier eventually became a Primero during the Butlerian Jihad, but was disgraced when he killed Grand Patriarch Iblis Ginjo, in the Thalim system.
Xavier's grandson, Abulurd Harkonnen, came to be the founder of House Harkonnen. The long-running feud with the Atreides originated after Abulurd refused an order from Vorian Atreides, to kill the millions of humans enslaved by the thinking machines. Abulurd's disobedience was exposed by Vorian himself at the Battle of Corrin, the Jihad's last battle. As a result, Abulurd was labelled a coward and a traitor. He was banished from the League Worlds to the frosty planet of Lankiveil by his own brother, Faykan Corrino, who became the first Emperor. Abulurd's sons were told this story, and grew hate about the name Atreides, and all their descendants.
Emergence as a Great House
After many centuries toiling as a House Minor, Harkonnen influence gradually rose within the Landsraad, due mostly to shrewd manipulation of the whale fur market, which was primarily the efforts of Baron Dmitri Harkonnen and his son Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
House Harkonnen had built its power on maximising production output, and minimising production expenses by ignoring economically ethical behaviour. Indeed, Harkonnen governing was based upon a simple foundation of fear and terror. They were used in governance, in the day-to-day running of the Harkonnen household, and in controlling the Harkonnen armies. With a social order based on treachery and punishment, soldiers rose through the ranks through deceit, trickery and, if necessary, assassination.
In approximately 10130 AG, House Harkonnen won the siridar fief of Arrakis. Their responsibility was to mine the spice melange and supply it to the universe. Through their persecution of the Fremen, and through the minimisation of outlay on infrastructure and pay, the Harkonnens managed to pay the tithe they owed to the Emperor, as well as keep a substantial amount of melange for themselves. By 10191 AG, the Harkonnens had managed to amass considerable wealth through spice mining.
Despite House Harkonnen's relative power prior to the end of the Corrino Empire, Vladimir Harkonnen desired the ultimate achievement of usurping the Corrinos and form the Harkonnen Empire. Thus, he secretly plotted against both House Atreides and House Corrino, hoping to destroy the former and overpower the latter through force and marriage.
However, Vladimir Harkonnen's plans were ultimately unravelled by the rise of Paul Atreides on Arrakis. After Vladimir Harkonnen's death at the hands of Paul's younger sister, Alia Atreides in 10193 AG, the title of Baron passed very briefly to his nephew, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, before being killed by Paul Atreides in an act of kanly.
After the ascent of House Atreides, what little remained of House Harkonnen saw its power and resources quickly disappear. Control of Giedi Prime was given the people of Caladan, and under the direction of Gurney Halleck, once a slave on that world, dismantled the machines of industry, changed its name and the names of its cities, and replanted forests and greenery there. House Harkonnen essentially ceased to be during the time of Muad'Dib's Jihad. However, the Harkonnen bloodline continued to exist through Bene Gesserit breeding programs for more than 1500 years thereafter.
Harkonnen Family Tree
Ulf Harkonnen = Katarina Harkonnen Butler family | : | : ------------- -------------------------- | | | | Piers Harkonnen Xavier Harkonnen = Octa Butler Serena Butler | | ----------------------------------- | | | Roella Harkonnen Omilia Harkonnen Wandra Harkonnen = Quentin Vigar | | --------------------------------- | | | Faykan Corrino Rikov Butler Abulurd Harkonnen the Elder : : : : House Corrino : : : : : : Victoria Harkonnen = Dmitri Harkonnen = Daphne Harkonnen | | House Atreides | | : Gaius Helen Mohiam = Vladimir Harkonnen ---------------- : | | | : | Emmi Rabban = Abulurd Rabban Marotin Harkonnen Leto Atreides I = Jessica Atreides | | | | ------------------------ Faroula = Liet Kynes ---------------- | | | | | Glossu Rabban Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen Chani Kynes = Paul Atreides Alia Atreides | ----------------------- | | Ghanima Atreides Leto Atreides II
Known Harkonnen Barons
Behind the Scenes
- The origin and actions of House Harkonnen prior to House Atreides' migration to Arrakis are barely discussed by Frank Herbert. Many of the earlier plots and events are filled out by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson in their prequel novels.
- Frank Herbert said in later interviews that he modeled the fictional Harkonnens after the Nazi Party.
- Within Frank Herbert's continuity, the official seal of House Harkonnen bore the image of a blue griffin. The Dune Encyclopedia altered it to a ram which was followed by video game adaptations developed by Westwood Studios.
- The rise of House Harkonnen was an example that, in the Faufreluches system, a Minor House could become a Major House through the amassment of wealth. It could be determined, therefore, that one of the faults of the Faufreluches system was that a banished House could return if they became rich enough.
- Härkönen is a real-life Finnish name, indicating that perhaps the Harkonnens had Finnish ancestors from Old Earth.