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Dune | Book 1, Section 11–12 : Dune | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Section 11

Duke Leto Atreides has been informed of the attempt on Paul's life and stands on the parapet of a tower above the landing field of Arrakeen, brooding. He knows winning the help of the Fremen is his best chance of coming through this situation with House Atreides intact.

The duke joins his men in an assembly room of the tower, which he is using as a command center. Gurney Halleck greets him and, at the duke's request, agrees to send additional men to Thufir Hawat to help with some ongoing fighting. The duke also asks Halleck to recruit some spice hunters. As Halleck leaves, the duke makes his way to a private area, forcing himself to appear confident in front of his men as he makes his exit.

Book 1, Section 12

Paul has been brought to the command post to be present at his father's staff meeting. Paul and his father discuss the attempt on Paul's life. The duke is angry with Hawat for failing to find the hidden weapon, but he notes that Hawat will punish himself for the mistake and does not need more scolding. Hawat arrives, and the staff officers are invited into the room for the meeting. Hawat gives a report on efforts to befriend the Fremen, noting the Fremen seem to be ruled by someone named Liet. The meeting also covers various aspects of spice mining and trade: smugglers, mining equipment, and difficulties pertaining to spice production such as the huge sandworms that can swallow an entire spice factory in a gulp.

Duncan Idaho interrupts the meeting to report a conflict with Harkonnen mercenaries who were disguised as Fremen. A Fremen courier, sent to warn the duke, was killed in the attack. Idaho begins to display the weapon the courier had been carrying—a crysknife—when a Fremen leader, Stilgar, abruptly enters the room and tells him not to display it. Stilgar tells them that those who have seen a crysknife can never leave Arrakis, according to Fremen law. The duke agrees to leave the blade in its sheath. Stilgar proposes Idaho be made a Fremen through certain rites—though he can still also be an Atreides soldier—and House Atreides can keep the body of the Fremen courier. This exchange is meant to create a bond between the Atreides and the Freemen. After Stilgar leaves, Duke Leto tells Idaho he will be an ambassador to the Fremen.

As the meeting breaks up Paul worries that his father seems desperate and not in control.

Analysis

These sections focus on the duke and his leadership abilities. He knows the importance of appearing confident for the sake of his soldiers. He seems to be a compassionate and fair-minded leader. He correctly assesses Hawat's self-punishment will be harsher than any chastisement the duke could inflict. And his decision to tone down his reproach seems merciful. He decides to allow a certain amount of smuggling because he can collect a tax on it and doing so will keep the smugglers in his sight—and because it undermines any remaining Harkonnen footholds in the planet's spice production. This decision seems politically savvy and strategically smart. He gives in to Stilgar's request to keep the crysknife out of sight to maintain the important image of a duke who rules "with the consent of the governed." The interaction also shows the duke in a favorable light. However, Paul interprets his father's attitude as desperate, and it does seem as though the duke is rather nonchalant about the possibility of a traitor. All in all, this meeting seems to establish the duke is a good man, and a smart one, but perhaps is in over his head. From the beginning, the novel makes it clear the duke is not likely to survive this conflict with the Harkonnens. He is swept up in larger, behind-the-scenes intrigues he cannot control.

The transaction made between Stilgar and Duke Leto is a reminder of the fairness of Fremen culture. The duke is allowed to keep the body of the courier, and in exchange Idaho will become, at least in part, Fremen. This might not make sense—a live man exchanged for a dead one—except the human body is mostly water. Other details of the bonding ritual between the duke and Stilgar shed light on the importance of the situation. When Stilgar spits on the table in front of Leto, the duke's men are quick to take offense. However, Idaho recognizes the saliva as a gift rather than an insult. To the Fremen, Stilgar offers a precious substance—moisture—to the duke. This interaction highlights the difficulty of conducting negotiations between very different cultures. In a culture where water is cheap—such as the culture of Caladan—spitting is seen as a rude gesture, but in a culture where water is precious, the same action has a much different meaning.

While this section of the novel focuses on the practical and political considerations of the duke and his staff, it is not devoid of mystery. Two new characters are introduced: Liet, a mysterious leader of the Fremen who may be some kind of god, and imperial ecologist Kynes. Little is revealed about these characters, but their names are introduced in the characteristic Herbert fashion that has been apparent since the first section of the novel. In general, when questions such as who is Liet? or who are the Bene Gesserit? are introduced, it is only a matter of time before they are answered. In the meantime, however, readers must piece together what they can from the context and wait for more information.

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