Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

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Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

Postby ragabash » 28 Aug 2011 17:09

Apologies if this post is misfiled.

So I'm about 20% of the way through Chapterhouse: Dune, and there's something that's been bugging me for a while now. Why do they bother with Duncan? So far the only real abilities that Frank demonstrated he had are:

1. Martial prowess. He says Duncan gholas serve as military leaders throughout the Scattering, etc, but frankly Bashar Teg puts him to shame on that front, what with the nascent prescience and the super speed flash thingy Teg uses to turn the Honored Matres on Gammu into hamburger. They start making Gholas of Teg, so why bother with Duncan?

2. He's really fast and all, but that's only because of enhancements made to him by the Tlelaxu in-tank, and prana-bindu training. Any ghola can get that, as far as I can tell.

3. He brought comfort to Leto II. Sure, that's why he was reproduced so many times under his reign, but really, why bother with him after Leto was gone?

Duncan just seems to be there to refuse to be a 'breeding stud' for the Bene Gesserit, then proceed to be just that. What the hell is so important about him? As far as I can tell there are no natural talents in his genes that he brings to the table breeding wise. (Please correct me if I'm wrong about that.)
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Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

Postby ᴶᵛᵀᴬ » 28 Aug 2011 17:33

Dunepunk wrote something interesting about him :

I'm going to have to say that I liked what Frank did with Duncan in GEoD, Hunters, and Chapterhouse. Duncan (at least early on) defined himself by his loyalty to the Atreides. It was one of the major factors upon which he based his decisions, but in the second half of the series, this motivation becomes much more complicated. He disagrees so strongly with so many things that Leto does, and he really isn't sure what to make of the BG, some of whom are Atreides, and many of whom are not. Miles Teg also produces problems.

I like that Frank tried to examine what the foundation of Duncan's identity was by removing one of the most obvious expressions of it. I think it comes down to loyalty, but when he isn't sure if he can give his loyalty to the people who ask it of him, he generally sticks to his principles.


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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby A Thing of Eternity » 28 Aug 2011 19:35

      One thing as to why bother with him after Leto II was dead is I think simply because he was important to Leto II.

      If the most powerful human (or ex-human) in the history of the human race, most intelligent, most prescient, most impactful upon history itself, had a favourite human who he had ressurected over and over again for thousands of years, and used him extensively in his own breeding program... well let's just say that at the very least people like the BG are going to be practically obsessed with trying to figure out why. It's a fairly safe bet that if he was that important to the most superior being in history, then he himself must in some way be superior to others as well.

      EDIT: also, from the author's view, Duncan is essential in the final books. He's been around through the first 4, so he's already the common thread that binds them, and the first time picking up Heretics is almost more of a shock than GEoD, so much has changed... it's nice to have something familiar to the readers to avoid making them feel like they've been shunted out of the universe they know entirely.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Aquila ka-Hecate » 28 Aug 2011 22:55

      I agree that Duncan was important to the God Emperor, even if only for somewhat suspicious sentimental reasons.

      However, I think there may have been a genetic factor as well: the Duncans were kept for stud to bind some of the human race back to the best of their ancestry.

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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby D Pope » 28 Aug 2011 23:09

      Wasn't there a bit somewhere saying FH kept Duncan going because of popular demand?
      I felt sure I read that here or at TAU...
      Leto II is gone for good, except for OM. The "pearl" was just that; a miniscule portion of what Leto was, and not a compressed version of the whole. The pearl that the worms have do not make them Leto, or in any way similar to him.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby A Thing of Eternity » 28 Aug 2011 23:24

      Aquila ka-Hecate wrote:I agree that Duncan was important to the God Emperor, even if only for somewhat suspicious sentimental reasons.

      However, I think there may have been a genetic factor as well: the Duncans were kept for stud to bind some of the human race back to the best of their ancestry.


      I think we're only discussing his reincarnation in the last 2 books here.

      D Pope wrote:Wasn't there a bit somewhere saying FH kept Duncan going because of popular demand?
      I felt sure I read that here or at TAU...


      Wouldn't surprise me in the least, we know he pretty much only wrote the last books because he was made crazy offers to write them. As long as he could justify too himself that Duncan being reborn in that time period made sense (which I do, see my first post in this thread) popular demand would be more than enough reason to include him. Plus it just makes the series all neat and tidy in that it has 1 single character that is in every book.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Omphalos » 29 Aug 2011 01:00

      I spoke with Raggy about this earlier. His questions go back to GEoD.

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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby A Thing of Eternity » 29 Aug 2011 02:39

      Well then, confusingly worded post! :wink:

      Alright, let me think on that, I know we've discussed it many times before but I like re-thinking stuff.

      I think my answer for what brought Duncan back to the final 2 books (talking in-universe here, not about why FH put him in necessarily) stands; why would the BG not want him?
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby inhuien » 29 Aug 2011 06:36

      Omphalos wrote:I spoke with Raggy about this earlier. His questions go back to GEoD.
      If that is the case I think the answer is more straight forward, or at least less multifaceted. There's the obvious sentimentality of LetoII and he was viewed as a genetic resource.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby A Thing of Eternity » 29 Aug 2011 13:36

      On the genetic resource point too, it could be that there really was nothing too insanely out of the ordinary about Duncan. Leto II knew him extremely well from his own life and his father's, and Duncan was simply an extremely good example of a great human being. So putting him into the breeding program over and over probably could have helped Leto make sure he was getting the characteristics he wanted out of the program without deviating too far from human-normal.

      Someone with experience or knowledge of breeding programs for dogs and horses would probably be helpful here - when breeding over the long term, are animals more like what the person started with sometimes bred back in? Or is this a concept FH invented?
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby SandRider » 29 Aug 2011 14:14

      For he ISSS the ultra-Kwifartz Paddywack !!!
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby A Thing of Eternity » 29 Aug 2011 14:17

      SandRider wrote:For he ISSS the ultra-Kwifartz Paddywack !!!


      Way to give away the made up fake ending SR. Way to go. Now he'll never know the sheer joy of reading the 2 monstrosities the hack calls Dune 7 and having the grand surprise revealed to him.

      Ragabash, just in case this confuses you with the point you're at in the book, don't worry about it, Duncan is NOT a KH. :D
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby inhuien » 29 Aug 2011 14:23

      D Pope wrote:Wasn't there a bit somewhere saying FH kept Duncan going because of popular demand?
      I felt sure I read that here or at TAU...
      That's the story behind his return in Messiah, but not his continued presence in the remainder of the saga.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Omphalos » 29 Aug 2011 14:29

      In the archive there are many excised scenes from later in Dune that have Duncan. I think Herbert's original plan was to keep him around, but he could not find a good use for him. It kind of feels like he just threw his hands up in the air, then put a blade through Duncan's head out of frustration. Seems the fans didn't like that too much though.

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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby SandRider » 29 Aug 2011 15:41

      from a literary-mechanics POV, as stated above, Duncan is the "common-thread" ... an entry-point and reference to the reader,
      esp after the intervals before and after God-emperor .... readers can identify themselves with The Duncans ... I also have a
      little theory that (from God-emperor on) Frank used The Duncans as his personal reference - that he extrapolated what his
      own feelings and thoughts would have been in the situation onto the Duncans ... while all fictional characters are an extension
      or facet of the novelist's own character, I think the Duncans represent Frank's most-surface feelings or opinions ... possibly
      from the very beginning ... Duel-allegiance to the Atreides and the Fremen, unquestioning sacrifice in the defense of Paul,
      both in Dune and as Hayt in Messiah ... the intellectual understanding of Leto II & the form of his Empire, and the rejection
      of it ...

      I've long thought that the speeches of Leto II in God-emperor were Frank's "pontification" on various subjects, and The Duncan's
      more pragmatic responses were Frank's own counter-arguments ... what I am trying to say here is that (most times) in a literary
      work of a talent of Frank's caliber, characters are more than sock-puppets to mouth dialog ... and that (often) even in a literary
      work of such a talent, the character's "actions\(motivations)" with-in the plot get "twisted" by the more-important need to "use"
      the character for emphasis of an over-arching theme, above & beyond the current "scene" in the current "plot" ...

      this is not is an answer to Ragabash's "in-story" question ... but perhaps a suggestion on "how" to read the character of The Duncans,
      thru-out the chronicles ...

      as to the OP itself - I think I am reading your question as "Why is Duncan important to the Bene Gesserit Breeding Program ?" ...
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Lundse » 29 Aug 2011 18:02

      Leto II needed someone to connect him to his humanity, to the Atreides heritage and someone to fight against him.

      Duncan was human in a very basic way - he had a healthy sex drive (ahum), followed gut instincts, was not at all perfect, had no great ambition to be anything except what he was, was proud but not without reason or out of bounds, etc. He was an honest-to-god human to interact with, he would be horrified at what Leto had become, and have no way to understand it. He was not BG, not a blood relation or anything else - just a loyal friend.

      Duncan was also linked to the Atreides in fierce loyalty. He connects Leto with the duality of leadership - be someone people will want to serve, but watch that you do not become their god. I think Duncan had about the right relationship to Leto I and Paul - loyal, but no automaton. His loyalty lay with the Atreides family and ideal, and Leto knew there was the whole 'I am the Atreides'-dynamic which I think amused him and was an important lesson; few people would be as moved by the fact that Leto I, Jessica and Paul was 'in there'.
      Duncan had given his life for the Atreides two times, that beats even Thufir's record of servitude :-)

      Duncan was an antagonist to Leto. I think this is the big one, we know that Duncan was killed over and over, trying to kill Leto. I am quite sure Leto had quite a bit of self-loathing and problems with what he had to do, and I think Duncan's arguments, hate and maybe even assasination attempts might have been some sort of catharsis. And most importantly, I think he needed someone who did not just buy his god-hood at face value. Someone he could have near, trust, talk to and count on (for some time, at least), but who was basically against what was going on. Someone who would lead the scattering - which was all about humanity, sex drive and breaking free.


      Why Duncan and not eg. Gurney? Not sure... Maybe Gurney was just a bit too... colourful for the story, and maybe his involvement with Leto's transformation would have made things kind of awkward :-) Also, Duncan was the only one to have intimate knowledge (no pun intended) of Alia's rule - no other Atreides servant had experienced the full scope of the Atreides ascendancy.

      Possibly, Duncan was also interesting because he was the first to reawaken as a ghola. Maybe Leto had some idea that even greater possibilities lay that way, maybe he hoped/wanted/planned for humanity to someday have 'the full story' - maybe Duncan's memory was his final hoarde/recording device.

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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby A Thing of Eternity » 29 Aug 2011 18:09

      Just one minor quibble with all that - about leading the Scattering. I could be wrong about the time line (it's been ages since I read the last 2 books) but I was under the impression that the Famine Times following the death of Leto II were much longer than a single lifetime, so unless I'm wrong (could very well be) he'd be dead by then.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Lundse » 30 Aug 2011 03:06

      A Thing of Eternity wrote:Just one minor quibble with all that - about leading the Scattering. I could be wrong about the time line (it's been ages since I read the last 2 books) but I was under the impression that the Famine Times following the death of Leto II were much longer than a single lifetime, so unless I'm wrong (could very well be) he'd be dead by then.


      You're right, of course.

      Though based on the last conversation in GEoD, I think he and Siona did get down, and may very well have started a trend of outward expansion. Whether that had any meaningful impact on the scattering is, however, purely guesswork...

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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Freakzilla » 30 Aug 2011 08:41

      I believe The Scattering started the instant RM Anteac and the God Emperor's Fish Speakers attacked IX. Whatever no-ships they (Guild/IX/BT) had bugged out beyond the reach of Leto's/Duncan-Siona's empire and set up shop.

      Siona and Duncan stayed behind to make babies and write books.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Nekhrun » 30 Aug 2011 19:00

      Freakzilla wrote:Siona and Duncan stayed behind to make babies and write books.

      That's the life.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby ragabash » 11 Sep 2011 02:33

      I agree with Lundse's assessment of why Leto II kept Duncan around. All of that makes sense. I just (still) don't get why the BG would bother, aside from the notion expressed earlier in the thread of "He was important to the Tyrant, so we better keep him around". That's a bit thin, since all they did was just keep him bottled up in various no-ships like a caged rat. Odrade and ole Sister Bossypants (whose name escapes me ATM) keep arguing about how important he is, with Odrade always defending him. But I'll be damned if Frank mentions why Odrade feels that way. Maybe they want to breed him with Sheeana, since he's such an exemplar of humanity, but we know for a fact that the Bene Tlelax have fucked with his genome. Breeding him with ANYONE may be a time bomb.

      I'm also not sure I can get on board with the notion of him being the stand-in for the audience or the author. All Duncan does in the last two novels (well, the last one and a half, as I haven't finished Chapterhouse) is whine about being a breeding stud, stalk around broodingly and try to break out of the prison he's in. Either the author or the audience is supposed to identify with that?

      One more point; they keep Duncan, Murabella and Scytale in a no-ship to prevent prescients from finding them. Do the Honored Matres even have any? They seem to abhor spice, and the Guildsmen under their thumbs specialize in safe space travel, not intelligence work. Who are they really trying to block?

      Hm. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but this whole business makes no sense to me.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby Demerzel » 11 Sep 2011 06:20

      ^ Agreed. Duncan didn't live up to my expectations later on in the series, but I'm sure Frank had something huge planned for him after Chapterhouse, with him then being in command of the ship etc. The last two books are vague like that. Both the novels were just thoughts of many characters, not much was really done (other than in the Teg chapters). The other characters just.. talked. And while many of these external and internal dialogues had a lot concealed in them or were valuable in some way, I could find nothing of use in the thoughts or actions of Duncan in either book, except at the end of CH:D.

      The simple reason to have him around would be to give us someone we were familiar with, but I hardly believe that's all.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby SandChigger » 11 Sep 2011 11:21

      ragabash wrote:One more point; they keep Duncan, Murabella and Scytale in a no-ship to prevent prescients from finding them. Do the Honored Matres even have any? They seem to abhor spice, and the Guildsmen under their thumbs specialize in safe space travel, not intelligence work. Who are they really trying to block?

      Have you read Ch.6 of Chapterhouse yet? (If you're halfway through, I guess you have.) Go back and look for mention of the Edric on Gammu. ;)

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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby inhuien » 12 Sep 2011 08:25

      SandChigger wrote:
      ragabash wrote:One more point; they keep Duncan, Murabella and Scytale in a no-ship to prevent prescients from finding them. Do the Honored Matres even have any? They seem to abhor spice, and the Guildsmen under their thumbs specialize in safe space travel, not intelligence work. Who are they really trying to block?

      Have you read Ch.6 of Chapterhouse yet? (If you're halfway through, I guess you have.) Go back and look for mention of the Edric on Gammu. ;)

      There's also the point that the prescient in nature, by definition, work in 4 dimensions.
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      Re: Why is Duncan so goddamn important?

      Postby SandChigger » 12 Sep 2011 08:39

      But never on weekends! :naughty:


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