Why did the emperor in Dune send Paul and his family to Arrakis?

Did he want the family to be murdered? If so, why didn't he just murder them on their own planet?

  • 3
    A one line question that requires the reading of a 600 page novel to answer :)
    – Darren
    Dec 20, 2022 at 11:18
  • 4
    In case you don't want to read the books (but who wouldn't?!), there's an answer on scifi.se. Fear of losing power, better army, new weapon(s), better support...
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 20, 2022 at 12:35
  • 2
    @Darren You know this is about a 3 hour film, right?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 20, 2022 at 14:18
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    @NapoleonWilson : I may be picking here, but neither the 1984 nor the 2021 movie gives the reason like the book does I believe. It's been a while since I read them (1982-3 I think) but it's clearly from the book that I remember that, and I'm not sure. Let's Darren find the page for us :)
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 20, 2022 at 15:10
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    @OldPadawan I don't exactly recall the new one, but I'm very sure it's discussed in the Lynch film, either in the beginning where the emperor is consulting with the navigators or later in discussions within the Atreides family. It might not be spoken out as clearly as the book does, but definitely enough to form a coherent answer. Even the Landsraad is mentioned as an institution. It's the entire reason Sardaukar are disguising as Harkonnen troops and that is very much thematized in both the old and the new film. You don't always need a character to spell everything out in big letters.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 20, 2022 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


The 2021 movie doesn't say much, other than "the Emperor is a jealous man", but in the novel (and hopefully the second part, due to be released in 2023) it is hinted that Duke Leto is very popular among the Landsraad (the representatives of all the Great Houses), and has been cultivating quite the fighting force who, individually, are every bit as good as the Emperor's Sardaukar forces. While he lacks the numbers, Duke Leto is seeking to expand his army.

This is something the Emperor is wary of. The Atreides do have a small claim to the throne - I believe Leto is a distant cousin of Emperor Shaddam IV - and the Emperor's power is not absolute. He fears that the Atreides, gaining in popularity, power and influence, could make a play for the throne themselves - though that would probably take a few generations.

As such, he brokers a deal with the Harkonnens - the Atreides sworn enemies who are currently the custodians of the spice harvesting operations on Arrakis. Moving the Atreides in was always only temporary - it gives the Harkonnens the perfect cover for an all-out devastating attack on the Atreides (the Harkonnens' brutal reputation is well known, and everyone would just believe the Harkonnens attacked to get their valuable spice operations back - the book even allows them to declare "kanly", a sort-of limited war), and the chaos would allow the Emperor to send in his Sardaukar in secret to provide help while keeping his hands clean.

Of course, this is to great expense, and cannot happen on the Atreides' home planet of Caladan, because the Emperor cannot be shown to be involved. As mentioned, he does not have complete authority. Physically he could have eliminated the Atreides on Caladan - the few times it features, the planet and its population are relatively primitive. However, the chances are greater that the Atreides would be able to at least get a message out.


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