Who Are The Harkonnen, The Dune Dark And Sadistic Monster House
Within the mythology created by Frank Herbert in his novel Dune, we find a particularly terrifying family. We are talking about the Harkonnen, commanded by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The science fiction writer captured this caste’s lowest and most brutal human instincts.
Dune was written in 1965, and from there, he made five sequels. This earned the writer the prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards. Its impact on culture was such that 13 years later, it inspired George Lucas for the famous Star Wars movie.
As in Star Wars, space travel is significant in the Dune films. This is where the planet that gives the novel its name, Arrakis, or Dune, comes into play.
This planet haves surface of endless deserts between dry dunes and rocks. Because of this arid desert climate, it is known as Dune. The climate is dry and has high temperatures, so few life forms inhabit the planet.
For the natives of Arrakis, the greatest treasure is water. In a culture where water was vital, any action was a sign of honor and gratitude among the Fremen. Their way of life even leads them to harness moisture from sweat, feces and the dead.
The plot of the story centers on Duke Leto’s House Atreides. This was one of the great houses of the Landsraad (the body representing the Great Houses) and very popular. Opposite House Atreides, we have its historical enemy, House Harkonnen, presided over by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
The House Harkonnen
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
The story of Dune takes place some 20,000 years in the future, when mankind has conquered space travel. In this setting, the “Houses” are noble families. The function of these aristocrats is to maintain balance in a neo-feudal political system. At the center of it, all is the Padishah Emperor.
The Emperor’s power is shared with three other institutions, the Bene Gesserit, the Space Guild and the Landsraad. The latter is responsible for bringing together the Imperial House, the Great Houses and the Lesser Houses in a Governing Council.
The Landsraad’s function is to ensure trade relations, alliances and agreements. In addition, the Empire put the decision to vote there. In this way, they maintained the balance.
Among the Great Houses, the “House Atreides”, the “House Vernius” and the “House Harkonnen” stand out. This last one had its decline at some point of power but returned. His return was motivated by the manipulation of the whale skin market.
His business was focused and consolidated thanks to the benefits of the Arrakis substance called “melange”. This species can only be obtained on that planet, which has become one of the most extraordinary, expensive and coveted goods in the Universe.
This has given rise to a tireless battle, with the “House Harkonnen” becoming bitter enemies of the “House Atreides”. And although they have tended to disappear, they still continue to fight.
The “House Harkonnen” was originally led by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, a government that was based on cruelty, fear and greed. So, he is well known as a tyrant and the villain with more presence in this story of Dune. His mission from the beginning is the fall of Duke Leto and his House.
Knowing the Spice or Melange
We must stop to comment a little about this substance since its importance is vital to understanding Dune’s mythology. The Navigators of the Space Guild depend on melange to achieve high cognition and prescient oracular ability. This is imperative to control travel in the Empire. With this enhanced ability, they can see the safe pathways through the bent space generated by the Holtzman machines, which allows the Guild’s giant cruisers to navigate.
It is important to mention that in Dune mythology, the use of technology for interstellar travel is strictly forbidden. This is because, in the past, advanced technology put humanity in Jake. The writer Frank Herbert was a visionary not only by creating this complex Universe in the 1960s. His imagination allowed him to anticipate that artificial intelligence would evolve beyond the control of its creators to the point of having to ban it. We have subsequently seen this concept in films such as The Terminator and The Matrix.
Who are the Members of House Harkonnen?
Among the “House Harkonnen” members, we have Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who has two nephews, Feyd and Rabban. We tell you about each of them below:
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is Siridar – Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the penultimate ruler of House Harkonnen. He is credited with the disappearance of Duke Leto Atreides of House Atreides. This attempt occurred during the latter part of the reign of Shaddam IV, the Emperor. The reason is that the great charisma of Duke Leto, intimidated the Emperor, a weak and worthless man.
Vladimir Harkonnen is the son of a baron of House Harkonnen. From an early age, he showed interest in achieving power, so he was trained to be the heir of his house.
All this, even though the throne belonged to his half-brother Abulurd. Who in appearance showed much gentler manners than him. During that time, his father served as head of House Harkonnen. In addition, he was Siridar and Baron of the planet Giedi Prime.
When Vladimir succeeded his father, he used the strategies of his predecessors, guaranteeing his success. To do so, he used blackmail, betrayal and deception. But, being in their reign, he had to prepare his successors.
To succeed him, he chose his youngest nephew, Feyd-Rautha. He stands out for being a good fighter and much more intelligent than his older brother, Rabban, or so the baron considers him. Nothing could be further from the truth because, on the contrary, Rabban, who is called “the beast”, is the first-born nephew of Vladimir Harkonnen and is considered sadistic and cruel.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s leadership is remarkable despite his advanced age. Even being 81 years old, he devised the plan, although it failed, assigning roles to his nephews to reestablish the power of Harkonnen in Arrakis.
He demonstrated his cruelty during his rule, earning House Harkonnen its notorious reputation. Some describe him as a pleasure and thrill seeker, showing sadistic pedophilic tendencies.
Vladimir dies at 83, poisoned by Alia Atreides, his granddaughter. When the forces of House Harkonnen were defeated by Fremen forces in Arrakis in 10.193, upon his death, House Harkonnen passed to Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, his na-Baron. But, he lost the throne in a duel with Paul Atreides, who assumed control.
The appearance of the character Baron Vladimir Harkornnen is that of a highly obese man weighing 200 kilos. For this reason, he is forced to use a jockstrap to move.
Because of his corpulence, he is unable to walk, and thanks to his suspenders he moves floating through the air from one place to another. The story’s plot implies that this overweight baron is due to his unbridled gluttony.
But, as far as the Dune Expanded universe is concerned, his appearance is due to Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. Who deliberately infected him with a degenerative disease by raping her.
Before this event, Vladimir was a tall, muscular man with red and gold hair and a so-called widow’s peak. When he was infected, his appearance changed markedly, not only because of his obesity. His eyes became black as spiders. His cheeks became like two angelic mounds, swollen jowls and protruding lips.
Among the versions of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen are:
- 1984, in David Lynch’s film, the character was played by Kenneth McMillan.
- In the Sci-Fi channel mini-series of Dune, the character was played by British actor Ian McNeice.
- Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard played the character in the 2021 film Dune.
Glossu Rabban Harkonnen
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, his aliases known as “The Beast”, “King Cobra”, and “Mudir Nahya”. He earned his nickname “The Beast” by coldly murdering his father, Abulurd Harkonnen.
Rabban lives up to his nickname as a savage and unintelligent animal who uses his brute strength to instill fear. Demonstrating from the beginning the behavior of the Harkonnen, sadism and cruelty, but not at all his cunning.
He holds the title of Count of Lankiveil and is the eldest nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. He is the legitimate son of Abulurd Harkonnen and half-brother of Siridar – Baron. His father had renounced the name Harkonnen.
This meant he and his sons had no rights derived from their titles, such as influence, power, money or pleasures. But, apparently, when his father passed away, his uncle Baron Vladimir Harkonnen assumed them as his own.
Vladimir’s original plan was to let Rabban rule in a cruel and ruthless manner, to remove him from power later and place his younger brother, Feyd-Rautha. The idea was to terrorize the people into submission.
When the dispute for Arrakis took place, Rabban had the opportunity to be the ruler of that planet. As a ruler, he was terrible, losing control of Arrakis soon after.
Thus, the throne was passed to the Fremen by the hand of Paul Muad’Dib, demonstrating little leadership and erroneous decision-making this way. In this way, Vladimir’s plans fell apart completely.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
The actors who have played the role of Glossu Rabban Harkonnen have been:
- Paul L. Smith
- László I. Kish
- Dave Bautista
Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen had as parents Abulurd Rabban and his wife, Emmi. His father had placed his hope in this son so that he would not inherit the dishonor of the Harkonnen. Contrary to the eldest son, who proved brutal from an early age.
To honour his maternal grandfather, who had been killed on Glossu’s orders, he received the name of Feyd. Feyd-Rautha is the youngest nephew of Baron Vladimir Harconnen, who bestowed upon him the title of “Na – Baron”. He is one of the heirs of House Harkonnen. And he is represented in Dune as one of the main antagonists.
Few perhaps know that Baron Vladimir took this son from his brother Abulurd, giving him back the Harkonnen surname and raising him as an heir of his own. Over time, the baron came to favor Feyd more than Glossu.
Feyd-Rautha’s personality differed greatly from his older brother, “The Beast.” The young man was charismatic and intelligent, dedicated to the Harkonnen culture of cruelty and sadism.
It should be noted that the potential described was typical of any Harkonnen’s upbringing. After the battle of Arrakeen, Paul Atreides killed Feyd-Rautha.
While it is true that Feyd-Rautha has parents, he is really a genetic product. What was developed by Bene Gesserit hundreds of generations ago. He aimed to produce the coveted Kwisatz Haderach.
The Kwisatz Haderach is a resulting human considered the chosen one. He can be in many places at the same time. In other words, they wanted to get a human being whose mental powers would allow them to understand and use the higher-order dimensions of our brains.
The appearance of the character was not very pleasant. A young man with thick muscles, heavy shoulders, and a mean face. His sullen face, eyes, full lips, dark hair, and tight curls.
Marriage With Princess Irulan Corrino
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen planned a strategic marriage alliance between Feyd and Princess Irulan Corrino. Who was the eldest daughter of Emperor Shaddam IV. With this, he sought to give the Harkonnen control and influence over the throne.
The idea was to install Feyd as ruler in Arrakis after the tyrannical misrule of his older brother Glossu. He sought to make the entire population see that Feyd was their savior, so they would not resist.
But Feyd was impatient, and his evident ambition made him make mistakes, manipulated by Thufir Hawat, advisor of the Atreides, which led him almost to death beside his uncle.
If anything characterized Feyd, it was his great skill in individual combat and his willingness to break the many formal rules that governed such a challenge. But this did him little good. In a fight with Paul, he died.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is played by singer Sting in the film Dune by David Lynch. This was the first film of the original novel of Frank Herbert’s saga. Other actors who played the character were Matt Keeslar and Austin Butler.
The Harkonnen House, a Dark and Sadistic Monster
The Harkonnen House is one of the most sordid, dark and sadistic aspects of Frank Herbert’s work. This aspect was portrayed very well by David Lynch in his 1984 adaptation.
In 2021 Denis Villeneuve brought back Dune with a fresh and renewed style that captivated fans of the saga. Warner Bros. Pictures is scheduled to release its sequel on November 3, 2023. The film will have a screenplay co-written by Jon Spaihts. The cast includes Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Dave Bautista, among others.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Pictures / @DuneInfo
I am a circus aerialist influenced by Dick Grayson and Spider-Man. Fortunate to write about the characters that inspired me. I also have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in International Trade.