Bene Tleilax

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Bene Tleilax

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The Bene Tleilax or Tleilaxu are an extremely xenophobic and isolationist society in the fictional Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. The Bene Tleilax are genetic manipulators, equivalent in power to a major house in the Imperium. They exclusively control a number of planets in the Imperium, but they are originally connected with the planet Tleilax, the sole planet of the star Thalim.

Battle for Dune.

Emblem of the Bene Tleilax from Emperor: Battle for Dune.

Not organized along feudal lines (as most of rest of the Imperium is), the Tleilaxu are secretive and very little is known about them; however, in Heretics of Dune their society is said to be a meritocracy. They are chiefly known for their biological products, such as artificial eyes, gholas, and Face Dancers. Because they deal in immoral but highly desired products, they are universally distrusted but still influential.

The use of “Bene” before their name suggests that they are an order of some kind, like the Bene Gesserit; this becomes clear in the last two books of the original series, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.




[edit] Bene Tleilax histories

[edit] The original series

The founder of the Bene Tleilax was a Master named Xuttuh. In the last two books, the core of the Tleilaxu is revealed: they are Zensufi, a distant offshoot of Buddhism and Sufism, and are organized along theistic lines. They have spent thousands of years concealing this fact, waiting for their ascendancy, which they believe to be occurring in Heretics of Dune.

By the events of Chapterhouse: Dune, the Bene Tleilax have been all but eradicated save for one Master, Scytale, a ghola of the original Scytale of Dune Messiah (the Scytale from Dune Messiah was a Face Dancer, whereas the one in Chapterhouse: Dune was a Master) who was captured by the Bene Gesserit. His secret bargaining tool is a hidden nullentropy capsule containing cells carefully and secretly collected by the Tleilaxu for millennia, including the cells of Tleilaxu Masters, Face Dancers, Paul Atreides, Lady Jessica, Chani, Leto Atreides II, Gurney Halleck, Thufir Hawat and other legendary figures. He intended to not only grow his own life-sustaining ghola, but resurrect the rest of his order as well.

[edit] Hunters of Dune

In Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson‘s continuation of the original series, Hunters of Dune, the Lost Tleilaxu are introduced; they are descendants of the Tleilaxu and Face Dancers who left the Old Empire in The Scattering. Scytale, still a prisoner of the Bene Gesserit on the wandering no-ship Ithaca, manages to negotiate permission to grow a ghola of himself.

[edit] Legends of Dune

The ancestors of the Bene Tleilax are featured in the Legends of Dune prequel series by Brian Herbert and Anderson. They are a civilization of human merchants known as the Tlulaxa, who specialize in slaves and replacement organs. They claim that the organs are grown artificially in organ farms; in reality, the vast majority of the organs are harvested from slaves. The Tlulaxa also have working organ farms, but they are used mainly as a front, providing only a small fraction of the replacement organs.

[edit] Bene Tleilax technologies

The Bene Tleilax are masters of biological science and control the secrets of a number of important technologies in the Dune universe.

[edit] Axolotl tank

Main article: Axolotl tank

An axolotl tank is essentially a brain-dead woman whose womb is used as a tank to create gholas. The Bene Tleilax’s use of their women in this capacity explains why no one has ever seen a Tleilaxu female.

In Heretics of Dune, it is revealed that the Tleilaxu have developed the ability to grow the spice melange in axolotl tanks, breaking the monopoly on spice that Arrakis held for thousands of years which strongly controlled the economics and the politics of the Imperium.

In Chapterhouse Dune, the Bene Gesserit have acquired axolotl tank technology and are able to use it to make gholas for their own purposes.

The axolotl tank is similar to the reproductive “stumps” in Herbert’s Hellstrom’s Hive.

[edit] Chairdogs

Another of the most profitable and widely used creations of the Tleilaxu, chairdogs are alive and partially sentient creatures used as seating. They possess the ability to shape themselves to fit their occupant.

Chairdogs are also featured in Herbert’s Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment. Neither of these books is connected with the Dune series.

[edit] Face Dancer

Main article: Face Dancers

Face Dancers are sterile creatures, with full sentience, but with a genetically programmed loyalty to the Tleilaxu Masters. They are able to physiologically change their appearance to impersonate other people. They are used by the Tleilaxu throughout the universe to replace people whom the Tleilaxu find useful (the originals are usually killed). In this way they may infilitrate and control various groups in the universe.

Over the course of the series, as the Tleilaxu try to create more perfect mimics, the Face Dancers gain the ability to even absorb the consciousness of their subject, with the unintended side effect of gradually becoming that person, and passing beyond the control of the Tleilaxu Masters, rendering them useless for any purpose other than living out the rest of their subject’s life just as they would have on their own.

[edit] Ghola

Main article: Ghola

A ghola is a clone, grown in an axolotl tank from the DNA from a dead body of another person. At the time of Dune, gholas have no access to the lives of the person from whom they were cloned, but after Dune Messiah, the Tleilaxu discover that a ghola can recover his or her genetic memory during a carefully staged moment of extreme stress. Much later in the series, it is revealed that the masters of the Tleilaxu have been using this knowledge gained in Dune Messiah as an improvised device for immortality: at their death, they are cloned; their clone recovers its memories, and the masters, in their serial incarnations, have memories stretching back thousands of years. The surviving Masters of Heretics of Dune are clearly the longest-lived characters in the saga, after Duncan Idaho who is the first ghola to recover its memories. Scytale himself by the events of Chapterhouse Dune would be over 5,000 years old through his serial incarnations.

[edit] Sligs

One of the earliest successes of Tleilaxu genetic engineering, the slig is a hybrid livestock animal — a cross between a large slug and a Terran pig — first mentioned in Heretics of Dune and considered a delicacy: ‘The sweetest meat this side of heaven.’ Most people had thoughts that they were “tank-bred mutations”, “ugly creatures who excreted slimy, foul-smelling residue, and whose multiple mouths ground incessantly on garbage”, even though they enjoy devouring the flesh of these beasts (marinated slig medallions in rich Caladan wine sauces are considered a prime delicacy). Despite being the producers of sligs, the Tleilaxu themselves do not consume the animals.

[edit] Tleilaxu Master

Masters are the leaders and real minds of the Bene Tleilax. They have the ability to regain their genetic memory with ease, allowing them to live forever, using the axlotl tanks to create gholas of themselves. They are often described as short, [dwarf]-like characters with gray skin, hair and eyes, elfin features and pointy teeth. The Bene Gesserit suspect that their appearance is intended to encourage others to underestimate them.

Tleilaxu Masters control their creations by forcing them into a hypnotic state with some predefined, implanted sound (often a specific humming or whistling noise)[1][2]. In Dune Messiah, the Master Bijaz controls the ghola Hayt through a specific whistling intonation that renders Hayt open to implanted commands. In Heretics of Dune, the Master Waff attempts to control his perfectly mimicked Face Dancer copy of High Priest Tuek with a humming language, but fails due to the copy’s complete assimiliation into its new form.

Notable Tleilaxu Masters:

[edit] Bene Tleilax units

The Bene Tleilax are a faction in the computer game Emperor: Battle for Dune; in this game, they are treated for practical purposes as a Great House. They have two unique units, neither of which appear in the original books.



[edit] Contaminator

The Contaminator is essentially a hideously-deformed mutant spawned from the Tleilaxu Flesh Vats. They carry a lethal virus, capable of turning human beings into additional Contaminators. Any infantry killed in close combat with a contaminator will be reborn as a contaminator. They are best taken out at range.



[edit] Leeches

They are the other unit of the Bene Tlielax forces offered to the three Great Houses during the War of Assassins, the Tleilaxu Leech is a biogenetic tank that creates replicas of itself by implanting its larvae in enemy vehicles. These constantly damage the host vehicle until the target is destroyed and the larva hatches as another Leech. The infant larvae can be removed by attacking the host vehicle or by using an infantry engineer to remove them surgically (the Atreides can also use their Repair Vehicle). Leeches are extremely fast and can regenerate while stationary, making them efficient for hit-and-run tactics.

[edit] References

  1. ^ In Heretics of Dune, Master Waff tries to control his Face Dancer duplicate of Tuek: “Humming sounds like the noises of angry insects came from his mouth, a modulated thing that clearly was some kind of language.”
  2. ^ In Chapterhouse Dune, Scytale sees an opportunity to control/influence the Duncan Idaho ghola and thus effect his escape from the Bene Gesserit when he thinks: Somehow, I must contrive it that Idaho and I meet intimately. There’s always the whistling language we impress on every ghola.

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