Dune: People: Lady Jessica Atreides

Jessica is the mother Paul Muad’Dib and Alia Atreides as well as the bound concubine (quasi-wife) to the Duke Leto Atreides.Jessica is the mother Paul Muad’Dib and Alia Atreides as well as the bound concubine (quasi-wife) to the Duke Leto Atreides.

Jessica is totally devoted to her love Duke Leto and to House Atreides as a whole.Jessica is the love-child of Baron Harkonnen and Reverend Mother Mohium. Love-child is something of an exaggeration as she was the result of the Baron raping the Reverend Mother. But in all fairness to the Goodyear blimp, it was her to set out to rape him, again!

The Bene Gesserit had hoped to breed a daughter from Jessica and Leto, to further their breeding program. So she spent the first few years of her life in the Bene Gesserit school on Walach IX, where she learned the weirding way, absolute loyalty to the sisterhood and generally how to frustrate men. At the age of 15 she was given as a “gift” to the Duke Leto Atreides. Jessica’s mission was to simply produce a female child with the Duke as quickly as possible. She failed… on both counts. It was years after she moved to Caladan and House Atreides before she produced an child with the Duke. And even then she gave him a male heir out of her love to him.

This child was Paul Atreides. The Bene Gesserit were pissed! It wasn’t until after his birth that she was told her purpose in the greater breeding program, and realized the error of her ways! Because of Jessica’s heresy and betrayal of the sisterhood, falling in love was considered a capitol crime in the sisterhood, even 5000 years later during the events of Chapterhouse: Dune.

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Subsequently, Jessica’s name is also used as a curse too. After the fall of House Atreides on Dune, Jessica (pregnant with a Leto’s daughter) and Paul sought refuge out into the desert with the Fremen of Arrakis. In order be accepted by the Fremen, Jessica had to consume the Water of Life. Ironically the water of life is a poison that requires master of body chemistry to create an antidote.

Consuming the water of life is a primitive version of “the agony” which the Bene Gesserit use to make themselves Reverend Mothers. Unfortunately, this forced her unborn daughter Alia to become pre-born while still in her womb.In the two years that Jessica lived with the desert fremen, she slowly saw her son go from a proud honorable nobleman to an obsessed megalomaniac based on universal domination.

It was this point that she realized that she shouldn’t have had a son!After Paul became emperor, she returned to Caladan to avoid the tyranny of her son and daughter. In the following years she began to love Gurney Halleck, one of her Duke’s henchman.

To try to further redeem herself, she joined up again with the Bene Gesserit. Which is sorta the opposite of what she should have done to redeem herself!Her new mission was to go back to Arrakis to administer the test of Abomination to her daughter Alia, as well as her grandchildren Ghanima and Leto II. All three people were pre-born and susceptible to being possessed by members of their ancestry. Jessica was successful in one Gurney and Jessicaregard. Her actions helped to end the rule of her daughter Alia.

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Unfortunately her other efforts backfired. While trying to test Leto II for abomination, he was given the catalyst to change him into sandworm, which ultimately plunged the imperium into a 3509 year dark age.After Leto II became the Emperor she returned once again to Caladan in the arms of her lover Gurney Halleck.

Jessica was passionatly played by Saskia Reeves in the first mini-series and most excellently acted by Sci-Fi verteran Alice Krige in the Children of Dune mini-seires.

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Dune reviews are © 2003 Ryan Bechtel and Greg Frantz.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission.

Dune names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of Sci-Fi Channel, New Amsterdam Entertainment, and the assorted publishing companies who own the rights to the various Dune novels.

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