Duke Leto Atreides
Frank Herbert's Dune

Duke Leto Atreides is ruler of the House Atreides when the story begins. Leto is described as "a man of surpassing warmth and surprising coldness" in notes from Irulan. He is much loved by his fellow nobles but is always on his guard. The few short weeks that he lives in Dune are some of his worst - he is putting his beloved love and only child into harm's way, and has to pretend to distrust his love as a traitor.

Duke Leto Atreides has never married for political reasons, but loves Lady Jessica, his consort. Together they have had a single child - Leto's son, Paul. Leto is a distant cousin of Emperor Shaddam.

When Paul first has a scene with him in Dune, he says "The Duke was tall, olive-skinned. His thin face held harsh angles warmed only by deep gray eyes. He wore a black working uniform with red armorial hawk crest at the breast. A silvered shield belt with the patina of much use girded his narrow waist."

Leto is smart and realizes the great value of the Fremen. He knows the Harkonnens and Sardaukar will move against him, but feels the power of the spice and Fremen are worth the risk.

When Jessica first sees Leto on Arrakis, she thinks, "She looked at his tallness, at the dark skin that made her think of olive groves and golden sun on blue waters. There was woodsmoke in the gray of his eyes, but the face was predatory: thin, full of sharp angles and planes."

When Dr. Yueh asks Jessica why she hasn't made the Duke marry her, she says first that it's because she wouldn't want him to marry her if it wasn't his own desire. But then she adds, "Besides, Wellington, the Duke is really two men. One of them I love very much. He's charming, witty, considerate ... tender - everything a woman could desire. But the other man is ... cold, callous, demanding, selfish - as harsh and cruel as a winter wind. That's the man shaped by the father."

In fact, Leto thinks to himself, "I must mask my feelings" - wanting to hide the pain and worry he has in order for Paul to feel like Arrakis can be his new home. He further must hide his feelings for Jessica, because the Harkonnens have tried to make him believe Jessica is a traitor and he wants them to think they have succeeded.

On the way to the doomed harvester, Leto is the one who spots the worm, and he becomes furious when the men are at risk. He risks everything to save them men, not caring about the spice or equipment. This is something that is commented on many times in the book - and Paul is chided in later scenes when he fails to do the same. Leto rages against the tradition of selling towels of water to the poor, and insists this be stopped as well - that all who come are given a free cup of water.

Duke Leto is killed by a the traitor Dr. Yueh on the planet Arrakis. Dr. Yueh puts a poison-filled false tooth into Leto's mouth, hoping in this way to cause the death of Baron Harkonnen. Unfortunately, the Baron avoids the trap and it is his mentat, Piter, that is killed.

I thought Jurgen Prochnow did an amazing job with Duke Leto. He shows at the beginning that he loves Paul and Jessica very much. His main trait of caring more for his men than for equipment is also very apparent. He struggles with hiding his worry and despair, wanting his son to see him as strong and sure of the potential of this new planet. The lines Leto speaks are all pretty much as-is and they did his scenes very well. As far as his look, his harsh side and his gentle, grey eyes both come across very well. He might not have been *thin* enough though.

Leto's homeworld of Caladan has been their seat for 26 generations. It is full of large oceans, a big stone castle, rich wood interiors.

William Hurt simply does not look or act like the Duke. Yes, he really wanted to be part of the project. But I can think of several other roles he would have been reasonable in. He's too soft to be the Duke that has won the hearts of the nobles and respect of his troops. In fact when Duncan says he's going with the Fremen, Leto is supposed to be proud that his plan worked. But in the miniseries, he almost doesn't let him go because he's "clingy".

The snuggly family

Paul's always lurking somewhere ...

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