How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

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Naïve mind
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How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Naïve mind » 30 Sep 2012 09:44

Okay, so we know that

  • Leto bought his concubine from the Bene Gesserit. This was considered a normal thing to do, and it is suggested that he wasn't even involved in the purchase; he sent buyers to pick a suitable candidate, and Thufir Hawat ran a background check on the school, which suggests he had the option of buying a non-BG concubine(*)
  • Shaddam IV bought? his concubine from the Bene Gesserit. Even though he very much desired to have a son, his concubine bore him only daughters. He seems unable to do something about this, even though the obvious solution would be to get another concubine(**)(***)
  • It seems generally known that Irulan is trained by the BG, to a high level even
  • I think the later books confirm that training the daughters of noble houses is a service commonly provided by the BG
  • We also know that the Bene Gesserit administer a deadly test to their acolytes, or at least the ones deemed worthy of their breeding programme.
  • So Irulan was, in all likelyhood, tested with the gom jabbar. What would've happened if she'd been found wanting?

In summary, we get the impression that the upper-class noble Houses seem predisposed to buy their concubines from the BG, even though they know, and have to be aware, that the Bene Gesserit have schemes of their own. They also send their daughters to Bene Gesserit boarding school, even though, um, 'accidents' are known to happen at those schools.

So what power do the BG wield over these houses, that they seem to submit to this situation?

(*) The alternative, of course, is that the Bene Gesserit operate multiple schools for girls
(**) Alternative explanation; the extent of BG control over bodily functions is unknown to modern science, so the series of daughters is presumed to be 'bad luck', completely unrelated to the Emperor's choice in mate.
(***) Alternative explanation II: Shaddam knows that he's walking a political tightrope, and having no male heirs makes him less of a target for assassination.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby SandRider » 01 Oct 2012 20:40

I think you might be confusing the Bene Gesserit of Duke Leto's time
with the Bene Gesserit of three thousand years later, after Leto II
in your mind .... at the beginning, they are nowhere as powerful or
influential as they are in the end ....

the Noble Houses saw the Bene Gesserit as any other School ...
useful servants; of course, they would have their own "agendas",
but nothing that could possibly stand in the way of or hinder any
Imperial plans ....
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby ULFsurfer » 01 Oct 2012 22:48

SandRider wrote:the Noble Houses saw the Bene Gesserit as any other School ...
useful servants; of course, they would have their own "agendas",
but nothing that could possibly stand in the way of or hinder any
Imperial plans ....


... or that's what they wanted you to think.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Naïve mind » 01 Oct 2012 22:52

I don't think I am; the Bene Gesserit are supposed to have been manipulating bloodlines for a thousand years. And not (just?) the bloodlines of a group of indentured farmers on Gamont, but the genes of the noble families of the Landsraad; after the Guild, the most powerful people in the Universe.

There's every indication that the Corrinos themselves are products of the programme. Shaddam is said to resemble Duke Leto, Irulan is regarded as prime breeding stock for Paul, Farad'n is clever and capable.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby lotek » 02 Oct 2012 05:16

ULFsurfer wrote:
SandRider wrote:the Noble Houses saw the Bene Gesserit as any other School ...
useful servants; of course, they would have their own "agendas",
but nothing that could possibly stand in the way of or hinder any
Imperial plans ....


... or that's what they wanted you to think.


We knew better ^^
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Freakzilla » 02 Oct 2012 09:22

:cylon101:


When my father, the Padishah Emperor, heard of Duke Leto's death and the manner
of it, he went into such a rage as we had never before seen. He blamed my mother
and the compact forced on him to place a Bene Gesserit on the throne.
He blamed
the Guild and the evil old Baron. He blamed everyone in sight, not excepting
even me, for he said I was a witch like all the others. And when I sought to
comfort him, saying it was done according to an older law of self-preservation
to which even the most ancient rulers gave allegiance, he sneered at me and
asked if I thought him a weakling. I saw then that he had been aroused to this
passion not by concern over the dead Duke but by what that death implied for all
royalty. As I look back on it, I think there may have been some prescience in my
father, too, for it is certain that his line and Muad'Dib's shared common
ancestry.

-"In My Father's House," by the Princess Irulan


The Bene Gesserit obviously had overt invluence on the Imperial House.
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Naïve mind » 03 Oct 2012 00:31

Freakzilla wrote:[i]When my father, the Padishah Emperor, heard of Duke Leto's death and the manner
of it, he went into such a rage as we had never before seen. He blamed my mother
and the compact forced on him to place a Bene Gesserit on the throne.


Okay, that seals it. The Bene Gesserit were pretty damn powerful, even before Leto II.

The great Houses sending their daughters to the BG for training might even be explained as a prestige thing, similar to, say, the public school system in the UK--as an aristocrat, you can choose to send your daughter to Bob's Discount Boarding School for Prana-Bindu and Table Manners, but it'll work against her for the rest of her life.

But that just makes it harder to understand why Thufir Hawat selected a Bene Gesserit concubine for Leto I--after all, given the choice between a consort from an organisation known to have political goals of its own, able to make even the Emperor do its bidding, and a consort from an organisation that doesn't (Bob's Discount School, say), I know what I'd prefer.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby lotek » 03 Oct 2012 06:29

They were not just a fancy boarding school for high society women, they were first and foremost giving the best training available to their charges.
Some, like Irulan, only brushed the edges because of their status, but for example Jessica while not a full Reverend Mother before Arrakis, was still a formidable asset to any Great House.

The "disadvantage" of any hidden agenda was secondary to the potential benefits.
Remember also that almost no one realizes the full extent of the BG's reach and power, and even less has any idea of their long term plans.

I got the impression they underplayed their influence on whoever they had trained anyway.

"Irulan once divulged to me some of the things she'd learned. She was showing off at the time, and I saw no demonstrations. Still the evidence is pretty conclusive that Bene Gesserits have their ways of achieving their ends."
Wensicia in Children of Dune.

And also when Jessica gives Farad'n his training you can see how much this same training has a hidden purpose, making you BG before everything else.
Last edited by lotek on 03 Oct 2012 06:38, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Freakzilla » 03 Oct 2012 06:30

Naïve mind wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:When my father, the Padishah Emperor, heard of Duke Leto's death and the manner
of it, he went into such a rage as we had never before seen. He blamed my mother
and the compact forced on him to place a Bene Gesserit on the throne.


Okay, that seals it. The Bene Gesserit were pretty damn powerful, even before Leto II.

The great Houses sending their daughters to the BG for training might even be explained as a prestige thing, similar to, say, the public school system in the UK--as an aristocrat, you can choose to send your daughter to Bob's Discount Boarding School for Prana-Bindu and Table Manners, but it'll work against her for the rest of her life.

But that just makes it harder to understand why Thufir Hawat selected a Bene Gesserit concubine for Leto I--after all, given the choice between a consort from an organisation known to have political goals of its own, able to make even the Emperor do its bidding, and a consort from an organisation that doesn't (Bob's Discount School, say), I know what I'd prefer.


Keep in mind that quote is from Princess Irulan, a Bene Gesserit. The extent of BG political manipulation may not have been known at the time and there were benefits of having a BG trained concubine/wife. It was probably a bit of a status symbol, too.


I don't recall Thufir himself selecting a BG, just the Duke's 'buyers'...

Jessica wondered what compulsion had brought her to uncover those two things
first -- the head and the painting. She knew there was something symbolic in the
action. Not since the day when the Duke's buyers had taken her from the school
had she felt this frightened and unsure of herself.
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby lotek » 03 Oct 2012 06:41

Freakzilla wrote:I don't recall Thufir himself selecting a BG, just the Duke's 'buyers'...

Jessica wondered what compulsion had brought her to uncover those two things
first -- the head and the painting. She knew there was something symbolic in the
action. Not since the day when the Duke's buyers had taken her from the school
had she felt this frightened and unsure of herself.


Cheers for the quote, I just seemed to remember Thufir mentionning something that could imply he had a hand in that choice when Jessica confronts him with the Voice to prove to him she could influence the Duke whenever she pleased, him being head of security (and quite the paranoiac ^^)
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Freakzilla » 03 Oct 2012 07:35

lotek wrote:
Freakzilla wrote:I don't recall Thufir himself selecting a BG, just the Duke's 'buyers'...

Jessica wondered what compulsion had brought her to uncover those two things
first -- the head and the painting. She knew there was something symbolic in the
action. Not since the day when the Duke's buyers had taken her from the school
had she felt this frightened and unsure of herself.


Cheers for the quote, I just seemed to remember Thufir mentionning something that could imply he had a hand in that choice when Jessica confronts him with the Voice to prove to him she could influence the Duke whenever she pleased, him being head of security (and quite the paranoiac ^^)


That scene just goes to show how little was known at the time about the ways of the BG.

I think there may be something to what Naïve mind said about them being thought of as just a finishing school for aristocratic women. It wasn't commonly known though, how deep their training and loyalty to the BG went. Howeer they WERE thought of as witches, but I think that was reserved more for the RMs and Truthsayers.
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby lotek » 03 Oct 2012 08:19

I thought that's what I said ;)

lotek wrote:They were not just a fancy boarding school for high society women, they were first and foremost giving the best training available to their charges.
Some, like Irulan, only brushed the edges because of their status, but for example Jessica while not a full Reverend Mother before Arrakis, was still a formidable asset to any Great House.

The "disadvantage" of any hidden agenda was secondary to the potential benefits.
Remember also that almost no one realizes the full extent of the BG's reach and power, and even less has any idea of their long term plans.

I got the impression they underplayed their influence on whoever they had trained anyway.

"Irulan once divulged to me some of the things she'd learned. She was showing off at the time, and I saw no demonstrations. Still the evidence is pretty conclusive that Bene Gesserits have their ways of achieving their ends."
Wensicia in Children of Dune.

And also when Jessica gives Farad'n his training you can see how much this same training has a hidden purpose, making you BG before everything else.
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Freakzilla » 03 Oct 2012 09:56

:oops:
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby lotek » 03 Oct 2012 10:38

Hey no worries, I said other things too ^^

When I said Thufir would have had a hand in the buying of Jessica, it was more a deduction of his role of Master of Assassins and his doubting of the Duke's concubine fidelity to the Atreides he expresses in the Arakeen scene.
I just assumed that since he's been doing that since forever, he would have been present and in charge of screening anyone who could get this close to the Duke.

From memory I think he does tell her something like "I know they give you some form of training" when she abruptly demonstrates how far away from the truth he is (she also gives a good explanation to the BG's motto "we exist only to serve" by telling him that using these powers overtly and too often reduces their efficiency and would have the whole world chasing the "witches")
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Naïve mind » 03 Oct 2012 14:09

Freakzilla wrote:Keep in mind that quote is from Princess Irulan, a Bene Gesserit. The extent of BG political manipulation may not have been known at the time and there were benefits of having a BG trained concubine/wife. It was probably a bit of a status symbol, too.

I don't recall Thufir himself selecting a BG, just the Duke's 'buyers'...


Not selected, perhaps, but vetted, certainly.


"We cannot ignore it, my Lord."

"She's been with me for sixteen years! There've been countless opportunities for--You yourself investigated the school and the woman!"

Hawat spoke bitterly: "Things have been known to escape me."


Even later, Hawat reveals what he think has escaped him.


He glared at her, the old eyes blazing. "I know some of the training they give you Bene Gesserit . . . " He broke off, scowling.

"Go ahead, say it," she said. "Bene Gesserit witches."

"I know something of the real training they give you," he said. "I've seen it come out in Paul. I'm not fooled by what your schools tell the public: you exist only to serve."

The shock must be severe and he's almost ready for it, she thought.

"You listen respectfully to me in Council," she said, "yet you seldom heed my advice. Why?"

"I don't trust your Bene Gesserit motives," he said. "You may think you can look through a man; you may think you can make a man do exactly what you--"


Of course, Thufir Hawat would never have allowed his Duke to be compromised by a manipulative political organisation. Which means that the only reasonable explanation is is that the Bene Gesserit cover is nearly watertight--enough to withstand the intense scrutiny of the best Mentat in the known Universe--with rumors beginning to seep in later. By the time Piter de Vries hatched his plot, he only had to give a little nudge to make sixteen years of mounting suspicion come into play.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Outis » 06 Oct 2012 01:10

I've no strong opinion on how "free" the Houses were and I generally with your observations but I think you're missing the big picture.

Naïve mind wrote:the noble families of the Landsraad; after the Guild, the most powerful people in the Universe.

Yes, the leaders of the Guild were the most powerful beings as long as no one controlled the spice.
But why would the Houses and not the Fremen, the BG, Ix or the Tleilaxu be the second-most powerful? What do the Houses have that the Guild or whoever controls the spice doesn't? Nothing. They have no potential means of achieving prescience or interstellar travel either. Their power is therefore provincial at best. They can be a tool or an ally, nothing more.

The BG is kind of a sister organisation to the Guild with a different focus. They seem to have the same goals.
If the BG are to be believed, the Guild seems to regard them highly since they went to them when they were faced with one of the worst crises imaginable from their perspective. And understanding at least some of the BG's unique powers, the Guild seemed to allow the BG to operate freely.
I conclude the BG were the Guild's closest ally, making the BG in effect more powerful than the Houses regardless of whatever direct control they might have had on the dynasties.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Naïve mind » 06 Oct 2012 01:38

I actually agree with your assessment of the power of the Great Houses; if you see the forces that constrain them, neither they nor the Emperor amount to much but, officially, at least, they're the Government, the official representation of Power in the universe. When they look to gain more power, they don't try to unseat the Guild, or remove the pest of the Bene Gesserit, the only people they see as true 'competition' are other Noble Houses like themselves.

And it is highly strange that such aristocrats would not be free to choose their own partners.

About their position of power, the Bene Gesserit themselves seem to disagree:


"The Emperor and his friends now command fifty-nine point six-five per cent of the CHOAM directorship's votes. Certainly the
y smell profits, and likely as others smell those same profits his voting strength will increase. This is the pattern of history, girl."
"That's certainly what I need right now," Jessica said. "A review of history."
"Don't be facetious, girl! You know as well as I do what forces surround us. We've a three-point civilization: the Imperial Household balanced against the Federated Great Houses of the Landsraad, and between them, the Guild with its damnable monopoly on interstellar transport. In politics, the tripod is the most unstable of all structures. It'd be bad enough without the complication of a feudal trade culture which turns its back on most science."


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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Outis » 06 Oct 2012 03:01

I'm not sure how your quote disagree with anything. It describes the political institutions (the BG isn't one).

I looked it up. This quote is actually about CHOAM not being autonomous. It's surrounded by quotes about the aristocrats being floatsam...

Naïve mind wrote:When they look to gain more power, they don't try to unseat the Guild, or remove the pest of the Bene Gesserit, the only people they see as true 'competition' are other Noble Houses like themselves.

That's because the Guild and the BG aren't playing the same game. How would they attack or take over either?

Naïve mind wrote:And it is highly strange that such aristocrats would not be free to choose their own partners.

Maybe they think they're "free".
In this story, most people don't understand the forces they serve.

In any case, the BG's plan evidently is to put the products of their breeding program in positions of power.
These people don't just happen to be aristorats. The BG put them there. I can't say if it's through cajoling, bargaining or manipulation. One way or another, that shows who's in charge.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Freakzilla » 06 Oct 2012 08:21

Outis wrote:I'm not sure how your quote disagree with anything. It describes the political institutions (the BG isn't one).


She nodded. "We have two chief survivors of those ancient schools: the Bene
Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. The Guild, so we think, emphasizes almost pure
mathematics. Bene Gesserit performs another function."
"Politics," he said.
"Kull wahad!" the old woman said. She sent a hard glance at Jessica.

~Dune
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Outis » 06 Oct 2012 11:24

That quote is memorable enough. I had it in mind.
But I'm not sure what your point is.

Maybe I should explain what a political instiution is. Imagine one was describing your country's institutions with the three branches of government, checks and balances and such...
In that description, there'd be no room for people like Murdoch or organizations like AIPAC. But one shouldn't take that to mean that your average member of Congress (who is of course included in the description) is more powerful than Murdoch or AIPAC!

The BG apparently prefer to act out of the view of the public eye (more so than Murdoch or AIPAC). I guess that's one reason they have no institutional role.
Herbert doesn't seem to think much of institutions or laws anyway (Daoism again). They constrain you. I guess that's another reason.
And I guess they don't care for the side-effects institutional power would have on the BG members who'd wield it.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Serkanner » 06 Oct 2012 18:51

Outis wrote:That quote is memorable enough. I had it in mind.
But I'm not sure what your point is.

Maybe I should explain what a political instiution is. Imagine one was describing your country's institutions with the three branches of government, checks and balances and such...
In that description, there'd be no room for people like Murdoch or organizations like AIPAC. But one shouldn't take that to mean that your average member of Congress (who is of course included in the description) is more powerful than Murdoch or AIPAC!

The BG apparently prefer to act out of the view of the public eye (more so than Murdoch or AIPAC). I guess that's one reason they have no institutional role.
Herbert doesn't seem to think much of institutions or laws anyway (Daoism again). They constrain you. I guess that's another reason.
And I guess they don't care for the side-effects institutional power would have on the BG members who'd wield it.


I understand Frank's point. I am not sure I understand yours. At least you have not explained at all what a "political institution" is. And I assume that is a important part of your explanation about who the Bene Gesserit are. (or pretend to be, which is my explanation)
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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Naïve mind » 07 Oct 2012 03:52

I think Outis is trying to argue that the Bene Gesserit are one of the most powerful institutions in the Empire, second only to the Guild; I don't necessarily disagree with the first part of that sentence.

And he's trying to argue that there's a difference between power and formal power. In his analogy, Rupert Murdoch is a powerful man, but has no formal power in government; David Cameron is a powerful man, and has formal power, and the Queen of England has a lot of formal power, but relatively little actual power.

Formal power is written in law, in contract, in custom. it is widely acknowledged, if not universally accepted. It is inherently overt.

I think we can all agree that the BG had no formal power. We've also agreed (I think) that the BG had an enormous amount of power resulting from influence, but that they were able to keep it a secret.

But something which I find hard to believe is that the BG seemed to control and manipulate the bloodlines of the great houses, without wielding formal power. In a society where offspring is the primary vector for power transfer, that's huge. I simply don't buy that they were able to exercise this kind of control for generations without their existance and meddling becoming widely known.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Cpt. Aramsham » 07 Oct 2012 04:02

If the BG wanted you to mate with someone, you'd do it and you'd like it and you'd think it was your own idea all along.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby Outis » 07 Oct 2012 06:13

Naïve mind wrote:But something which I find hard to believe is that the BG seemed to control and manipulate the bloodlines of the great houses, without wielding formal power. In a society where offspring is the primary vector for power transfer, that's huge. I simply don't buy that they were able to exercise this kind of control for generations without their existance and meddling becoming widely known.

Well, their existence is known and perhaps their meddling as well (but not its extent). The BG are hiding in plain sight: the Emperor's Truthsayer is probably not their only position. And people know about their schools, don't they?

I think you shouldn't assume that the bloodlines of interest to the BG and the bloodlines linked to aristocratic titles are one and the same just because they intersect. Lose this assumption and the BG's scheme becomes more plausible I think!
Only a fraction of the individuals making up the BG bloodlines need have fiefdoms in order for all aristocrats to have ancestors who participated actively in the BG's scheme.
In Dune, the BG get aristocratic males to father illegitimate children. This does not affect the transfer of feudal power. If these children are female, they can then go on to have legitimate or illegitimate children with other male aristocrats (who may never even have been in a position to inherit a fiefdom).
Keep in mind that the BG only need to control half of the people involved (the women but not the men for instance) in order to achieve total control of the bloodlines.

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Re: How free were the houses of the Landsraad?

Postby lotek » 08 Oct 2012 06:00

Huh?
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