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the duke


as most of you have probably seen, deslily has a badass giveaway running on her blog and all one has to do to be eligable is to write a post about a character you liked a lot from a book you’ve read. well, heck! i do this all the time! )

which to choose though…?!

well, before i discuss the one i chose, it’d be an injustice to not at least mention some of the other characters that have been memorable for me.

as carl, jeff and chris know, i absolutely love boromir from ”the lord of the rings”. boromir, to me, was the perfect warrior and i was so sad (and rather despondent) when he died. he’s a very human character and i loved the way that even when he makes a mistake he does all he can to rectify it.

i like lestat from anne rice’s vampire chronicles a lot. he’s such a good friend – really! as anyone who has read one of the lestat books will know, the books are narrated by him and end and begin with him addressing the reader. he is such a warm and gracious host and is very good to me. rice has crafted a truly complex, deep and interesting character with lestat.

recently i’ve found myself missing the characters from “kafka on the shore” a lot. murakami creates such warm and interesting characters in that book that they became friends and now find myself wondering where they’ve gone?!

my favourite character of all, though, is duke leto atreides from “dune”. even though paul is the main character and leto only features in about 1/4 of the book, it is leto that is the more memorable for me.


herbert employs the classic fictional technique of introducing an enigmatic father figure and then removing him so that he achieves symbolic significance and resonates through the rest of the novel. with leto, herbert applies this technique suberply well – so much so that i have never forgotten him.

the novel starts with the house atreides’ impending move from their native caladan to arrakis, commonly known as “dune”. we soon learn that it is a political trap and that the move to dune is frought with danger – and what’s more is that leto knows this. why, then, does he still decide to go?

his reasons are complex and as the novel progresses we gain some insights into them, but not until the end of the novel do we fully comprehend just how well he understood the political and tactical potential of dune. until then, though, there are times when we, along with many of the characters, think him a right fool and yet he never tries to make us think otherwise. i guess that noble suffering really appeals to me ;), its part of why i also like boromir so much.

jurgen prochnow did a good job as leto in david lynch’s film version of “dune”. he is seen here, in costume, talking to a very young looking lynch.

the duke is stoic and incredibly proud; he firmly stands by his beliefs and is intensely loyal; and he is fair and a very intelligent politician. he is also a loving father and deeply in love with his concubine, jessica, whom he is utterly devoted to. all these are qualities that i greatly admire.

he is not without his faults, of course – his pride and loyalty are also his greatest weaknesses and he pays dearly for them. these are such human faults, though, that for me they make him even more endearing as a character.

his political acumen is incredible. he appears somewhat simplistic and even blinkered, but it is part of his strategy to appear this way, so that his opponents underestimate him. i haven’t before or since reading this novel encountered such intelligent political warfare. the levels upon which him and his prime opponent, the baron harkonnen, operate is amazing. they are like chess grandmasters in the way they are able to read the potential permutations of their actions and the minutiae of the advantages and disadvantages inherent in them. the attack and counter-attacks; the bluff, counter, and double bluffs that are employed; and the motives, within motives, within motives that exist behind their actions is incredible.

i greatly identify with leto and, though i’m no duke or political genius, i see a lot of myself in him. i find that at every stage in the novel i would’ve probably done exactly what he does and i can’t disagree with his reasoning. much of what he holds dear, i do too and many of his qualities are qualities that i have or try to develop in myself.

i also think he is a bit of a father figure for me, which is mainly because i only knew my own father for such a brief time. he is a role model and someone whom i aspire to be like.

he is one of those characters who i always wanted to learn more about, read more about and who i found myself wishing was in the next chapter. since the first moment i encountered him i have never been able to forget about him.

it is as if his portrait hangs in the dining hall of my mind.

Categories: books
  1. August 3, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Dune is another one of these “classic” sci-fi books that I’ve never read.
    I love the idea of this competition though, ever since I saw it linked over on Carls I’ve been pondering who exactly my favourite character is. I haven’t come to any sort of decision yet.

  2. August 3, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    I realise I can’t actually put my finger on any “favourite” character. Not sure why.

    I really should go check out the Dune books one day. So I tell myself.

  3. jean pierre
    August 3, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    fence and dark orpheus:

    i would never say something is compulsory reading or say someone MUST read a particular book and i know a lot of people don’t like “dune”, but it is one of the few books that i strongly suggest to people to give a go.

    as for choosing a favourite character… well, i’d initially just decided to discuss a few and then just nominate one as my “favourite”, but then as i was writing the duke started standing out more and more for me. i don’t think i’d ever consciously realised he was my favourite, and for that reason he didn’t come to mind at first. he has just always been there.

    if you can’t choose just one, then who would you say are your favourites. i’d be very interested to know.

  4. August 3, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    How oddly serendipitous, I just picked this very book up, in this version, to start reading last night. I love having the Lynch visuals in my head as I read it. I’ll have to read your thoughts here in more detail after I finish the book.

  5. Kim
    August 3, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    What a great choice. The characters in Dune are favorites of mine too. I named my cat after Paul’s wife.

    I like how your post sort of reveals your choice to yourself too, as though you were deciding as you wrote it.

  6. August 3, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    I really like your description of the character. I need to get around to reading “Dune”.

    Lestat would have been a great choice too. You’re right, he is so gracious. Or Armand. Armand was always my favourite of Anne Rice’s vampires. I love Marius too. I really need to re-read those books – Anne Rice was my first favourite author and I pretty much grew up with her books. They had such a big impact on me.

    I notice that a lot of people are having trouble picking a single character, and this is very understandable – so much that I was actually surprised with myself for having no trouble at all. I guess that the one character I picked just towers about the rest, even if there are many others I also love.

  7. August 3, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    I loved, loved, loved the movie.. but couldn’t read the books. (odd I know) I always like Paul’s father as much as I liked Paul! (didn’t hurt that he was good looking lol)

    I love hearing why some characters come so much to life that we can’t forget them. The next step is always wishing you could actually meet them..or someone just like them.

    To me the characters and how they are “built” is more important than the story that goes with them.. once I feel strongly for them.. they could be written into any story and I’d want to read it!

    THanks for posting for the contest!!

  8. jean pierre
    August 4, 2007 at 11:45 am

    wow, that is very weird! especially since that isn’t the cover i own and i actually deliberated over which cover to choose for a while.

    i like lynch’s film a lot and although i find it very different from the novel i think there are some parts it captures very well. and even where it is distinctly different, as an interpretation i like it a lot!

    ah, i’m so glad you like the characters too! they’re all very cool, aren’t they. at one stage i was toying with having my favourites be the pair of the baron and the duke – just because of how i loved their sparring.

    you called your cat chani! 🙂

    its funny that you noticed how i discovered who my favourite was as i wrote it, ’cause thats actually what happened. i rewrote it and cleaned it up ’cause its rambled a bit, but initially i didn’t know who to choose.

    oh lestat is lovely, isn’t he? and armand. have you read “the vampire armand”? i’ve only read the first three and “memnoch the devil”.

    marius is very cool too. i really wish i could meet them! (although, partly not – it might not be the wisest thing. they can’t exactly be trusted…).
    rice is wonderful, isn’t she!

    and i loved your choice!

    what a great giveaway! i had a great time thinking about it. 🙂

    i really like the film too. it was one of the first films i saw – i saw it at the movies – and it had a big impact on me. the book and the film are quite different, though, so i’m not too surprised that you couldn’t read the book.

    jurgen prochnow makes a very strapping leto, doesn’t he? yup, it doesn’t hurt at all 🙂

    oh dear, don’t start on wanting to meet these characters…! that’ll really get my imagination going!

    you’re right, if characters are well-written then i can forgive writers almost anything.

  9. August 4, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve read “The Vampire Armand”, yes. I’ve read every single one of the Vampire Chronicles, plus the companion book by Katherine Ramsland, plus the original short story that became “Interview with the Vampire”… yes, I was THAT obsessed back when I was younger

    You’re right, wanting to meet them is not very wise, but that didn’t keep my teenage self from daydreaming about it 😛

  10. Jeff S.
    August 6, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    What a wonderful choice. It’s funny Paul never was my favortie character as much as his father and Duncan Idaho. They were my favorite’s. I agree with your statement on the choices Duke Leto makes. I also believe they are the right ones and the one’s I would have made myself as well. I read all six of the orginal books written by Frank H. 15 to 20 years ago but, I can’t bring myself to read the prequels written by his son. It just doesn’t sit right with me. I’ve read other series written by other authors than creator and I’m fine with them ( ie. Star Trek books ) but the Dune story connected with me in a way I don’t want to read any others version of.

  11. jean pierre
    August 8, 2007 at 7:50 am

    jeff, you’re back!! 🙂

    duncan idaho is great, isn’t he? especially with what happens in “dune messiah” and “children of dune”!

    i’m glad you also like the duke!

    i definitely can’t read that brian herbert nonsense!!! and for exactly your reason.

    that universe belongs solely to frank herbert.

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