Every now and then, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This time we’re talking about: Duncan Idaho, the Swordsmaster & Warrior Mentat hero of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga.
First off, you can always tell who has only read the first book in the series – or who only saw the David Lynch film – because when they hear about Duncan Idaho, they either go “Who?” or “Wait, the guy who gets killed in the first book? He was barely in it!”
Those are valid responses… but Duncan is revived as a Ghola named Hayt in the next book. Over the course of the series, he dies and is reborn numerous more times. By the end of the series (the apocryphal finale written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson), there is one inescapable conclusion: the hero of this series is not Paul Atreides (who isn’t even in Books 4-6) or even one of Paul’s heirs. The hero is the ever-loyal, always capable Duncan Idaho. When the one, true Kwisatz Haderach is finally unveiled, there can only be one person who truly existed in multiple times and who has, over the course of the series, learned everything there is to know about the Honored Matres, the Guild, the Bene Gessserits, etc.
Duncan is a hero, through and through, and those are hard to find in the gritty, political machinations of the Dune universe. A Swordsmaster and mentor to Paul, Duncan dies to protect his adopted family. His return is meant to bring down Paul but his affection for his master is too great. His doomed love for Alia is heartbreaking to witness. When the Honored Matres begin sexually enslaving all they meet, only Duncan can respond in kind.
Duncan Idaho is one of my all-time favorite characters, existing in one of my all-time favorite universes. I wish he were more well-known… because while Paul’s story is equal parts thrilling and disturbing (and I’m going beyond the first book, which is all that many people know), it is Duncan’s that truly encapsulates the human experience. Despite all the “little” deaths he experiences, he continues to grow and evolve, conquering all the barriers that are put upon him and even bred into his flesh.
The art today comes from Jacob Atienza and it’s as good an image of Duncan as I’ve seen so far.
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