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Children of Dune
Author Frank Herbert
Cover artist Bruce Pennington
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Putnam
Publication date April 1976
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 444
ISBN 0-399-11697-4
OCLC 1975222
DDC 813/.5/4
LCC PZ4.H5356 Ch3 PS3558.E63
Dune series
Preceded by Dune Messiah
Followed by God Emperor of Dune

Children of Dune is a 1976 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, the third in his Dune series of six novels. Initially selling over 75,000 copies, it became the first hardcover best-seller ever in the science fiction field. The novel was critically well-received for its gripping plot, action, and atmosphere, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1977.

It was originally serialized in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1976, and was the last Dune novel to be serialized before book publication. The novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were published in one volume by the Science Fiction Book Club in 2002 and the two were adapted into a well-received television miniseries entitled Frank Herbert's Children of Dune by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2003.


At the end of Dune Messiah, Paul Atreides walks into the desert, a blind man, leaving his twin children Leto and Ghanima in the care of the Fremen, while his sister Alia rules the universe as regent. Awakened in the womb by the spice, the children are the heirs to Paul's prescient vision of the fate of the universe, a role that Alia desperately craves. House Corrino schemes to return to the throne, while the Bene Gesserit make common cause with the Tleilaxu and Spacing Guild to gain control of the spice and the children of Paul Atreides.


Dune traces the rise of Paul Muad’Dib, a young nobleman in an interstellar feudal empire who takes control of the single critical resource in the universe — the lifespan-enhancing, consciousness-expanding drug spice melange. As the first book closes, Paul has triumphed. His scheming, evil enemies are dead or overthrown, and he is set to take the reins of power and bring a hard but enlightened peace to the universe.

Herbert chose in the books that followed to undermine Paul's triumph with a string of failures and philosophical paradoxes; Dune was a heroic melody, and Dune Messiah was its inversion. When the second novel, Dune Messiah, opens, Muad’Dib’s religion has sent his fanatical soldiers on an interstellar jihad, destroying the traditional structures of government and leaving billions dead. His vision of peace is corrupted by dogmatic religious bureaucrats, and his once-noble desert tribes, the Fremen, grow fat and wealthy on the spoils of war and the de-desertification of Dune.


Nine years after Emperor Paul Muad'Dib walked into the desert, blind, the ecological transformation of Dune has reached the point where some Fremen are living without stillsuits in the less arid climate and have started to move out of the sietches and into the villages and cities. As the old ways erode, more and more pilgrims arrive to experience the planet of Muad'Dib. The Imperial high council has lost its political might and is powerless to control the Jihad.

Paul's young twin children, Leto II and Ghanima, have concluded that their guardian Alia has succumbed to Abomination—possession by her grandfather Baron Vladimir Harkonnen—and fear that a similar fate awaits them. They (and Alia) also realize that the terraforming of Dune will kill all the sandworms, thus destroying the source of the spice, but Harkonnen desires this outcome. Leto also fears that, like his father, he will become trapped by his prescience.

Meanwhile, a new religious figure called "The Preacher" has risen in the desert, railing against the religious government's injustices and the changes among the Fremen. Some Fremen believe he is Paul Atreides. Princess Wensicia of the fallen House Corrino on Salusa Secundus plots to assassinate the twins and regain power for her House.

Lady Jessica, Alia and Paul's mother, returns to Arrakis and recognizes that her daughter is possessed, but finds no signs of Abomination in the twins. Leto arranges for Fremen leader Stilgar to protect his sister if there is an attempt on their lives. The Preacher journeys to Salusa Secundus to meet Wensicia's son Farad'n, and in return pledges Duncan Idaho as an agent of House Corrino. Alia attempts to assassinate Jessica, who escapes into the desert with Duncan's help, precipitating a rebellion among the Fremen. The twins anticipate and survive the Corrino assassination plot. Leto leaves to seek out the Preacher, while Ghanima, changing her memory with self-hypnosis, reports (and believes) that her brother has been murdered. Duncan and Jessica flee to Salusa Secundus, where Jessica begins to mentor Farad'n. He seizes power from his regent mother Wensicia and allies with the Bene Gesserit, who promise to marry him to Ghanima and support his bid to become Emperor.

A band of Fremen outlaws capture Leto and force him to undergo the spice trance at the suggestion of Gurney Halleck, who has infiltrated the group on Jessica's orders. Leto's spice-induced visions show him a myriad of possible futures where humanity becomes extinct and only one where it survives. He names this future "The Golden Path" and resolves to bring it to fruition—something that his father, who had already glimpsed this future, refused to do. He escapes his captors and sacrifices his humanity in pursuit of the Golden Path by physically fusing with a school of sandtrout, gaining superhuman strength and near-invulnerability. He travels across the desert and confronts the Preacher, who is indeed Paul.

Duncan returns to Arrakis and provokes Stilgar into killing him so that Stilgar is forced to take Ghanima and go into hiding. Alia recaptures Ghanima and arranges her marriage to Farad'n, planning to exploit the expected chaos when Ghanima kills him to avenge her brother's murder. The Preacher and Leto return to the capital to confront Alia, who has the Preacher murdered, not realizing his true identity. Leto reveals himself in a display of superhuman strength and triggers the return of Ghanima's genuine memories. He confronts Alia and offers to help her overcome her possession, but Harkonnen resists. Alia manages to commit suicide.

Leto declares himself Emperor and asserts control over the Fremen. Farad'n enlists in his service and delivers control of the Corrino armies. Leto marries Alia to further his goals, but Farad'n is her true consort so the Atreides line can continue.