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The customs and ethics of the Bene Tleilax led to widespread revulsion by the other cultures of the Known Universe, a reaction that did little to quench the Tleilaxu's hunger to subjugate their rivals.
Scytale, the Face DancerEdit
The Tleilaxu directly participated in the plot to destroy the royal family with the gift to Paul Atreides of Hayt, the ghola of Duncan Idaho. When Chani died giving birth to the twins Leto II and Ghanima Atreides, the Face Dancer Scytale was killed by the Emperor with the help of his newborn son.
Leto II and The Famine TimesEdit
Under Leto II, the Tleilaxu chafed just as all of the old power brokers struggled against his complete authoritarian rule. Near the end of his reign, the Tleilaxu participated in a direct assassination attempt against him in the festival city of Onn, formerly Arrakeen. They also provided information to the Ixians, who used that information to engineer his eventual fiancée and love, Hwi Noree, from the cells of his old friend Malky, before the God Emperor's death on Dune. When Leto died and the Famine Times began, the Tleilaxu—just as the rest of humanity—spread throughout the cosmos in The Scattering, in an attempt to find hospitable worlds.
During the Return of the Honored Matres to the Old Imperium, the Honored Matres, seeking revenge against all Tleilaxu males, attacked and decimated Tleilax. The only known Tleilaxu Master survivor was the most junior Master Scytale. However, his possession of numerous individuals' genetic material (including that of many Tleilaxu) made it possible for him to recreate his culture. Additionally, the successful spread of the Tleilaxu, sent out during The Scattering, made it possible that others survived in uncharted space, undiscovered by the Honored Matres. When some of these returned to the Old Imperium, they were known as the Lost Ones, especially the Lost Tleilaxu.
The Matres also killed the elder Tleilaxu Master, Tylwyth Waff, as he was on Rakis when they attacked the planet with ultra-destructive Obliterator weapons. This caused widespread revulsion amongst the surviving Tleilaxu, as they considered the sandworms of Dune to contain an essence of the God Emperor, their Prophet.
The Tleilaxu were an inherently isolationist culture that was dominated by a strict hierarchy and an overriding religious zeal. They had long focused their efforts on genetics, and the pursuit of spiritual elevation through physical refinement.
The Tleilaxu were separated into several different classes, each of which had a distinct physical appearance and role within their society. The primary groups were:
- Tleilaxu Masters: They looked physically similar to small humans, most often with small close-set eyes and a set of small pointed teeth.
- Axlotl Tanks: Little more than incubation vessels, this class bred all Tleilaxu, as well as other beings (such as gholas). It is believed these were what remain of the female sex of the Tleilaxu.
- Face Dancers: The warrior and worker class, who were capable of adapting their physical appearance to a specific task at hand. Their doppelganger ability was also used to perform espionage against other groups.
The Tleilaxu followed a strict and fervent spiritual ideology that derived itself from both the Zensunni and the Zensufi theologies. As with most cultures within the Known Universe, their faith was monotheistic. While they did not place significant importance on the Giant Sandworm, they did credit great importance to Leto Atreides II, whom they saw as "God's Messenger".
The details of their religion remained largely hidden until the arrival of the Honored Matres.
List of Known Tleilaxu by Class Edit
Ambassadors and EnvoysEdit
Behind the Scenes Edit
The true reason for the revulsion of the Bene Tleilax was not cataloged by Frank Herbert. However, The Dune Encyclopedia contains important insights. It states that while Bene Tleilax' clientele benefitted from their technological goods and services, they were also wracked with guilt for violating Butlerian ethics. The entry concludes with the following observation:
While their numerous particular actions and products generated significant ill will, it is more likely that the Tleilaxu were generally loathed for a more primordial reason. Their genetic manipulations massed life and nature. The Bene Gesserit could be tolerated, even admired, for their pretension at improving humanity, but Bene Tleilax's distortions only inspired primal horror.