A result of the Bene Gesserit breeding program, Jessica was the illegitimate daughter of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and an unknown mother. The Bene Gesserit breeding charts note that Jessica's birth mother was named Tanidia Nerus. She was raised from birth by the Bene Gesserit, who intended to breed her to the House Atreides heir Leto I, to produce a daughter who would then breed with Feyd Rautha Harkonnen in order to produce the Kwisatz Hadarach, the one who would not only possess the genetic memories of all male and female ancestors, but also see into the future.
Consequently, Jessica was provided with the most intense and advanced Bene Gesserit training on Wallach IX enduring 14 years of education in "mothering". She learned to understand and control her organism to be the fittest possible mother (as to the Sisterhood biology was destiny); and also to observe, understand and control others, and thus keep everyone psychological "children" to her "maternal influence" (which, to the Sisterhood, was the strongest life-force).
With Duke LetoEdit
In 10175 AG, the headmistress of the Bene Gesserit school on Caladan offered her as a present to Duke Leto as a Bound Concubine. She was given via one of his buyers, after careful investigation by the mentat Thufir Hawat. It was thus with some trepidation that the buyer introduced Jessica to Leto and discreetly removed himself from their presence.
After a few hours the Duke arrived for his meal, with the new concubine on his arm (a privilege never granted any other concubine) and during the dinner, he included Jessica in the table conversation. The next day, Leto announced to the worried buyer that he was dismissed as he no longer required the services of a buyer, and offered him the position of a quartermaster-general; to take charge of all trade to and from Caladan.
Although she had orders to conceive a daughter, Jessica knew that the loving intimacy of equal free selves was the only true generative force in the universe, and gave the Duke the son he always wanted, thus embracing a much fuller and substantive motherhood that the Sisterhood ever projected. It was announced 5 months later that the Lady Jessica was to bear the Duke's first child and a boy was born 4 months later, and was named Paul. This new family led the Duke to adopt a more domestic lifestyle. He threw himself fully into the education of his son, so that he would grow up worthy of the Atreides crest.
In 10191 AG, when House Atreides was given the fiefdom of Arrakis, Jessica relocated there along with Leto and their son Paul. However, their rule was short-lived, thanks to the scheme orchestrated by Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV and Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
When House Harkonnen seized control of Arrakis, Leto was killed, and Jessica and Paul became renegade, and escaped into the deep desert, eventually joining the Fremen. Her grief over losing Leto, who was killed during the Harkonnen attack, was somewhat muddied by the knowledge that she was pregnant with his daughter Alia Atreides.
Stilgar/DE had received an order from Liet-Kynes/DE to take a band out into the desert with in search of Paul Atreides and his mother and messages sent back to the sietch by the Shadout Mapes/DE had indicated that Jessica might be something more. Chani Kynes/DE was in that group, and Ramallo/DE wished to hear her impressions of the encounter. Jessica bested Stilgar in single combat using her weirding ways. The hot-tempered Jamis/DE challenged Jessica's part in the legend and Paul killed him with a knife. Stilgar/DE brought them to the Sietch Tabr.
Reverend MotherEditThe Fremen of Arrakis were encouraged by Jessica's arrival, for two reasons. Firstly, their own Reverend Mother Ramallo was old and near death. With Ramallo's training Jessica was the perfect choice to replace her as she could not live long enough for Chani to replace her. Secondly, the coming of the Fremen messiah was foretold many eons prior (through Bene Gesserit mechanisms), and that he was to be born of a Bene Gesserit. Despite knowing the repercussions of becoming a full-fledged Reverend Mother, Jessica undertook the process of ingesting the toxic liquid of a young sandworm to produce the Water of Life. This act not only elevated her to Reverend Mother status but also fundamentally changed the fetus she was carrying, causing Abomination.
Jessica ahd misgivings concerning the "marriage of youth" between her son and Chani.
When the existence of Alia was learned by the Bene Gesserit, they immediately ordered secret assassinations of both Jessica and Alia in spite of the enormous risks, but more rational thought prevailed, and they decided to study this Abomination for information needed to destroy her, while wooing her mother back into the ranks.
Jessica led negotiations proceeding Paul's formal acceptance by the Landsraad/DE and the Spacing Guild/DE, with Chani as her assistant in bargaining with the outgoing emperor, resulting to Jessica often saying, that she hoped never to have to negotiate any kind of terms against a Fremen, since their ferocity in battle paled before their determination at a conference table. During one of assassination attempts against Chani, Jessica focused her attention on Princess Irulan, soon to be Paul's Consort-in-name. She was genuinely stunned, and a brief expression of surprised delight escaped her (as she had been angered by her secondary place) before her Bene Gesserit training could conceal it, convincing Jessica of her innocence.
During the Muad'Dib's Jihad, Lady Jessica stayed on Caladan, refusing the Fremen any access to the planet, including religious pilgrimage.
During her stay there, she outthought and outgrew her BG conditioning. After Paul's disappearance, she proved herself a formidable diplomat, intriguer and psychological warrior countering Alia's plots against Atreides ideals.
Later YearsEditJessica returned to Arrakis, long after Paul's believed death, to again inspect his children Leto II and Ghanima, in the hope of them not being Abomination and of returning control of the bloodline to the Bene Gesserit. While visiting, Jessica sensed the latent power present in the twins, and upon the realization that they could be a threat to the psychologically unstable Alia, pressed her Fremen allies to help protect them.
However, while on her mission she discovered that her own daughter, Alia, who was acting as regent, was possessed by the late Vladimir Harkonnen, who was driving her to destroy the Atreides Empire out of revenge.
The Sisterhood sent a delegation to Caladan, asking the help from Lady Jessica to investigating her daughter. Jessica knew that the purpose of her Sisters would be to destroy the Abomination, so she accepted to help Alia to save herself. For her protection against her murdering daughter, in 10218 AG Jessica left Castle Caladan. Soon after she arrived to Arrakeen, Duncan-10208 delivered her to House Corrino to Salusa Secundus. and Alia expanded her control of the Imperium/DE..
There, she taught Farad'n Corrino the ways of the Bene Gesserit, unwittingly preparing him for his role as husband to Ghanima and royal scribe to Leto II.
Jessica returned to Arrakis and watched her son Paul; and daughter Alia, die.
Character and traitsEdit
In the thousands of years after her death, Jessica's legacy remained far-reaching. The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood attibuted her universe-changing decisions (and the loss of control of the Kwisatz Haderach) to having fallen in love with "her Duke." Her falling in love became known, in millennia afterwards, as "the Jessica Crime." For the Sisterhood, Jessica's experience was regarded as a valuable lesson in showing restraint for the good of the Sisterhood and of humanity in general.
By application of the material found The Book of Ghanima (RRC 13-A700) where Ghanima Atreides studies the roots of her name, it seems that Jessica is the fulfillment of Archetypes prophesied by the ancient Terran seer Seegee Jhung who outlined a theory explained the anima aspect of her name.
Applied to the Jhung's archetypes, Jessica was raised as a Mother, evolved into Hetaira; as a Hetaira she infused her Medial wisdom with personal caring.
Jessica always believed the BG dogma that Archetypes were illusions the BG should use to manipulate the gullible.
She often complained that she was raised as a "brood mare". She confounded her teachers by transcending their concept of maternity and evolved into another dimension of selfhood. Although she did not so much revolt, the BG thought her an unSisterly rebel against their discipline, when she became the true companion of the Duke. Although taken as the Duke's Lady, Jessica never became his wife; few societal sanctions supported/confined her Archetypal companionate vitality as a Hetaira, a need which she insteilled to her descendants. She never stopped loving him for the rest of her life.
She discovered her Amazonian strength while pregnant in the wilderness of Arrakis and displayed her fullest against the Abominable companionship of Alia and Vladimir. As an Amazon she preserved independent individual selfhood against the harsh deserts of Dune, the political turmoils, and the onslaughts of the collective unconscious. Her Amazon's resourceful objectivity eventually outgrew her BG conditioning.
As a Medium, and thanks to her balanced and tuned self-consciousness, she bridged the unconscious world and the human community, as a Reverend Mother. During the spice-trance, the melange catalyzed her evolution but her psyche stabilized and vivified it. As a Medium she maintained a cosmic perspective on her involvements and her Medial energies saved her from the centripetal egotism (which crushed her children).
These experiences introduced Jessica to her psyche's core, she found the Motherhood which the Sisterhood had lost, and she sensed the Great Mother within herself, debilitating her skepticism. As a Mother, she felt the Great Mother as an exterior presence sought after Liet-Kynes and Leto II. She understood that all forms, processes and roles are channels for the Great Mother's creative and sustaining energies. To that teaching she devoted her mature life, which she imparted to Farad'n.