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Paul Atreides ( ; later known as Paul Muad'Dib) is a fictional character in the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. Paul is a prominent character in the first two novels in the series, Dune (1965) and Dune Messiah (1969), and returns in Children of Dune (1976). The character is brought back as two different ghola in the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson novels which conclude the original series, Hunters of Dune (2006) and Sandworms of Dune (2007).
A primary theme of Dune and its sequel is Frank Herbert's warning about society's tendencies to "give over every decision-making capacity" to a charismatic leader. He said in 1979, "The bottom line of the Dune trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes." Paul rises to leadership through military strategy and political maneuvering, but his superhuman powers and ability to fit himself into pre-existing religious infrastructure allow him to force himself upon mankind as their messiah. As "Muad'Dib," Paul becomes the central figure of a new religion, and reluctantly unleashes a bloody jihad in his name across the universe; Paul struggles with the potential idea of seizing divine control over his newly minted empire, only to finally escape from the burden of his destiny by placing it on his sister Alia and his offspring Leto II and Ghanima.
The son of Duke Leto Atreides I and the Lady Jessica, Paul Atreides is the heir of House Atreides, a nuclear-armed aristocratic family that rules the planet Caladan. Jessica is a Bene Gesserit and an important key in the Bene Gesserit breeding program. According to the breeding program, she was to produce a daughter, who would marry Feyd-Rautha, a nephew of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. However, Jessica falls in love with Leto and grants him a son. Although Paul is a boy, he receives a Bene Gesserit training, giving him among other things, great control over his metabolism, heightened senses, and knowledge of martial arts. He is also trained in weapon use by Gurney Halleck and Duncan Idaho, and receives training as a Mentat from Thufir Hawat.
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