Face Dancer

Face dancers appear in the ‘Dune’ series by Frank Herbert. A Face Dancer is a Tleilaxu member who can shapeshift into another person.

The Definitive Glossary for Dune

Throughout ‘Dune,’ Face Dancers played a crucial role in actions. From Scytale to Khrone, Face Dancers proved to be a formidable league as their drive for power made them better than their Tleilaxu masters.

Face Dancers in Dune

The Face Dancers of the Tleilaxu – Definition

The Face Dancers are a race created by the Tleilaxu. With shapeshifting abilities, Face Dancers mimicked the appearance of anyone they wished to copy.

With time, the Face Dancers got enhanced to collect the memories of whoever they touched; this had its flaws as most enhanced Face Dancers assumed the identities of those they copied and broke their Tleilaxu master’s influence on them. The enhanced Face Dancers are a group of Face Dancers who got given the power to break free from the chains of their Tleilaxu masters.

The Role of Face Dancers in the Dune Universe

The Relevance of Face Dancers in Frank Herbert’s Dune

Face Dancers did not come into the light until ‘Dune Messiah,’ when Scytale joins forces with Reverend Mother Helen, Edric, and Princess Irulan. Scytale is a crucial character in the plan to dethrone Paul Atreides as he presents him with Hayt, a Ghola of Idaho.

With the conspirators’ plan to destroy Paul psychologically, then kill him using Hayt, Scytale begins planning an assassination by hiding a stone burner at Otheym’s house to try and kill Paul. After a failed attempt assassination attempt, Paul goes blind but retains prescience. With Scytale believing Paul could no longer see the future, he confronts him with an offer to return Chani, who died during childbirth. Upon refusing his offer, Scytale threatens to kill Paul’s children. However, Paul sees through his son’s eyes and kills him.

In ‘Heretics of Dune,’ the Tleilaxu try taking control of the Imperium as they had already replaced many key figures with perfect Face Dancers who were not only capable of mimicking a person’s appearance but their memories too. Believing the Bene Gesserit were powerless against their perfect Face Dancers, the Tleilaxu get ready to take over the entire universe. However, the order fails as the perfection of their Face Dancers made them believe they were the people they imitated.

In ‘Chapterhouse: Dune,’ Reverend Mother Dortujla gets approached by a group of Futars and Handlers. Believing the Handlers to be Face Dancers, Dortujla tries using the detection techniques of the Bene Gesserit to check if her suspicion is correct. However, she is unable to decipher the truth about the Handlers. In the last chapter of ‘Chapterhouse: Dune,’ Daniel and Marty talk about the presence of the perfect Face Dancers who were not bound to anyone:

Tleilaxu masters have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them. I don’t see why. It’s a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and it’s personas we take Marty.

Face Dancers in Post Frank Herbert’s Dune

In ‘Hunters of Dune,’ Dortujla’s initial suspicions prove to be right as it gets revealed that the Handlers are enhanced Face Dancers from the scattering. The passengers of the Ithaca dig deeper and discover that the Face Dancers worked together with Daniel and Marty. Further investigation by Murbella shows that the Face Dancers have already infiltrated most of the old empire and were planning to take over the universe.

Daniel and Marty come out as the Thinking Machine leader, Omnius and Erasmus. Led by Khrone, the Face Dancers begin dominating the universe by taking over strongholds of power. Seeing the Face Dancers were about to take over, Erasmus activates a fail-safe implanted into every Face Dancer created by the Thinking Machines; this destroys Khrone and his soldiers.

The History of the Face Dancers

The first Face Dancers created by the Tleilaxu were the order’s members augmented with plastic surgery. The order began using genetic manipulation to increase phenotypic plasticity in the Face Dancers. With genetic manipulation, the Face Dancers could alter everything, from their face to body structure.

Though the Face Dancers were initially entertainers and actors, the order saw the potential in making them spies and assassins; this led to the weaponization of the Face Dancers.

Physical Description of Face Dancers

Though Face Dancers can take the form of others, they have a characteristic look. A Face Dancer’s original appearance got described by Frank Herbert in ‘Heretics of Dune,’ stated:

The first Face Dancers Miles Teg ever saw: Two small men as alike as twins. Almost chinless round faces, pug noses, tiny mouths, black button eyes, and short-cropped white hair that stood up from their heads like the bristles on a brush.

Glossary Terms Associated with Face Dancers

Here is a list of words associated with Face Dancers:

  1. Phenotypic plasticity: Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of individual genotypes to produce different characteristics when exposed to varying environmental conditions.
  2. Stone Burner: A Stone Burner is an atomic weapon whose explosion is controllable. Stone burners produce J-rays, a type of radiation that destroys the eyes, rendering one blind.


What do Face Dancers look like?

Though a Face Dancer’s original form got rarely seen, there were times when people saw their physical form. A Face Dancer had chinless round faces, pug noses, tiny mouth, black button eyes, and short white cropped hair.

Are Face Dancers male or female?

Face Dancers are sterile hermaphrodites, meaning they are both male and female and can take up the sex of whichever gender they want.

How did Scytale become a Tleilaxu master?

Scytale got promoted to the youngest member of the nine Masheikhs who controlled the Tleilaxu council. As a Tleilaxu master, Scytale gets captured by the Bene Gesserit and stays on the No-ship as a prisoner.

Are Face Dancers human?

Yes, Face Dancers are human. Though they get genetically engineered to be shapeshifters, A Face Dancer is still a human. However, Face Dancers are incapable of reproduction, making it impossible to carry on their genetics to the next generation.

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