The Bene Tleilax, popularly known as the Tleilaxu, is a patriarchal order in Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ known for their mastery of genetic manipulation and biological weaponry.

The Definitive Glossary for Dune

Having an appearance that makes others underestimate them, the Tleilaxu are a force that tries to take over the known universe with their discovery of artificial Melange production. They also played a crucial role in the conspiracy against Paul Atreides in ‘Dune Messiah.’

Bene Tleilaxu in Dune

Who are the Tleilaxu?

The word Tleilaxu gets pronounced as: “tlee-LAX-oo.” The Tleilaxu is a xenophobic and unilateralist patriarchal order in Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune.’ The Tleilaxu features in all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. In the Dune series, the order tries to gain universal dominance. Popular characters from the Tleilaxu in the Dune series are Bijaz, Scytale, Tylwyth Waff, Khrone, Hayt, Paolo, Thallo, and Burah.

Storyline Showing the Tleilaxu’s Actions in the Dune Series

The Tleilaxu’s Role Frank Herbert’s Dune

The Tleilaxu first appear in the 1965 ‘Dune.’ Originating from the planet Tleilax that orbits the star Thalim, the Tleilaxu become renowned for their genetic manipulation capabilities. Baron Harkonnen refers to the Tleilaxu after the death of Piter De Vries as he orders a new twisted Mentat from the patriarchal order; this explains that the order was the source of twisted Mentats.

Though they were elusive in ‘Dune,’ The Tleilaxu come into light in ‘Dune Messiah’ as Scytale joins a conspiracy with Reverend Mother Helen of the Bene Gesserit and Edric, a guild navigator, to overthrow Paul Atreides from the emperor’s throne. Using Hayt, a Ghola of Duncan Idaho, Scytale and the rest of the group try to defeat Paul. However, Scytale fails, and Hayt recovers his humanity. Paul kills Scytale after he tries to kill Leto II and Ghanima.

In the ‘God Emperor of Dune,’ 3500 years later, The Tleilaxu conceive a plan to overthrow Leto II, the immortal emperor who had ruled the universe for thousands of years. Killing almost all key figures in the Axian embassy, they champion their cause by replacing all crucial leaders with their Gholas. They also supply Leto II with Gholas of Idaho. However, they fail, and Leto II, as a part of his plan, allows himself to get killed by Siona and Duncan Idaho.

In ‘Heretics of Dune,’ the Tleilaxu create a method of producing Spice using the Axotyl tanks they used to make Gholas. The face dancers perfectly copy the memories and personalities of their targets. The Tleilaxu begin to replace key leaders of the Imperium but fail in their plan as the face dancers gain sentience and break off from being loyal to their masters.

In ‘Chapterhouse: Dune,’ the Honored Matres, a matriarchal order obsessed with universal domination, destroys the Tleilaxu except for Scytale, a Ghola of the original from ‘Dune Messiah.’ Scytale tells Darwi Odrade, the leader of the Bene Gesserit that, those lost in the scattering returned with Futars, a mix of humans and cats. He then threatened the Bene Gesserit with a nullentropy capsule, which the Tleilaxu used to collect cells from figures like Paul Atreides, Chani, the Tleilaxu masters, and Thufir Hawat.

The Tleilaxu Post Frank Herbert

In ‘Hunters of Dune’ by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, the Lost Tleilaxu emerge from the ashes of their ancestors. Creating advanced face dancers, the Lost Tleilaxu tries to dominate the universe. The knowledge of artificial Spice production dies along with the old Tleilaxu members, who got killed by the Honored Matres. Khrone, the highest-level face dancer, leads a rebellion against the elders of the new faction and kills Burah, the last true elder.

Uxtal, who served Burah, gets sent to Bandalong, the capital of the Tleilaxu, to meet Hellica, leader of the Honored Matres. Khrone tasks Uxtal to create a Ghola of Baron Harkonnen from a nullentropy tube found on a dead Tleilaxu master with his plan to create a Ghola of Paul Atreides and use Baron Harkonnen’s Ghola to condition it. 

Murbella, leader of the Bene Gesserit, destroys the Tleilaxu and discovers Hellica and her elite guards were face dancer duplicates. Uxtal gets killed by hungry sligs, and it gets revealed that the plan against humanity got formed by its ancient enemy, The Thinking Machines. Daniel and Marty, two mysterious people with advanced technological powers, are revealed to be Omnius and Erasmus, the leaders of the Thinking Machines.

In Sandworms of Dune,’ Omnius and Erasmus are revealed to have created autonomous face dancers. Khrone dominates the universe as he manipulates the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild into a war with the Thinking Machines. When Khrone gains domination, even over the machine empire, Erasmus activates a fail-safe built into the autonomous face dancers killing Khrone and his soldiers.

The History of the Tleilaxu’s Creation

The Tleilaxu were an order that relied on a strict hierarchy and a fanatical zeal for religiousness. Xuttuh formed the Tleilaxu with hopes of championing artificial Melange production, a tool that the order needed to dominate the universe. Other ancestors of the Tleilaxu are featured in ‘Legends of Dune’ by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

Typical Description of a Tleilaxu Master

The Tleilaxu are short and elf-like with grey eyes, hair, and skin. With pointy teeth and a demeaning appearance, the Tleilaxu make people underestimate their prowess.

The Tleilaxu masters use a humming noise to control their creations into a hypnotic state.

Words associated with the Tleilaxu include:

  1. Chairdogs: These are sentient creatures used for seating; Chairdogs adjust their shape to the size of the person sitting on them.
  2. Face Dancer: A face dancer are a group of sterile servants who can change their appearance and impersonate people; Face Dancers are sentient but programmed to be loyal to their Tleilaxu masters.
  3. Ghola: A Ghola is a duplication of a human being grown in an Axotyl tank from cells of the subject.
  4. Slig: A slig is a hybrid made from combining the genes of a massive slug and Terran pig; they are renowned for how delicious they taste.
  5. Axotyl tank: An Axotyl tank is an instrument made from the womb of a brain-dead woman to create Gholas.


Are the Tleilaxu human?

Yes, the Tleilaxu is a patriarchal order of secretive, genetically altered humans who live on planet Thallim.

What is the Tleilaxu secret?

The Tleilaxu’s secret is to create a society they can dominate, and they try all means to make their goals a reality.

Are Face Dancers human?

Yes, Face Dancers are servants of the Tleilaxu who get modified as shapeshifters. Their ability makes them copy a person’s physical appearance.

What happened to the Tleilaxu?

The Tleilaxu get destroyed by the Honored Matres, a matriarchal order with an unrelenting aim to dominate the universe.

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