The Identity of Kynes: A Critical Essay

The Dune Universe is an original creation of Frank Herbert, copyright by him, all rights reserved. Mention or discussion of copyrighted characters and terms in this critical essay is not intended, nor should be interpreted, as a challenge to those copyrights.

This topic originally came up in the USEnet forum Another member of the group asked what was known about the origins of Pardot Kynes. I noted that the Dune Encyclopedia has a two-page bio of Pardot Kynes which gives him a completely different backstory than what is in Dune: House Atreides.

What's interesting to me is the conflation of him and his son Liet in the later volumes. Even as early as Dune Messiah, in Farok's words to Scytale (pp 51-52 in the Berkley paperback edition), he speaks of Liet-Kynes as having promised them the ecological transformation. This is ambiguous, since Farok probably was younger and may not have personally known either father or son, and thus be simply repeating a common confusion of the two men.

In Children of Dune, Stilgar himself thinks of Liet-Kynes as the one who *first* dreamed of making the desert bloom (p 4), and he's someone who should have known the difference between Liet and his father Pardot, Kynes-the-umma, especially if Stilgar was a member of their family (whether by birth, as I suggested in the "Stilgar's ancestry" thread, by marriage as others have suggested, by sworn brotherhood as the DE suggested, or even through Pardot saving his life, as Dune :House Atreides seems to be developing -- and especially if it's the last one, because that would mean that he would have been a young man when Pardot first appeared, he owes that man his life, and would have seen Liet grow up, so he has no excuse for conflusing the two men).

It gets worse in God Emperor of Dune, where Leto II himself (p13) describes Liet-Kynes as "the planetologist who organized the ecological transformation of Arrakis" -- and Leto II has even less excuse for this mistake, since both Liet and Pardot would be among his Ancestral Memories. (I thought there was some mention in Children of Dune of Leto thinking about his ancestors on that side of the family, but I haven't found it yet).

Somewhere I've read that when Frank Herbert first sat down to write what would ultimately become Dune, he started with the story of Pardot Kynes. However, Frank Herbert couldn't get that to work because he just couldn't find a strong enough conflict in it to carry the weight of an entire novel. When he came up with the idea of what would happen when a Hero entered such a situation, he finally had the story he needed, so he took all the workings of Pardot Kynes' story and condensed them down into that little appendix at the end of Dune, leaving them to be backstory.

If that's true, and if the original workings (notes, synopses and outlines, maybe even chapters) have survived, I'd love the opportunity to see them, because I'm starting to wonder if Frank Herbert may have originally grafted the story of Paul Atreides directly onto the story of Pardot Kynes, and only later made the Kynes of the novel, the one called Liet by the Fremen, the son of the original. In the scene where Paul Atreides first enters Sietch Tabr, he sees an ecology class underway, and when he asks about it, is told, "What Liet told us, we cannot pause an instant in that. Liet who is dead must not be forgotten." (p 364). All the teaching on ecology is credited to Liet, not his father.

And where did Liet-Kynes get his doctorate, if he was raised as a Fremen on Arrakis and taught ecology apprentice-fashion by his father? Yet in our very first introduction to him, when he is to take Duke Leto and young Paul to inspect spice mining, (p 106), he is referred to *by the narrative voice, not any character* as "Dr. Kynes." (He is also referred to by that title in the banquet scene). This makes me wonder if Frank Herbert originally wrote that scene intending Kynes to be Pardot himself and never went back and corrected it when he later decided that Kynes who is called Liet among the Fremen should be the son of Pardot Kynes.

I'm wondering if Frank Herbert only decided to make Liet-Kynes Pardot's son when he wrote the scene of Kynes' death in the desert and started getting into the hallucinations, and then decided that to make that scene work he needed to separate his original planetologist character from the abortive start at what would be Dune and the character in the actual Dune, make them father and son, yet at some level the idea of only one Kynes who did it all lingered in Frank Herbert's subconscious and showed up again when he was writing the later books.

Of course there are a lot of things about Dune that don't hold together under close examination. The thermodynamic problems with stillsuits have been discussed to death both on and on rasfw. The history can't quite be resolved. For instance, there are some statements which seem to indicate that spice mining on Arrakis is a relatively recent development -- in particular, the reference to there being "one dragline outfit that came in with the first team of Imperial ecologists, though, and it's still running..." (p 87), which taken in tandem with the statement that Pardot Kynes was the first Imperial Planetologist, would seem to indicate that it's only been a couple generations. Yet if the Guild has been using spice for prescience for millenia (and the dating system seems to indicate a society that's been stable for over ten thousand years), it would have had to have been mined somehow.

Frank Herbert was probably concentrating more on telling a good story than on creating a complex and self-consistant world -- he doesn't seem to have had the level of obsession with world-building and fiddling with details to keep even the minutest bit consistant that J.R.R. Tolkien possessed, for instance.

Last updated October 19, 2012