Korba (Dune)

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Korba is a fictional character in the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. He is one of Paul "Muad'Dib" Atreides' Fedaykin death commandos in the original novel Dune (1965), and later one of the chief priests (Court Qizara) of the religion of Muad'Dib in Dune Messiah (1969).

Korba was portrayed by Karel Dobrý in the 2003 TV miniseries, Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, an adaptation of the novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune (1976). The miniseries version of Korba was noticeably altered. In fact, while in the book, Korba was a religious fanatic hoping to kill Muad'Dib so he would become a martyr and his own religious power would grow drastically, in the miniseries Korba was only pretending his fanaticism and was a rebel against Atreides rule("Cursed be the name of Atreides.") and his reason for setting the stone-burner was to kill Paul out of his own hatred for the Atreides Empire. This event also connects him to Javid, a similar corrupt priest(a member of Jacarutu in the miniseries) who is seen as a child helping Korba.


Known popularly as Korba the Panegyrist, Korba transformed his role from Fremen military special forces agent to a fanatical religious zealot within the Muad'Dib religion. He is first mentioned by name on p. 67, the conversation where Herbert writes:

Sensing his thoughts on her, Alia smiled at Paul. His expression softened. How could anyone react to Korba with other than cynical humor? he asked himself. What is more ridiculous than a Death Commando transformed into a priest? (p. 70)

A good way to get an impression of Korba's character is the following passage, also from that conversation where Paul asks Korba to go to the balcony to lead the crowd in morning prayer:

Paul's gaze followed the Qizara. Korba took his seat at Paul's left, dark features composed, eyes glazed by fanaticism. He'd enjoyed that moment of religious power. "The spirit presence has been invoked," he said. "Thank the lord for that," Alia said. Korba's lips went white. (p. 69-70)

During this scene when Korba stands by the brightly lit window, Stilgar thinks that he resembles someone being crucified on a fiery wheel with the outside light hitting his outstretched arms. Coincidentally, when Korba is later brought to the throne room for trial (his last appearance in the Dune series) his entrance through the main doors is similarly illuminated, except instead of crucifixion he is to be executed for taking part in the Fremen conspiracy against Muad'Dib. After Stilgar reads out the charges and Korba demands to confront his accuser, Alia gives her impression of him:

They [the Naibs] knew Korba. He was one of them. To become a Naib, he'd proved his Fremen courage and caution. Not brilliant, Korba, but reliable. Not one to lead a Jihad, perhaps, but a good choice as supply officer. Not a crusader, but one who cherished the old Fremen virtues: "The Tribe is paramount." (p. 255)

Muad'Dib declares that they now possess incontrovertible evidence that Korba plotted the downfall of the Emperor and personally helped import a dangerous weapon of mass destruction to Dune: the stone burner which killed or blinded several hundred Fremen, including Muad'Dib himself. Korba is led away after having pleaded that he only acted out of love for Muad'Dib.

Korba's actions are a microcosm for Muad'Dib's religious empire, one that began in religious fanaticism and Fremen brotherhood and ended in violence, treachery, and the loss of Fremen identity (Korba even reaches for the claim that the survivors of the stone burner have Tleilaxu eyes, forgetting for a moment the Fremen custom of ritual suicide for the blind). His character also gives Herbert the chance to mock religious fundamentalism to some extent, writing once that Muad'Dib regarded him as his "finest creation". The metaphor is not lost on the other characters like Alia in the above quote. Korba also exemplifies one of Herbert's main themes, namely that unpredictable results follow when religion and politics are united in purpose, and throughout the story the other characters see Korba as a literal embodiment of this idea in his dual role as political counselor and Qizarate priest. Stilgar gives one of Herbert's last thoughts on Korba on p. 262:

Stilgar drew himself up, shocked. One changed, of course. But dramatically? This was a particular view of himself that he'd never encountered. Drama was a questionable thing. Imported entertainers of dubious loyalty and more dubious virtue were dramatic. Enemies of the Empire employed drama in their attempts to sway the fickle populace. Korba had slipped away from Fremen virtues to employ drama for the Qizarate. And he'd die for that.

On orders from Alia, Stilgar executed Korba, along with the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam and Spacing Guild Navigator Edric, after the conspiracy to topple Paul's empire failed.