House Harkonnen is the triggering pivot of the events of the first Dune trilogy, considering that without them the events would not have set in motion, and also represents the ultimate opponent that Atreides will have to face. With the release of the Dune film, why not take the opportunity to talk about it? Frank Herbert's work has inspired other great franchises, one of them all Star Wars, and their modernity even after some time still makes them noteworthy today. The parts full of spoilers for those unfamiliar with the saga will be marked as such and absolutely avoidable.
Just as House Atreides is supposed to be descended from the Greek ruler Agamemnon and his father Atreus, the Harkonnen also hail from ancient planet Earth. While there are no particular longstanding claims, such as those of their historical enemies, the Harkonnen are supposed to hail from northern Europe. The first traces of the Harkonnen are found in the Butlerian Jihad, where the millennial conflict with the Atreides is said to have arisen. It could be said that the Kanly between the two Houses begins even before the foundation of the Imperium. During the Battle of Corrin, Vorian Atreides and his protégé Abulurd Harkonnen have a difference of opinion on sacrificing a few million prisoners and Abulurd is relieved of command for disobeying Vorian and sabotaging the operation. Young Harkonnen falls from grace and, over time, the House will have to struggle to return to its original status in the Landsraad.
Symbol, colors and capital
The symbol of House Harkonnen is the griffin and its colors are blue and orange, always dressed with pride by its members. Unlike the Atreides domains, the Harkonnen are known for their industrial production efficiency at the expense of ethics for planets and workers, representing a perfect mirror of the kind of politics pursued by their rivals. Thanks to subterfuges, deceptions and economic manipulations, the Harkonnen have earned not only the status of Major House but also control of the planet arrakis, for the extraction of spice, for a very long time.
The capital of the Harkonnen fiefdom is Giedi Prime, a highly industrialized planet with large cities and generally little space for greenery, forests and plantations. This is not to say that the Harkonnen did not keep some well-studied plantation but, most likely, the purposes were economic rather than ecological.
The life of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
As with Duke Leto Atreides, it is important to understand which figure is at the helm of the Harkonnen House at the beginning of the Dune events and how he came to power.
The future Baron Siridar Vladimir Harkonnen was born to Dmitri Harkonnen and is the brother of the black sheep of the family (in kind and substantially correct ways) Abulurd. From an early age, Vladimir demonstrates all the qualities and attachment to power typical of the Harkonnen, including a certain propensity for blackmail and subterfuge. During his youth he amasses a quantity of illegal spice, with which he increases the wealth of his house. He learns with interest that Abulurd, having discovered this secret, was killed by his own son. Seeing in his grandchildren a means to carry out his plans and to carry on his lineage, Vladimir takes them under his wing and indulges their natural inclinations. In private life Vladimir carries on the same hunger for power, showing inclinations towards all that is immoral and, even worse, illegal.