I recently watched the SciFi channel’s Dune miniseries on DVD and I read the original books many years ago (but I only can find my copy of the first book), but I haven’t read any of the new stuff.
After watching the movie, I went websurfing to refresh my memory of the characters, and on Wikipedia I found entries that stated that the original Duncan killed 19 Sardaukar before being overcome. It’s been many years since I’ve read the books and it seems familiar, so I’ll believe Wikipedia has this right.
But Gurney is also a legendary fighter in his own right–“tempered in battles that only the hardiest survived” [my paraphrase].
How would he have faired in combat with Duncan?
And with Feyd-Rautha?
Doesn’t Gurney ask “Surely, M’Lord jests” when Paul asks him if he can take Feyd.
Paul can beat Feyd. Gurney can beat Paul. Add to that Gurney’s impressive experience in hard battle vs. Feyd’s limited experience in skewed gladiator matches, and I don’t see how Feyd can best him. It might not be an easy fight, but Gurney would wind up killing Feyd.
Gurney vs. Duncan is another story. They’re both skilled, they’re both tested, and they’re both good enough to be Paul’s instructor. In a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred fight, it would be too close to call. In an amtal match, my money would be on Duncan. He seems more of a technician and artist than Gurney, who’s just ornery, tough, and experienced.
He was a Swordmaster of the Ginaz before even joining House Atreides.
He lived with the Fremen and learned their ways.
He benefitted from the Weirding Way that Jessica taught Paul and later the Fremen.
After death, when Tielaxued as a Ghola, he is trained as a Mentat.
Gurney Halleck was a weapons specialist, in addition to being a master tactitian. He also possessed virtually instictive knowledge and abilities, and… he spent some length of time in Harkonnen prisons, learning true ruthlessness.
I don’t know if that’s valid. Gurney could beat a 15 year old Paul before they moved to Arrakis. Muad’Dib, after 2+ years of living with and leading the Fremen, beat Feyd. I’m betting the Paul at the end of Dune could take Gurney.
What distinction are you trying to make between a knock-down, drag-out, etc. fight and an amtal match? IIRC, amtal refers to the purpose of the fight, not rules during the fight. Every fight to the death winds up being a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred fight - since following the rules and dying thereby is pretty much a suboptimal strategy. Or to quote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: “Rules? In a knife fight?”
I’d make it too close to call. I’m sure they practiced against each other constantly, since they were the 2 best men in Duke Leto’s service, so they know each other’s styles. It would probably come down to luck or stupid chance.
In one of the sequels (Chapterhouse Dune, I believe), Duncan (or rather, a clone of him with his memories) reminisces about Gurney, and wonders if he was ever cloned, as Gurney could defeat him most of the times, and I think he mentions something like seven times out of ten. So we could imagine Duncan thought Gurney was a better figher than himself.
Personally I reckon Leto II and the Bene Gesserit didn’t bother with Gurney because, even if he was a better warrior, trainer and overall strategist, Duncan was more suited in a subordinate position. The ideal henchman, in a way.
It’s been a while since I read the books. But just from one gladiator match (The prisoner is supposed to be drugged, but Feyd has arranged for him not to be) Feyd is overconfident, single-minded, and does not plan ahead. He’s rattled on seeing that the man was a soldier for House Atreides. He’s surprised when the man uses the barbs Feyd sticks in him as an effective defense. He nearly loses the fight.
Gurney or Duncan could beat Feyd. Both have the versatility, are better strategists and could predict Feyd’s moves.
Pre death Duncan would lose to Gurney. Chapterhouse era Duncan with all ghola memories intact would probably beat Gurney.
In fact, the last incarnation of Duncan could probably beat anyone in the series who isn’t an Atreides (Feyd, Fenring, Gurney, Hawat). He could give them (Atreides) all a good fight, but his loyalty to the Atreides would keep him from ever using his full skills. Of course there is one exception to that, and that is when Duncan helped kill Leto II, of course Leto or Paul had probably set that course of action in stone (funky Kwisatz Haderach skills).
No matter how good anyone is as a fighter, Duncan has become, arguably, the most important character in the Duniverse. I believe that the original was tough for precient searchers to find, which is why Leto II kept bringing him back for use in his breeding program.
Do you really think the “final” Duncan was significantly improved over the Duncan that Moneo so effortlessly schooled in God Emperor? I’m not arguing that he might be; I just can’t remember anything specific in the subsequent two books that stated that he was “upgraded.”
Duncan was the Spinal Tap drummer of the Dune universe, he could never get a fair break, dying in various happenstance manners. Crushed, killed, assassinated, suicide, blown up, shot down, and finally a captive sex mule. He didn’t have a good track record. The only reason he stuck around was because the Tleilaxu were amusing themselves with genetic games.