Born in the year 10,175 AG, Paul is the son of Duke Leto Atreides and the Lady Jessica, the rulers of the planet Caladan. Jessica was commanded by the Bene Gesserit order to produce a daughter that would be wed to an heir in the House Harkonnen, a rival house in the Lansraad. This was supposed to help bring peace to the two Houses. However, because of her love and devotion to Leto she bore him a son.
Even though Paul is male, he receives Bene Gesserit training, giving him heightened senses and superior combat abilities.
When Paul is fifteen, the Emperor of the Galactic Padishah Empire, Shaddam IV of House Corrino, orders House Atreides to leave Caladan and take control of the desert planet Arrakis (a.k.a. Dune) from the Harkonnen. Leto knows that this is a trap set by the Emperor and the Baron Harkonnen to weaken and destroy the Atreides, but goes along anyway because of the power that governing Arrakis could bring. Arrakis is the only planet in the universe known to have the Spice Melange, the key to space travel and long life. Without the spice, the entire empire would cease to exist.
On Dune, the Atreides family is betrayed by their doctor, Wellington Yueh. Yueh disables the House's defenses and allows the Emperor's troops (who are disguised as Harkonnen) to capture Leto and destroy the Atreides fighting force. Paul and Jessica narrowly escape into the desert.
Paul takes refuge with the Fremen, the native nomadic people of Arrakis. He is seen as a Mahdi (Messiah) in the Fremen society and takes the name Muad'Dib. His mother Jessica is also accepted by Fremen society, while his younger sister Alia is born in Arrakis and raised as a Fremen. Paul marries a Fremen woman, Chani, and has a son, Leto.
He leads the Fremen in resistance against the brutal Harkonnen rule. He decides to consume the Water of Life, a deadly poison that comes from Dune's great sandworms. This process unlocks genetic memory and grants great powers of elevated consciousness, unfortunately no male has ever survived the ordeal. Paul barely makes it through, confirming that he is the Kwisatz Haderack (a Bene Gesserit messiah). After awakening from the ordeal, Paul leads an attack on the Harkonnen, riding the giant sandworms into battle. During the fight, Paul learns that his son has been killed by the Emperor's troops. The Fremen win the battle and Paul threatens to destroy the spice if the Emperor does not abdicate the throne to Paul.
Paul takes Emperor Shaddam's daughter, Irulan Corrino, as a wife, and becomes the Padishah Emperor, a.k.a. Emperor of the Known Universe.