Monday, July 31, 2006

Jean D' Arc

I'm still waiting for my story to be published. This is getting to be a mild form of torture. I'll try to keep my perspective though--they could force me to wear women's underwear and throw my first edition copy of Twain's Joan of Arc in the toilet.

I've never mentioned that before, but that was a great book. Reading it now, it was a bit of a dry read, like reading Shakespeare, only four hundred times more comprehensible. It's the one book that could actually make me believe there is a God. Seriously. I tend to believe science and provable facts, which pretty much has me scanning channels on Sundays.

Back in Jean D' Arc's day, in fourteen hundred-ish (I'm not looking anything up, so sue me), France was at a low point. I would have used the superlative, but France has a long and arduous history. To say this was its lowest is not for me to determine--but let's just say this was among them. Bodies lay in the streets decaying and nobody bothered to bury them up, opting to leave them for the wolves to feast upon in the night. England was winning the war between them, and it was generally accepted that it was just a matter of time. At least to my understanding.

Jean D' Arc lived in a tiny village called Domremy, which still exists today, although I have never seen it. I believe she was sixteen at the time. The story goes that she was visited by an angel that told her to visit the French king and acquire from him an army. No small feat, wouldn't you agree? But she did it. The king was suspect at first, but the angel had told her some secrets about him that only he would know, and those she whispered in his ear. That's the legend anyway. History reads that the king granted her request, that she rode at the army's head and crushed the occupation.

There are many explanations any good fiction writer could propose as to how this came about. Perhaps the king was so desultory that any glimmer of hope, even that sparked by such an unlikely catalyst, was worth a try. Perhaps the king had simply given up, a man with his head clamped a Guillotine, staring wild-eyed at the basket where his head will fall. But this makes me think. She was sixteen. I'm scared when I see a sixteen year old of either sex behind the wheel of a car. But this little girl not only convinced the king, but all of his generals too, who were none too pleased at first. But time after time, she was prescient in her strategies, as if an angel were telling her the enemy's next move.

So grateful was the French king for her country's deliverance that he exempted the village of Domremy of taxation, an exemption that lasted for a couple centuries. He wasn't grateful enough though, to intervene when the English finally captured her and burnt her at the stake.

Read Twain's fictionalized version. First, it's classic Twain, full of colorful characters. He researched the work for seven years before writing a single word. It's obvious that he fell in love with his subject.

One thing I've noticed though. The French could give a shit about her. One reaction I got: "What is it about you and Jean D' Arc?" The other: "France has been on the brink of destruction so many times. That's just one of them."

That goes a long way in explaining why they let her burn.

I think GW would say: "Joan of Arc is... I mean was... I mean, France owes a huge debt to Joan of Arc. Now watch this golf shot."


Kathleen said...

Very cool post, Scott. Makes me want to read the book. I didn't even know Twain wrote a book about Jean d'Arc.

Moni said...

I agree with Kathleen, very cool post indeed. You've got to admit, that there had to be some kind of divine interention for a 16 year old girl to have an entire army under her command, and back in a day when women were property. Hmmm?

I love the last statement...too funny! :)

Anonymous said...

Funny how each side of a war has God on its side.

Wouldn't that present a conflict of interest for Him?

Jaye Wells said...

Interesting. I knew that story, but thank you for reminding me. I'll have to look up that book.

You mentioned a 16 year old being scary behind the wheel. The thing is our kids grow up much slower than kids in those days. At 16 a lot of women were married and starting to make babies. Believe me, if they could do that, they could lead an army.

Scott said...

Kat - Most people don't, but it was quite moving for me to read. I was barely a teenager when I did.

Moni - I don't think it necessarily means that, but any alternative seems unlikely to me.

Jason - Just like boxing right? The thought that crosses my mind is that God wouldn't necessarily favor one people over the other, but tips the outcome for other reasons. He could be an avid fan of french toast for instance, or freedom fries, which may not have been invented yet, and never would have had things gone on as they were.

Jaye - You gave me one of those silent laughs, the kind I managed to keep hidden from the rest of the office--barely.

fringes said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I like both the author and his subject. That should be a great read.

magnetbabe said...

I'm reading "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory for my book club. She's no Twain but my point is that it taught me a lot of what "children" were capable of back then. I'm loving the historical aspect and the plot, (while much of it is highly speculative) is captivating.

Thanks for recapping the tale. Most of what I knew about Jean d'Arc came from a Simpson's episode.

Writing Blind said...

I'm such a nerd because I read history books, in particular French and English history from that time period. I'll definitely have to check it out. And I too loved the last line.

Jada's Gigi said...

Joan of Arc was sonething special...what I'm not quite sure...:) awfully young but then the life expectancy wasn't that great was it.

Jada's Gigi said...

Hey, I posted before I was through...loved the post about your wife...gettin sentimental in your old age? :)

Toni Anderson said...

Politics got Joan burnt. Religion and politics--who'da thunk it?

Ahem. An an English woman I'd just like to say she was on the wrong side ;-)

My dad is obsessed with Joan because he is obsessed with long bows and makes his own.

nice-post. I think she must have been extraordinary.

Scott said...

Erica - De nada.

Nat - Ooh, that sounds like a good read. Nothing like a good bit of historical fiction. The Simpsons--you're bad!

Rebecca - I got half way through A History of Venice, which was very good. I couldn't keep track of what Doge did what and lost my bearings. History is the basis of good fiction I think.

Cheryl - I gotta give the love when it's due. So yeah, I think you're right!

Toni - Yes, I supposed you would feel that way. It's a strange conundrum to be living in a country built on conquest like both of us do. All countries seem to have that kind of origin. Pure Darwinism.

Bernita said...

Agree with Jaye.
You're thinking anachronistic thoughts.

Anonymous said...

The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc is available online free at
Joan of Arc - It is a great book.