- “If God did not protect me, I would not know how to protect myself.”
Joan of Arc (also known as Jeanne d'Arc), who called herself La Pucelle (meaning "the Maiden"), was a French peasant who lived from 1412-1431 A.D. She experienced religious visions from the time she was 12 or 13 years of age. These visions were generally described by her as "voices" (specifically those of Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Margaret of Antioch), though they usually took visual form as well and sometimes consisted of dreams. In the last few years of her short life, God chose her to save France from the English invaders, and He used these visions to guide her.
At the age of seventeen, Joan convinced the Dauphin (Crown Prince of France) to give her co-command of the army, which she used to lift the siege of the strategically-vital city of Orleans and to crown him King Charles VII in the traditionally- and religiously-vital city of Reims. At the age of eighteen, however, she was not given the military or financial support she needed and was captured by hostile Burgundians (members of a French faction loyal to the Duke of Burgundy, siding with England) while defending the city of Compiegne; she was sold to the English for a prince's ransom (10,000 livres tournois gold pieces) and placed on trial for heresy. At the age of nineteen, she was declared guilty by the court (without the permission of the Pope) and given the ultimatum to recant. Her doing so changed her sentence to life imprisonment, yet not with the Church as Joan wanted but rather in the hands of the English! After relapsing due to both this and her believing in further visions, she was burned at the stake.
Joan of Arc was ever a devout Christian and had made every effort to comply with the Church; she had thus turned most of the clergymen present at her trial to her side despite her ignorance of canon law, but they became frightened to take action on her behalf due to secular pressure (at English spear-point on one occasion). By Joan's own statement, she died through the corrupt political greed of only one 'religious' man: Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. However, years afterward, with France reunited and once again at peace, Joan's own mother approached the King and demanded justice for her heroic daughter. Charles VII, who had by then become a fine king, agreed; Joan's living friends and even a few of her one-time foes were gathered together and interviewed, and in the end, the Pope cleared her of all charges and proclaimed her a hero.
The question of how a peasant girl could actually be heeded by the ruler of an entire nation to the point of being given a command position without any prior experience can only be answered by the Dauphin's desperation and the strength of his personal Christian faith. The question of how Joan could have actually turned the course of the Hundred Years' War so swiftly and decisively has been answered by both supernatural (specifically Divine intervention) and mundane means. Regarding the latter, Joan of Arc scholar and Roman Catholic author Tia Michelle Pesando wrote:
- "Joan's motivation kept her focus upon the overarching strategy necessary to complete her mission. Her's was not about conquest but about liberation; not a call to war but an end to war.
- 'God raised Joan up to her calling not because even a girl could accomplish the tasks He set for her, but because only a girl could; such was the value of femininity. She approached the Hundred Year's War with the attitude of one who had no desire to partake of it for its own sake, but rather to simply resolve it swiftly, decisively, and permanently."
Joan is a heroine of France and was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on May 16th of 1920. She is a Patron Saint not only of France, but also of martyrs, military personnel, captives, people ridiculed for their piety, those who are persecuted by the Church, and women who are part of volunteer emergency services. Catholics are not required to believe that Joan's visions were real, but a great many do regardless. On May 27th of 1979, a Catholic Church was built and dedicated to Joan on the site in Rouen where she was burned five-and-a-half centuries earlier.
Appearances in Disney Film and Television
Joan is one of the only historical figures to be specifically referenced in a Disney Princess movie. During the "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" sequence of Frozen, Princess Anna of Arendelle sings that she is so lonely she has started speaking to the pictures on the walls. To emphasize this (or perhaps to show support) Anna plops down on a small chesterfield and points at a painting of Joan, to which she interrupts her song to say, "Hang in there, Joan!" This is actually a triple source of humour. In addition to encouraging a historical figure from four centuries earlier regarding a mission already accomplished, this is something of a play on words as the princess is saying this to a wall painting (which is literally "hanging in" the gallery). It is also a pinch of foreshadowing regarding Elsa's reception once the truth about her is revealed, as Joan stated in her trial that "people are often hanged for telling the truth."
This sequence provides an early means by which to establish the loyal and supportive qualities of Princess Anna's character and also gives the audience hope that she will later finally understand Elsa's plight. For the time being Elsa remains to Anna like Joan's saintly voices in Heaven; heard more often than seen, and possessing secrets unknown to her.
Joan (whom songwriter Leonard Cohen described as "such a cold, such a lonesome heroine"), in a sense, acts as a sort of stand-in for Elsa. By her own admission, Anna's interaction with the pictures on the walls is a substitute for her former friendship with her older sister. She may also associate her own pain with that of Joan. Joan's story also parallels that of Elsa in some ways, insomuch as both unintentionally found themselves accused of sorcery, imprisoned, and sentenced to death.
In the French version, Anna says, "Salut, Jeanne d'Arc!" The salute is a gesture meaning "I respect you". This respect likely stems from the facts of history she knows and from the intimate relationship she has developed with all the subjects of the paintings which she has had ample opportunity to study in the castle's cloister. However, in the French language, "Salut" is a simple greeting, and Anna only uses the word in the French version of the film.
As for the painting itself, it is not based upon any historically-accurate portrait. Joan herself denied having ever posed for a portrait (to have done so would have been a sign of vanity). She did say that she had seen a painting of her and that she believed it to have been painted by a Scotsman (possibly Hamish Power, the same one who painted her standard), yet sadly it has been lost. It would not have looked like the one in Frozen, however. She never used a shield and would have insisted upon displaying her banner (which displayed the Risen Christ flanked by angels offering Him a lily and the words "JESUS MARIA") in any portrait painted of her if at all possible. At her trial, she stated that she preferred her banner "forty times more" than her sword. The omission of the banner may have been due to the removal of all Christian images in Frozen (though the song that plays during the introduction and during the Great Thaw after Anna's loving self-sacrifice is partially a Christian hymn titled "Fairest Lord Jesus").
There is a coincidence between the name of Frozen's realm of Arendelle and that of a region notable in Joan's life. Along with the Duke of Burgundy, one of the primary attackers of Compiegne (and thus indirectly partially responsible for her capture) was the Earl of Arundel. The similarity appears to be merely phonetic.
The Muppet Show
In The Muppet Show's 202nd episode, when Kermit the Frog told Miss Piggy that he found a part for her to play, one of the guesses she made was Joan of Arc. Despite her love of all things French, it is unknown what, if any, devotion Miss Piggy actually has toward Joan. Miss Piggy's suggestion is probably instead a display of her vanity, as Joan is (with few exceptions, such as William Shakespeare's Henry VI, part I, in which she is a villainess) usually the star of any piece in which she appears.
In the episode "Abra-K-Dabra", Riley Daring dressed up like Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc was mentioned in the episode "Girl Meets Belief".
Joan of Arc was mentioned in the episode "Murphy's Lard".
Other Possible Influences
The image of Joan as an armoured girl leading soldiers into battle has become quite iconic. As such, it may have inspired Alice's doing likewise in the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton. However, unlike Alice, she took care not to kill anyone herself (whether or not she would have made an exception of a vicious dragon is unknown).
Joan of Arc seems outwardly similar to Fa Mulan, as they both donned male guise to assist them in joining/serving in their respective royal armies at times when their homelands were threatened, however the latter preceded the former by nearly a thousand years (albeit only as an epic poem) and thus shares no direct connection to her. Disney may have chosen them both for representation for the same reason, however, for both are positive role models for girls. Joan of Arc also boasts several advantages over Mulan. These advantages include:
- While both Joan and Mulan found it necessary to run away from home, Joan never needed to disguise her gender. In fact, Joan openly reminded everyone of her gender, intentionally wearing a casque sans masque helmet that would show her face and always calling herself "the Maiden". She even received special permission to wear men's clothing from a Bishop loyal to the Dauphin.
- Likewise, Joan never needed to undergo training/testing to prove that she was the equivalent of a man. She gained her authority from the recommendation of the Roman Catholic Church and was thus the only woman to receive a military command based entirely upon theological qualifications.
- Joan was naturally gifted as a mounted warrior, however. She unintentionally impressed the Duke of Alencon so much with her riding that he gave her a charger of her own. Additionally, unlike Mulan, she always excelled with regards to the placement and trajectory of gunpowder-using devices, at least where cannons were concerned (though she did not load them herself).
- While Mulan had a much longer military career than Joan, Mulan was merely a soldier (who eventually reached the rank of Major General in later life according to some versions of her poem). Joan, however, actually co-commanded the French army from the beginning of her career. She was able to do this because of the French people's faith, in God and in a prophecy which was circulating at the time which stated that a maiden from Lorraine would save France. Biblical examples such as those of Deborah, Judith, and Esther were recalled as evidence that God would raise up a woman to such a salvific role even if society would not normally do so, and the people were eager to receive divine help in their time of need.
- Joan took her orders from God more than she did those from anywhere else, and this gave her authority to advise, influence, and criticize even the highest-ranking mortal men. Medieval devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary meant that, due to the code of chivalry which came into being through her, women who were regarded as morally-upright enjoyed more rights than they would for centuries afterward.
- Despite being a warrior (albeit one who refused to kill), Joan was also a sensitive lady. Due to her position she was able to influence her troops so that they would not swear, gamble, plunder or engage in other improper activities (she also forcibly kept (other) females from joining the army so that her troops would remain chaste). Joan also wept often, even for the enemy, and insisted that they be shown every proper decency and honor.
- Neither Joan nor Mulan was a person of noble blood, nor did either marry a mortal prince so they might be considered a princess. However, Joan and her family were granted a noble title by the newly-crowned Charles VII and due to Joan's perpetual virginity, Jesus Christ was at times referred to as her spouse.
There are a number of parallels between Frozen and The Little Mermaid, one of which being the main character's singing to a painting. In this case, however, the painting is addressed as the iconic character which it depicts. More of a coincidence than an influence, Joan and Georges de la Tour, the latter of whose most famous works include Penitent Magdalen and the Smoking Flame to which Ariel sang, were both from the Duchy of Lorraine. However, instead of offering her painting greeting or reassurance, the mermaid princess asked the question, "What's a fire and why does it... What's the word? Burn?"