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The Portrayal Of Joan Of Arc In Age Of Empires II
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The Portrayal Of Joan Of Arc In Age Of Empires II

August 9, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Although for the most part the game avoids discussions of holy influence on Joan, she is characterized as a larger-than-life figure throughout. Her first meeting with the Dauphin is mentioned in one of the post-mission cutscenes, which depicts Joan commanding the attention of every person in the chateau at Chinon as she approaches a fearful Dauphin. Joan confronts the Dauphin, demanding to know why he has not yet been crowned King of France. Men seem to shrink away from Joan's mighty gaze, despite her small stature. "She stands only to the shoulder of the shortest man," notes the narrator. "But all of us must look up to speak to her."

The idea that Joan possessed an almost superhuman charisma is a recurring theme throughout the course of the campaign's events. "The force of Joan's will is titanic," it's noted in one story segment. "She has gathered to her banner swearing brigands and knaves and turned them into patriots and heroes." With each progressing mission, players are in fact given command of ever-larger groups of soldiers, reflecting the idea that Joan's influence and popularity increased over time, giving her access to larger numbers of recruits.

On occasion, Joan is portrayed as a legendary heroine on par with figures from popular myths. In one cutscene, Guy Josselyne relates one instance in which Joan instructed him to search for an ancient sword buried beneath the altar of a local church. Josselyne reports that upon searching the church, a rusted blade belonging to Charlemagne himself was found.

The story is based on a myth that has been reported by numerous sources, although most report the blade as having belonged to Charles Martel, not his descendant Charlemagne. This particular anecdote is striking in its Campbellian nature; what could possibly be more dramatic than a heroine fulfilling her own prophesy about a hidden, legendary blade?

In another cutscene, Joan prophesies that she is to suffer a wound at the battle near Orléans. Her prophesy is realized when an arbalest bolt knocks her from her horse at the height of the battle. Joan recovers quickly from the attempt on her life, and the battle to lift the siege from Orléans is won.

Joan and the narrator return to Orléans, where "the entire population cheered us on from windows, rooftops, and city streets. They fired artillery into the night sky and shouted aloud their nickname for Joan: 'La Pucelle' -- The Maid of Orléans."

Joan's portrayal in combat is a topic worthy of an entirely separate discussion, but the ability for players to do with her as they please -- she can be held back for her own safety or pushed to the front of the line as a striker unit depending on a player's whims -- makes it difficult to pin down whether this aspect of her character is represented accurately. Traditional historians like The Hundred Years War author Anne Curry give ample credit to Joan and her impact on the tide of the war, but suggest that she was more valuable as a symbolic rallying point than as an actual force in physical combat.

In the game, Joan is simultaneously stronger than a normal unit while also serving as a weak point in the player's army, since losing her results in an automatic "game over." Age of Empires II: Age of Kings lead designer Mark Terrano says that originally Joan and other "hero units" were meant to be represented as having a positive impact on their entire army.

"In the original design I actually wanted a 'hero aura' to surround these legends that would inspire the troops nearby to fight much harder," says Terrano. "Having a legendary leader that was thought of as favored by God (or that was a living god) was a significant battlefield advantage." Ultimately, Terrano says, it became difficult to manage which units were "powered up" by their saintly heroine's aura of effect ability, resulting in a higher failure rate. This resulted in the decision to simply make hero units like Joan more powerful than regular soldiers.

After the events of the game's fourth mission, which follows Joan and her men as they free the captured French cities of Rheims, Chalon, and Troyes, Joan is portrayed as a decidedly Christ-like figure. "As we rode into Rheims, a sea of peasants and lords knelt before Joan," says the narrator. "Some even knelt to kiss her horse's hoof prints."

This imagery seems intentionally referential to the Biblical tale of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. In the Bible story, the people of Jerusalem greeted Christ by throwing their coats upon the ground and putting palm branches on the road before him. It would only be a week later before Christ's crucifixion. Likewise, only one mission after Joan's triumphant entry into Rheims, she is captured by Burgundian troops and executed at the stake. The analogue to Christ seems to suggest that Joan herself was a divinely-inspired figure.

This image of Joan as a figure surrounded by supernatural events has a basis in oral tradition. Many of the English subjects attending Joan's execution at the stake later reported seeing various supernatural events as Joan breathed her last.

Historian Ingvald Raknem reports that "one of the spectators cried out that he saw the name of Jesus leaping across the flames, and another, an English soldier who had been eager to have her burnt, declared that he saw a white dove emerge from the flames and fly in the direction of France." Indeed, it's impossible to separate Joan from her reputation as a legendary heroine capable of prophesy and supernatural abilities, which may be why so many were eager to cast her as being a witch and a heretic rather than one guided by God.

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