Whoosh! Issue 41 - February 2000


IAXS project #660
By Michael Klossner
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
10557 words

Editor's Note: This article was written prior to the beginning of the Fifth Season.

Joan Of Arc And Xena: Warrior Princess (01-06)
A Land In Turmoil (07-11)
A Short, Spectacular Life (12-13)
Village Life (14-19)
The Journey To Find The Hero (20-24)
Appearance And Costume (25-30)
Horses (31-32)
Wounds (33-34)
Soldiers (35-37)
Virginity & Sexuality (38-42)
Camp Followers (43-48)
War Skills (49-52)
Smart Talk (53-55)
Arrogance (56-63)
Humor (64)
Ethics And Violence (65-68)
Bad Company (69-70)
Religion (71-78)
A Terrible Climax (79-82)
A Rebel Slandered (83-91)
Sainthood And Saintliness: A Joan For The 90's (92-95)
Videography And Filmography

Joan of Arc and Gabrielle:
Two Chaste, Fighting Peasant Girl Saints

Joan Of Arc And Xena: Warrior Princess

Too much clothing for CLEO

Najara is very Joan-esque in CRUSADER.

[1] In Topps' Xena: Warrior Princess magazine no. 4, an article by Julie Ann Sczesny entitled "In Search of Historic Xenas" devotes three pages to Joan of Arc. She is portrayed there as a heroic model for Xena. In Chakram no. 6, p. 20, R.J. Stewart recalls that while he was writing CRUSADER (76/408) and planning Najara's character, "I wanted to come up with a new villain. I thought of Joan of Arc, called Rob, he loved it". A paragraph later he calls Joan "a religious zealot".

[2] On p. 21, Stewart details what he means by a Joan of Arc character: "If she knows seven people are evil and she's not sure about the other three, she'll kill all ten and let the light straighten it out. That's where we, as twentieth-century Americans, find her repulsive. But that's certainly a very crusader-like attitude". Even before Stewart's interview appeared, fans on the CHAKRAM discussion list had already referred to Najara contemptuously as a Joan of Arc.

[3] Finally, in DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422) the Joan of Arc groupie and possible Joan reincarnation is unattractive, too old, and barely beat Joxer (Annie) in an amateurish sword fight. The DEJA VU disclaimer refers to Joan being "deflowered".

[4] Is Joan a heroic model for Xena, or a villainous model for Najara? It would not be the first time Joan, who was denounced in her own time as a witch, a "whore", a traitor, and a heretic but who ended up a national hero and a Catholic saint, has inspired controversy. In fact Joan was neither as formidable as Xena nor as evil as Najara (or as Xena in her bad period). In actuality, Joan has more interesting similarities (and even more interesting differences) to Gabrielle.

[5] This article set outs four purposes: (1) In the tradition of light-hearted Whoosh! scholarship, it details the many remarkable, almost spooky, similarities between Joan's and Gabrielle's careers; (2) It refutes Stewart's and many fans' assumption that Joan was not worthy of our respect; (3) It encourages the curiosity of the fans, since as the most famous woman warrior in history, Joan would naturally be of interest to Xena fans; and finally, (4) it considers the process of creating Gabrielle's character in light of the similarities and differences between Joan and Gabrielle.

[6] This article contains more information on Joan than on Gabrielle because readers of Whoosh! already know all about Gabrielle but may not know much about Joan. The primary source of information for this article is Edward Lucie-Smith's book JOAN OF ARC (1976), referred to below as (L-S). Joan's life is one of the best documented of any medieval person. We have the extensive transcripts of both her 1431 heresy trial, at which her enemies presented evidence against her and Joan spoke in her own defense, and of the 1456 Trial of Rehabilitation, at which Joan's supporters amassed evidence in her favor.

A Land In Turmoil

[7] In France in 1429, truly "a land in turmoil cried out for a hero". War between France and England had gone on for 92 years and would continue for 24 more. The total of 116 years was even worse than the name historians later gave the catastrophe: The Hundred Years' War. The war had been fought entirely on French soil, and France had lost most of the major battles, including the crushing defeat by Henry V at Agincourt in 1415. A civil war between the Orleanist royal house and the Dukes of Burgundy had gone on since 1407. Since 1413 Burgundy and England had been allied against the Orleanists.

[8] The conqueror Henry V forced the Treaty of Troyes on the insane King Charles VI of France in 1420. Charles recognized Henry as his heir, the man who would be king of France after his death. Charles and his queen, Isabella, were joined in this royal treason by their daughter, Catherine, who married Henry V. (The marriage of Henry and Catherine, presented as a charming romance in Shakespeare's HENRY V and in the films of the play by Lord Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh, was, of course, seen in a very different light by French nationalists.) Only Charles VI's disinherited son, Charles the Dauphin, resisted the plan for a united English-French monarchy. In 1422 both Henry V and Charles VI died. Charles the Dauphin proclaimed himself King Charles VII of France. The English proclaimed the infant son of Henry V and Catherine, Henry VI, King of both England and France. The war ground on.

[9] The capable Regent of England, John Duke of Bedford, led the English. They and their Burgundian allies occupied most of northern France including Paris and the cathedral city of Rheims where French kings were crowned. Charles, a cautious, uninspiring leader, kept to his castle at Chinon and gave little help to his troops. In late 1428 the English laid siege to Orleans. The fall of that city would probably have finished Charles VII's cause.

[10] The suffering of ordinary French people was aggravated by the fact that neither Charles nor Bedford could afford to pay their armies properly. Both regular troops and hired mercenaries on both sides were usually underpaid or not paid at all for long periods. They naturally turned to large-scale looting to support themselves. Charles' troops often looted towns and villages which supported their own side. Only the Burgundians had enough cash to maintain disciplined troops.

[11] In some ways the military situation shown in Xena: Warrior Princess is more similar to that of France in the 1420s than it is to the real history of the ancient world. Ancient history was usually dominated by city- states or large empires with disciplined armies, like the Persians and Romans. Warlordism as depicted in the TV series was not a problem in most places in ancient times, but marauding by uncontrolled troops loyal only to their own commanders was a hideous fact of life in much of France just before Joan emerged from obscurity.

A Short, Spectacular Life

Gabby reincarnated?

The CBS version of Joan.

[12] A short overview of Joan's brief life is needed before considering the points of similarity between her and Gabrielle. In early 1429 Joan announced that she had been commanded by the voices of God's saints to free France. In February she traveled with a few supporters from her native village of Domremy to Charles' court at Chinon. Desperate, Charles gave her the vague title "chef-de-guerre" (chief of war). In May, Joan reached Orleans and inspired the demoralized French troops. In a few days she broke the English siege of the city. Joan then led a campaign deep into enemy territory and freed Rheims, where Charles was crowned in Joan's presence on July 17, 1429.

[13] Charles gave Joan little support after his coronation, and Joan won no more significant military victories. In September 1429 she failed to take Paris from the English. On May 23, 1430, the Burgundians captured Joan at Compiegne and then sold her to the English in November. She was tried for heresy at Rouen from January to May 1431 by an ecclesiastical court led by Bishop Pierre Cauchon. On May 24 she confessed to heresy and repudiated her voices. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. A few days later Joan recanted her confession and reaffirmed her faith in her voices. On May 30, 1431 she was burned as an unrepentant heretic before a large crowd in the marketplace of Rouen.

Village Life

[14] Both Joan's and Gabrielle's backgrounds could be described as "upper-crust peasants". Joan's village of Domremy in Lorraine seems to have been fortunate and prosperous, just like Gabrielle's Poteidaia. Lucie-Smith notes that Domremy, which was pro-Orleanist but near Burgundian territory, suffered only rarely from the war (L- S, p. 10). The house in which Joan grew up was large and so well built that it is still standing. Similarly, Poteidaia seems to have been unaffected by war until Draco's raid, and Gabrielle's family home was so large that she and Lila had a room to themselves, as seen in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101).

[15] Joan's father, a village leader from a prominent local family, was 37 at the time of her birth. Like Gabrielle's father Herodotus he seems to have been a formidable authority figure. Joan's mother was younger than her husband and of humbler origin. Unlike Gabrielle, Joan had three brothers, and her only sister died young. Lucie- Smith believes there was conflict and tension between Joan and her father (L-S, p. 23) though the evidence is scanty.

[16] There is a sentimental legend that Joan was a shepherdess, but Lucie-Smith believes that she probably was a cowherd. Like Gabrielle she was undoubtedly a sturdy, hardy peasant girl. Lucie-Smith refers to Joan's "athleticism and physical dexterity" (L-S, p. 32). The strength and endurance gained at farm chores no doubt helped both of them in the conflicts they later faced. (On the other hand, Gabrielle's status as an old farm girl was put in doubt in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110) when she failed to recognize the horse manure handed to her. "Oh, thank you! Thank you very much".)

[17] In SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), Gabrielle left Poteidaia immediately after a raid by Draco's men. Joan left home to fight for Charles three years after a raid on Domremy. In 1425, the people of Domremy evacuated to a nearby town as warriors threatened the village. When they returned the villagers found that several buildings had been burned and cattle had been stolen. In 1428, just before Joan went to join Charles, there was another threat to Domremy and the people again evacuated, but this time no raid occurred.

[18] 1428 saw another dramatic event in Joan's life. Just as Gabrielle fled Poteidaia partly to avoid marrying the dull farmer Perdicus, as her father wanted, Joan refused to marry the man her father had chosen. In the first display of the forceful personality which all of France would soon know, Joan went to court and denied that she had ever agreed to marry her father's choice. She spoke publicly for the first time about the voices of three saints whom she heard and said she had promised the voices that she would remain a virgin until she had freed France from the English. She won her case.

[19] According to Stewart in Chakram 6, p. 21, Najara's jinn are rather naive spirits who give Najara lots of information but never concern themselves with how she uses it. Joan's voices were much more concrete and easily accepted by her contemporaries. She heard Saints Margaret, Catherine, and Michael, beginning when she was about 13 years old. They eventually told her that only she could make Charles the real king of France.

The Journey To Find The Hero

Change my hair?  Why would I want to do that?

Gabby, all wide-eyed in SINS OF THE PAST.

[20] Gabrielle left Poteidaia in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) and journeyed to find Xena. Joan left Domremy in early 1429 and traveled across France to present herself and her mission to Charles. Gabrielle was bored in her little town and was terrified of marriage to a dullard. She was naive about war and the warrior's life. Joan was probably much more realistic about what she could expect in wartorn France. Gabrielle was a budding intellectual and an avid student of Greek drama. Joan could neither read nor write.

[21] Of course as each woman journeyed to find a hero she could follow, she was also seeking the hero within herself. The road was dangerous for both girls. Gabrielle met a cyclops. Joan had to travel across dozens of miles controlled by Burgundian and English troops. Gabrielle could talk her way out of anything. Joan would have credited her success in reaching Charles to God and His determination that she should carry out the mission He had given her.

[22] Both reached the person on whom all their hopes rested. Joan's whole agenda was built around making Charles king, just as Gabrielle's life centered on Xena. Gabrielle gradually saw the flaws in Xena. Joan may have had fewer illusions about Charles than Gabrielle had about Xena. She was committed to Charles because she was sure he was God's choice to be king, not because of his personal virtues, which were neither obvious nor numerous. But even if Joan began with modest expectations about Charles, she soon had reason to be disappointed.

[23] Both women were eventually betrayed by their heroes. Xena turned against Gabrielle in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312). Charles withdrew most of his support from Joan after she got him crowned at Rheims. He did nothing to help her when her enemies captured her. But just as Gabrielle forgave Xena and remained her friend after THE BITTER SUITE, Joan defended Charles faithfully throughout her long trial. For Joan, Charles was essential, regardless of his flaws.

[24] Charles was, in many ways, the opposite of Xena. He was known as a cautious, cunning ruler, ready to betray his subordinates if necessary for his own survival. He was particularly unlike Xena in his aversion to danger and was considered a coward by many of his contemporaries. Even when he could not pay his army he maintained a large bodyguard and other elaborate measures against assassination. He lived in the strongest castle he owned, at Chinon. He even refused to ride on horseback across the rickety wooden bridges of his day. Before and during his long, successful reign (1422-1461) he did only two bold things. In 1419 he arranged the assassination of John Duke of Burgundy (a mistake which cemented the English-Burgundian alliance). And in April 1429 he made one of the most astonishing decisions in European history. He gave Joan an army.

Appearance And Costume

[25] In TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208) Joxer asked the diminutive but belligerent bard, "Who are you supposed to be? A fierce warrior trapped in the body of Gabrielle?" Physically Joan was more a Gabrielle than a Xena. In 1429 a witness described Joan as "sturdy and well- made". Lucie-Smith adds that she was not tall (L-S, p. 59). People in the 15th century were shorter than we are today. While she and Gabrielle had roughly similar body size and type, Joan's hair was black and was cut in male, military, pudding-bowl style, as padding for her helmet (L-S, p. 59).

[26] Joan and Gabrielle both, at first, wore long peasant dresses. A witness described the dress in which Joan presented herself to one of Charles' commanders as "poor and worn" (L-S, p. 30).

[27] Both women quickly changed their costumes. Gabrielle's new costume emphasizes her freedom, her desirability, and the rough conditions in which she lives. Joan's chosen costumes were just as utilitarian but much more modest, and much more important. No one in Xena's world comments on Gabrielle's costume, but Joan's choice of male dress aroused furious discussion. The English used it as a point in their propaganda against her and at her trial since it was unknown for women to wear male clothing. Most people in her time would assume that a woman in male costume, like a woman who traveled with an army, was a prostitute. Joan insisted on doing both those things, and she was accepted by most Frenchmen as a heroine.

[28] At her trial Joan's clothing was a barometer of her defiance of her judges. While she held out against them, she insisted on wearing male clothes. When she gave in and confessed, she put on women's clothes. When she withdrew her confession, she resumed male attire.

[29] Joan was excellent at "accessorizing". Her accessories (all of which Gabrielle tends to avoid) were a horse, armor, a banner and a sword. She was a small woman, but by all accounts she looked very impressive with all her accouterments.

[30] While Gabrielle's look is feminine and casual, Joan always wore the very best male clothing. When she was with the army, she wore magnificent armor. When she was at Charles' court she could have worn women's clothes, but she chose to wear the splendid clothes of a young nobleman (L-S, p. 34-35). Gabrielle had trouble getting used to wearing court dress in BLIND FAITH (42/218), but Joan always wore the best clothes she could. Social class is not usually a central issue in Xena. Gabrielle, like Xena, casually mingles with kings, princesses, and even gods. No one mentions that she is just a peasant. But Joan had risen almost overnight from the bottom to the top of an intensely class conscious society. She was careful that her clothes reflected her elevated status.


Put some *real* power between your legs!

Najara is quite comfortable on horseback.

[31] Joan was much more comfortable on horses than Gabrielle has been. Joan's supporters said that her skilled horsemanship, from the time she first arrived at Chinon, showed that she was assisted by God, but Lucie-Smith thinks that she probably learned to ride both cattle and horses in Domremy (L-S, p. 32). Gabrielle, in Poteidaia, merely had a pony for a pet and didn't learn to ride well [THE GREATER GOOD (21/121)].

[32] Both women had bad luck with horses. At Compiegne Joan was seized from behind by a Picard archer in Burgundian service, who "dragged her ignominiously from her horse" (L-S, p. 205). Gabrielle suffered a similar but semi- comic downfall in THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) when she flew off Argo's back and landed in a horse trough, where she was quickly captured. The different outcomes to these events highlight the difference between real history and a TV series. Joan was captured only once, but her capture eventually led to her death. Gabrielle, of course, has been captured, kidnaped, locked up, tied up, and held at knifepoint more times than she cares to remember, but she is always either rescued, or she saves herself. (In THE GREATER GOOD, with Xena sidelined, Argo redeemed herself by rescuing Gabrielle.)

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