Who Was Joan of Arc?
English soldiers surrounded the great walls of Orléans (say: OR-lee-on), France. The people had been trapped inside the town without food for seven months. The English hoped that if they closed off the city long enough, the French citizens would open their gates and surrender.
France and England had been at war for as long as the people of Orléans could remember. The Duke of Orléans, the town’s leader, had already been captured by the English. His half brother, John de Dunois, did his best to defend the town. But he couldn’t drive the English away. The people of Orléans were beginning to lose hope. They were hungry. They thought of another siege ten years before in another French town. It had lasted a full year. The people of that city had been forced to eat cats, horses, and rats to survive. Eventually that city had surrendered. The people of Orléans didn’t want to surrender, but what else could they do? “We need a miracle,” they said to one another.
And maybe a miracle was coming! People who managed to sneak inside the gate of Orléans brought news of a very special peasant girl. She saw visions. She spoke to angels and saints. Her name was Joan of Arc. On April 29, 1429, the citizens of Orléans heard amazing news. Joan had arrived! She had slipped through an unguarded gate in the wall and entered the town. And she wasn’t alone. She brought men who wanted to help, and wagonloads of food and farm animals. Hundreds of people ran to see her.
What they saw was a seventeen-year-old girl who wore her hair cut short and dressed like a boy. She wore a suit of armor specially made to fit her small frame. She carried a sword and a banner with angels on it. The banner read “Jhesus Maria” for Jesus and Mary. She was on a mission to save the town of Orléans.
When the people of Orléans looked at Joan, they saw an unlikely hero who they believed had been sent by God. With her sword at her side and her banner raised high, Joan was a living symbol of hope for the people of Orléans—and for all of France.
Copyright © 2016 by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso; illustrated by Andrew Thomson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.