Jeanne d’Arc, as represented by Saint-Sulpician inspired artists. But who were these beings from elsewhere who haunted the Bois-Chenu?

The Rouen judges lengthily interrogated Jeanne d’Arc on the fairytale phenomena in Domremy.  Here is what she answered on this subject, on Saturday 24 February 1431, during the third audience, to Maitre Jean Beaupere, Assessor at the Tribunal:

“Fairly close to Domremy, there is a certain tree which is called the Arbre des Dames, and others call it the Arbre des Fees.  Nearby, there is a fountain.  And I have heard that people sick with fever drink from this fountain and go to fetch its water to recover their health.  And this, I have seen myself;  but I don’t know whether they are cured or not.  I have heard that the sick, when they can get up, go to the tree to roll around.  It is a great tree, called fau, from whence comes the beautiful may.  It belonged, it is said, to My Lord Pierre de Bourlemont, Knight.  Sometimes, I went to roll there with the other girls, and made flower hats for this tree for the image of Notre-Dame-de-Domremy.  Several times, I heard said by the old people, not of my lineage, that the Lady Fairies lived there.  And I heard it said to a woman, named Jeanne, the wife of Mayor Aubery, from my part of the country, who was my godmother, that she had seen the Lady Fairies.  But I myself do not know whether that is true or not.  I have never seen a fairy at the tree, as far as I know.”

The judge asks:

“And have you seen any elsewhere?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve seen flower hats being put on the branches of the tree by young unmarried girls, and myself have sometime put some on with the other girls.  And sometimes we took them away, and sometimes we left them.  Since knowing that I had to come to France, I played a few games or rolled around, and the least that I could.  And I don’t know whether, since I have understood, I have danced near the tree.  Sometimes I could well have danced with the children;  but I didn’t sing there any more than I danced.”

So, Jeanne, known as Jeannette at Domremy, went to sing and dance under the Fairy Tree with her little friends.

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During the same sitting of the Tribunal, she gave the following precision:

“My brother recounted that it was being said at Domremy:  ‘The Jeanne took her facts from the Fairy Tree.’  It’s false.  I told him the opposite.”

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To tell the story of Jeanne d’Arc, it is always best to cite her own words.  Here is what she said about the voices:

“When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me to govern myself.  And the first time, I was very much afraid…”

And she adds this sentence where in a few simple words she paints the decor of this marvellous instant:

“And the voice came, around noon, in Summer, in my father’s garden.

“I heard the voice on my right, on the church side.  I rarely heard it without seeing a light.  This light is from the side where the voice makes itself heard…”

During the trial, a judge having asked her whether she had the help of her voices in the Tribunal room, she answered:

“If I were in a wood, I would well hear the voice coming to me…”

However, it would be wrong to conclude that she heard her voices only under trees.  They appear to have manifested themselves in vastly diverse places.  She never said that the presence of trees was a condition, if not indispensable, at least favourable, to her hearing the voices.

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A fairy godmother. What could have given birth to these timeless stories?

In 1455, the trial of Jeanne d’Arc’s rehabilitation opened.  On this occasion, the Tribunal asked the Civil Provost of Vaucouleurs, Jean Dalie, to go to Domremy to question the people who had known the Pucelle [unmarried girl, usually considered a virgin].  A Rogatory Commission which was accompanied by a list of questions in which the Ninth Article concerned the Fairy Tree.  Here are a few answers:

From Jean Moreau, farmer, seventy years old (he was forty-three in 1429 when Jeanne left her village):

“The Fairy Tree?  I have heard it said by the women that marvellous beings that we call “fairies” used to go to dance under this tree.  But it is said that since we go there to read the Gospel according to Saint John, they don’t come back there any more.”

From Beatrice, widow of Estelleni, eighty years old (sixty-three in 1429):

“The Fairy Tree, I have been there myself with the Ladies and Lords of Domremy to roll beneath it, because it is a very beautiful tree.  It is beside a big track by which we go to Neufchateau.  It was said that, in the ancient times, the Lady-Fairies came under there;  but now they no longer come, because of their sins.”

From Jeannette, widow of Tiercelin, sixty years old (thirty-three in 1429):

“The tree in question is called the Fairy Tree because, in the ancient times, it is said, a lord called Sir Pierre Granier, Knight of Bourlemont, went to meet under the tree a lady called Fee [Fay or Fairy] and talk with her;  I heard it read in a book.  Girls and boys of Domremy go there each year on the Sunday of loetare or Sunday of the Fountains, to roll, eat and dance…”

From Hauviette, wife of Gerard, farmer, forty-five years old (eighteen in 1429):

“Since forever, that tree, we call it the Fairy Tree.  It was said in the ancient times, that ladies called fairies came there…  Myself, I’ve been there with Jeanne the Pucelle [Joan of Arc], my friend, and the others, on the Sunday of the Fountains;  we ate, we had fun…”

Finally, from Gerardin d’Epinal, farmer, sixty years old (thirty-three in 1429), this exquisite comparison:

“It is beautiful like a lily, that tree!  Its leaves and its branches fall all around right down to the ground.  Jeannette went there with the other girls…”

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People believed in fairies, in a general way, throughout the whole of Europe practically up until the XVIIIth Century, and in certain places up until the end of the XIXth Century…

Historians of mentalities doctly explain that fairies come, for their name, from the antique fata, and from the three Parques (in all the tales, they are present at the birth of children to whom they dispense faults and qualities), and content themselves with adding that they constitute the most persistent vestiges left by paganism…

Certain modern mythologists are not far from thinking that the explanation of this myth will come to us, not from Historians of mentalities, but from scholars.

Now, American and Russian Physicists, among others, estime that interferences between our universe and an invisible world, which is however just as real as ours, are possible.  They add that at certain epochs, “beings” coming from this “elsewhere” were able to intervene in the destiny of men…

Which could have given birth to tales of fairies.

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Should we then believe that Jeanne d’Arc, who thought that she was in communication with Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and Saint [the Archangel] Michael, was in fact in contact with “mysterious unknown beings” visiting this world, and in whom today’s Physicists believe?

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, says that we are all free to think what we like.  All that he knows, is that the most marvellous and most extraordinary being in the History of France, that person who has her equivalent in no other country, at no other epoch, was born precisely in a little village where, for a century, young men and young girls go to roll around under a Fairy Tree…

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