"She achieved greatness but died young and was wronged. She had strong convictions and character but she was a woman, a virgin," said Olivier Bouzy, historian and adviser on Luc Besson's 1999 movie, "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc." "Yes, in many ways she was ahead of her time."
In France she is seen as a sort of symbol of the nation ("nation" being a feminine word in French), but the myths around her began relatively late.
It was in World War I that an effigy of Joan of Arc in armor, which appeared on pictures and postcards, first came to symbolize war and nationhood _ in this case, the French fight against Germany.
"Yes, she is the symbol of the nation at war, but the biggest myth is that she actually led the French in battle. She was a prophet who morally guided the army to victory. She was no commander or fighter," said Bouzy.
Questions about her exact identity have left subsequent eras room to fill in the gaps and allowed diverse groups to claim her as inspiration. French far right leader Marine Le Pen staged her anti-immigrant National Front's annual May 1 rally Tuesday in front of a huge Joan of Arc banner.
Bouzy predicts Joan's identity may shift yet again: "Since the '80s she has been an extreme right political figure, but after the Luc Besson film, she's back in the realm of culture, softer."
There indeed seems to be renewed interest in the "softer" cultural face of Joan of Arc. She is currently the subject of a play by the well-known Japanese drama company Theatre No, which will run in Orleans from Saturday.
"Everyone wants to appropriate her, and have their piece," said Orleans deputy mayor, Jean-Pierre Gabelle, "but this festival will put her back where she belongs."