As I live in France, I like to listen to French radio. It's harder to understand than TV or movies, so it's good for continuing my fluency, as well as acquiring more French culture, history etc.
Not long ago, I heard a program about Juliette Dodu, a young Frenchwoman in the Franco-Prussian war of the 1870s. Her family had a telegraph office which was seized by the enemy. The story goes, that while her family was imprisoned on the second floor, Juliette ran a wire tap, intercepting military messages. She relayed them to the French and is credited with saving 40,000 soldiers during the several weeks before she was discovered.
The Prussians tried her as a spy and condemned her to death. She is quoted as saying, "Je suis Française et ma mère aussi, j’ai agi pour mon pays. Messieurs, faites de moi ce que vous voudrez" ("I am French and so is my mother. I have acted for my country. Messieurs, do with me as you wish!") The armistice was signed just in time to save her and she was pardoned. Juliette was later given the Legion of Honor; she was the first woman to receive this honor.
What an inspiring story, with a strong female character!
In doing a tiny bit of research, however, it seems there's not a lot of historical evidence to support the story. It's said that Juliette would have had to decrypt the German cipher, understand their military code and then retransmit the message into Morse code without a mistake. Tricky. It seems there's not a lot of record for her death sentence, pardon or even the soldiers she was supposed to have saved with a timely message. We'll never know.
Which is more powerful, more inspiring, the fiction or the non-fiction?
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for telling the truth and for not rewriting history to suit us. I think that sometimes telling a tall tale, a legend, a fable or a fairy tale can share truth more accessibly. Many brave people have used their intelligence and skills in time of war, and they go largely unnoticed, especially women's. What are your thoughts? Useful fiction or just a lie?