Netflix’s miniseries ‘All The Light We Cannot See,’ created by Steven Knight and Shawn Levy, follows the stories of two teenagers stuck and surviving the American bombing on Nazi-occupied Saint-Malo. While one is German orphan Werner Pfennig, who is chosen to work with the Nazis since he is considered a genius with the radio, the other is a blind French girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who too has a connection with the radio, and broadcasts regularly to help the Americans and the British save the French from the Nazis.
Marie-Laure goes on to play a huge role in the Battle of Saint-Malo as part of the Resistance, always moving forward with hope even when everything is crumbling around her. Things about her past are revealed all along, infused with legends and backstories, making her central to the narrative. The ruthlessness of the Nazis is always depicted very aptly, and learning about the role Marie-Laure plays in the battle, makes us wonder if there was a girl like her who inspired such a character.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc’s Real Roots Explained
Marie-Laure LeBlanc is not based on a real girl but a character in American author Anthony Doerr’s 2014 historical fiction novel of the same name. This doesn’t mean that elements in her story aren’t real since Doerr did a decade of research just to make this story come to life. He got the idea for Marie-Laure’s character after an encounter on a train. While it was very vague at the time, for a whole year, Doerr knew he wanted to create a world about a blind girl reading a story over the radio to a boy. The idea for this girl came to him in 2004 when Doerr observed a man on a train bound for Penn Station in New York getting frustrated about a call drop underground.
This made him think about how easy life is now and how tough it would be for people to communicate at a time when things were much more difficult. He always kept this thought of the blind girl in his mind for a year till he reached Saint-Malo during a tour of France. After exploring it, he knew that he had to create a story around the history of the place the people of his country bombed. He felt like a tourist at that moment, but also a keen observer who wanted some hidden stories of the place to come out. This inspired him to come up with this idea of what untold stories about people stuck in the middle of a war would feel like.
With the image of the blind storyteller solidified in his mind, Doerr mentioned in an interview that he kept thinking about how the story of a conflicted boy tortured by German soldiers could somehow be connected to hers. Marie-Laure, in the series, is shown as a strong character who, despite her disability, can take care of herself. This was the result of Doerr’s idea of attempting to write a character who could still be more able than adults and those with eyes around her in such hard times. “My attempt in this novel is to suggest the humanity of both Werner and Marie-Laure, to propose more complicated portraits of heroes and villains, to hint at, as World War II fades from the memories of its last survivors and becomes history, all the light we cannot see,” he said.
Moreover, Doerr has also spoken about the inspiration of adding a precious stone like the Sea of Flames, which is very central to the narrative in the series as well. He knew something like a diamond or a precious stone would add more depth to the story in the context of a blind girl who can’t see its beauty and, therefore, isn’t greedy about it but just knows that the whole world is after it. Ultimately, even if the character of Marie-Laure LeBlanc is entirely fictional, there are too many historical references and inspirations that have made her turn out the way she is, which are hard to ignore yet exciting to learn about.
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