Löwendenkmal in Luzern, Switzerland, photo by Heidi M. Kim
Löwendenkmal in Luzern, Switzerland, photo by Heidi M. Kim

While traipsing through Switzerland, in the beautiful town of Lucerne (Luzern), I found myself staring at the Löwendenkmal sculpture.

Some call it the Lion of Lucerne. Designed by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and carved by Lukas Ahorn in 1821, the dying lion is a tribute to Swiss guards massacred during the French Revolution in 1792. The sculpture is carved in the side of a mountain, a rock face with trees above it and water below. (Of course the writer in me also thought of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Without knowing any of the history behind the sculpture, I found myself staring at this crying lion, so filled with emotion. How could human hands feel and form such a thing out of rock? How could this mighty figure move me to tears? The loss and grief behind a history that was not mine, of a war story that I could not really relate to, was still palpable.

Mark Twain wrote this about Löwendenkmal during his travels in A Tramp Abroad in 1880:

“The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff — for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.

Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.”

As I think about the things that move us to create, a tiny part of me wonders (and hopes) that someday I could create something that could move a stranger to tears. Maybe one word or phrase or story–without any context or explanation–could strike the core of a reader’s soul and resonate in the heart of a reader like Löwendenkmal does for many.

As a writer, I can only hope.