The Treasure in the Swedish Trunk
February 2000

“The Treasure in the Swedish Trunk,” Friend, Feb. 2000, 43


The Treasure in the Swedish Trunk

Lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away (Hel. 5:8).

Margreta found the treasure! Tonight she would show her younger brothers and sisters where it had remained undiscovered for years, even though many of the family had searched for it.

She sat on the wooden chair in the kitchen, looking out the window at the landscape. She was glad her family lived in western Finland. She loved to walk with her father across the fields in winter, when the frozen grain stubble crackled and their breath hung misty and white in the evening air. Once a moose had walked out of the woods, crossed the far road, paused, then strolled toward the lake. She also loved the long summer days, fragrant and soft, when she helped her mother garden and sew.

“Hurry along, Margreta,” her mother said now. “Please set the table and finish cutting the bread. Our two guests will be here for dinner soon.”

Margreta’s family spoke Swedish and Finnish—and two other languages when they visited family and friends. But when they were home, the family spoke Swedish.

She spread an embroidered cloth on the table, then placed plates of bröd med smör (bread with butter) on the cloth. Tall glasses for the lingonberry juice came next. The last time the two young men had come for dinner, they’d said that they’d never tasted lingonberries before. One of them said that the juice tasted like something called cranberry juice. Both said that they liked it.

Margreta’s thoughts went back to the treasure. The family first heard about “Vilhelmina’s treasure” many, many years ago. Grandaunt Vilhelmina had brought the trunk with her to Finland when she returned from her travels to help a sick friend. She told the village that her Swedish trunk held something of great value to her and that she wanted to share it with family and friends. But before she could tell them of the treasure, she became sick and died suddenly.

Margreta thought about where the trunk sat now in Great-grandmother Ulrika’s home, where Margreta loved to visit. Even though her great-grandmother was frail and very elderly, the fragrance of warm bread still mingled with fragrant blossoms from plants that covered the windowsill. Poles suspended on rafters in the kitchen held round loaves of rye bread baked in the brick oven and then stored for winter meals. A spinning wheel, the footboard worn thin from years of spinning wool, sat next to a rocking chair. A woven, colorful spread lay across her great-grandmother’s bed, and handwoven curtains and bright wall hangings gave the modest home a warm, homey feel.

A braided rug filled one corner of the parlor. On the rug sat an old pump organ, and next to the organ sat Grandaunt Vilhelmina’s Swedish trunk. When Great-grandmother pumped her feet on the organ and played the keys, Margreta sang as she ran her hands over the sturdy trunk lid and the leather straps that held it closed.

Through the years, family and friends had searched closely through every item in it and had even peeled back its paper lining, hoping to find the treasure Vilhelmina had spoken of. Some thought it might be gold coins; others thought that it must be a treasure map. Sometimes when Margreta visited Great-grandmother Ulrika, she opened Vilhelmina’s trunk. Margreta loved to look through the lace doilies and linens, now yellow with age. A book, written in a foreign language, lay at the bottom of the trunk. Margreta once asked if the book was valuable or if a treasure map was hidden somewhere in the pages. Great-grandmother told her that the family had gone through the book a page at a time and had found nothing. Two sheets of paper filled with Vilhelmina’s swirly handwriting had faded words Margreta could barely make out. Her grandaunt must have been trying to translate parts of the book, but the little that she had finished was now crumbly with age.

Margreta put aside her thoughts of the trunk and got out bowls and platters for the food her mother was cooking. Her father brought in two more chairs to the kitchen table.

“I’m hungry!” Hans, Margareta’s younger brother, exclaimed as he brought in a load of firewood.

“Don’t step on my dolly!” little Sophia cried.

When the two began to argue, Margreta stepped in, brushed off Sophia’s doll, and soothed her brother. Before Margreta found the treasure, she would have joined in the argument. But now she remembered some of the words written on Vilhelmina’s papers, and she thought of the king who built a tower so that the people could hear his words as he spoke to them. He counseled them that the children should not fight and quarrel with each other, that they were to love one another, and serve one another.*

Margreta heard a knock at the door just as her mother finished making the risgrynpudding (rice pudding). The last time the elders visited, Elder Gonzales had mentioned his family enjoyed rice with beans and chili peppers. Elder Chan had said his family liked rice in a bowl with fish. And both had said that rice pudding was wonderful!

After dinner, the family and the Elders gathered around the table. Margreta could hardly wait to show the treasure in the Swedish trunk. She knew now that it wasn’t gold coins or a treasure map. The real treasure was the book at the bottom of the trunk!

Elder Chan and Elder Gonzales were excited about the book and told Margreta and her family that it was written in English. Then Elder Chan handed Margreta a book about the same size. “Here’s the same book your family has, but this one has been translated into Swedish,” he said.

Margreta’s eyes sparkled as she thanked him. She opened the book and began to read: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents …”

Illustrated by Scott Greer