This digression is particularly difficult, in my opinion, because of all the new names to keep straight. Here is a list of the most important names to know:
- King Finn
- Queen Hildeburh (sister to King Hnaef)
- a son
- King Hnaef (brother to Hildeburh)
- Hengest (Hnaef's top warrior)
- a group of warriors
King Hnaef and his warriors are visiting Frisia, assumedly with peaceful intentions. It might be that the marriage between Hnaef's sister and the king of Frisia was an arranged agreement with the purpose of settling a feud between the two families/tribes.
There is a large celebration in a great hall (direct comparison to Herot at the time the digression story is told) and eventually King Hnaef and his men go to sleep all together. For reasons that are not made clear, the Frisians attack their visitors that night. Many lives are lost on both sides in the fray, including Hnaef, Hildeburh's brother, as well as her son. Finn's troops are weakened to the point that they cannot succeed in complete victory, however, the Danes are at a disadvantage because they are on foreign soil.
Instead, a truce is reached, and Finn takes the remainder of the Danish soldiers as his own. (Imagine now, the Anglo-Saxon virtue of loyalty, as it will certainly come back into play.) Hengest basically raises to a position of power among the remaining Danes, and spends the winter brooding over revenge. Once the spring comes, a Danish soldier presents to Hengest a sword, which symbolizes leadership and sends the message that they are ready to fight with him for revenge.
In description that parallels the gruesome imagery of the carnage left by Grendel inside Herot, the fight between Hengest and his Danish men against Finn and the Frisians is a bloody one. Finn and most of his men are killed. Hengest and company then take the sister of his dead king and widow of Finn back with them to their homeland. They also return with many treasures.