Bridge to Terabithia

by

Katherine Paterson

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Bridge to Terabithia: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jess wakes up early Saturday morning to start on his chores—his father has been milking Miss Bessie twice a day since Thursday. After he comes in from the barn, he’s still the only one awake—so he decides to go back down to the creek with Prince Terrien and see if he can retrieve any of his paints. Spring has sprung, and on the way down to the creek, Jess marvels at the nature blooming all around him.
Life without Leslie continues moving forward, even as Jess continues to be in pain. He is healing bit by bit, learning to let go of his anger over Leslie’s death and appreciate the world around him—even without her in it.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
At the creek, Jess finds that a large log has washed up onto the bank. He tests how firm it is, then uses it to cross over to the other side, but he sees no sign of his paints on either bank. Jess knows he isn’t far from Terabithia, but he isn’t sure if it’s even Terabithia anymore without Leslie. Prince Terrien swims across the creek and joins Jess on the other side, and together, they walk toward the castle. Jess finds that it looks completely ordinary—there is no sign that someone has died. Jess begins worrying about death, and whether Leslie was scared at the moment of hers.
Jess worries that the end of his friendship with Leslie also means the end of his tenure as king of Terabithia—but as Prince Terrien swims across the creek, Jess realizes that he can still enter the state of mind that Terabithia represents even without Leslie physically present.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Jess decides to make a funeral wreath for Leslie, the queen of Terabithia, from a pine bough. As he finishes it, a bird lands nearby—Jess takes it as a sign that he has made a “worthy offering.” Jess walks slowly to the center of the sacred pine grove and lays the wreath on the ground.
Jess continues to respect the magic of Terabithia and believe in its sacredness, even though he once feared that without Leslie, he’d be unable to sustain the enchantment of the place in his own mind and heart.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
The moment of peace is disrupted when Jess hears someone calling his name and shouting for help—it is May Belle. He runs back to the creek and finds that she’s gotten halfway across the tree bridge but is now too scared to go forward or backward. Jess carefully inches himself out onto the branch and urges May Belle to hold on to him and slide backward. He promises May Belle that he won’t let her fall. He coaches and guides her all the way back to the other side. Once the ordeal is over May Belle apologizes for being scared—but Jess tells her that there’s no shame in feeling fear. Together, they head back to the house to eat some breakfast.
This passage symbolically externalizes Jess’s own struggle with grief and loss by showing May Belle in a precarious situation. Stranded and alone, unable to move forward or backward, May Belle’s physical state mirrors Jess’s emotional one. In helping her return to safety, Jess symbolically shows that he's ready to move on and process his grief—even if doing so still feels frightening and unmooring.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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On Monday, when Jess walks into class, he sees that Leslie’s desk has already been removed from the classroom. He wonders why everyone is in “such a rush” to get rid of Leslie and her memory. He sits in his desk and puts his head down, trying to ignore the whispers of his classmates as they filter into the room. He hates the things he imagines them saying—and hates the idea that while all of them hated Leslie when she was alive, they might now mourn her death. 
Going through such a loss has alienated Jess even further from his peers. Leslie was the only one who truly understood him—and now, in the wake of her loss, he feels he won’t be able to find another friendship that gives him all the things that Leslie’s did.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
After the pledge of allegiance—for which Jess refuses to stand—Mrs. Myers asks Jess to step into the hall. He prepares to get yelled at, but in the hall, he finds that the strict Mrs. Myers has softened. In a quiet voice, she tells him how sorry she is for his loss. Mrs. Myers says that her husband died years ago—when he passed, people wanted her to move on and forget, but she knew she never could. She tells Jess that she wasn’t the one to take Leslie’s desk out—it was gone when she arrived this morning. Jess wishes he could take back all the cruel jokes he and Leslie ever made about Mrs. Myers behind her back. Through tears, Mrs. Myers suggests they “try to help each other” through the rest of the school year, and Jess agrees.
Mrs. Myers is, in this passage, revealed to be very different from the person that Jess and Leslie (and thus the reader) thought she was. Jess’s guilt over having been so cruel to Mrs. Myers mirrors Leslie’s guilt over having been cruel to Janice. This shows him, once and for all, that there is often so much more to people than meets the eye. Everyone is going through their own struggle, and Jess has finally learned to accept and respect that truth.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Jess cannot stop the flood of thoughts he has about Leslie throughout the day. She took him from his cow pasture and “turned him into a king”—but he wonders if now that she’s gone, he must move on from Terabithia. It was Leslie, after all, who showed Jess that the real world was just as “terrible and beautiful and […] fragile” as their imagined one.
Jess doesn’t know if Terabithia means what it used to anymore. It was a place of refuge for him and Leslie—but now, with her gone, he feels that it’s time for him to move on and try his hand at being the person he was in Terabithia, except in the real world, and all the time.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
Related Quotes
On Wednesday, Bill and Judy return from Pennsylvania with a U-Haul, ready to pack up the Perkins place. With Leslie gone, they tell Jess, there’s no reason for them to stay—they moved here for her sake so she’d grow up in nature. Bill and Judy give Jess all of Leslie’s books and art supplies, and then Jess and Mr. Aaron help the Burkes load up the U-Haul. After the truck is packed, Bill asks Jess if there’s anything of theirs left that he wants—Jess asks if he can use of the lumber on the back porch, and they tell him he’s welcome to it.
As Jess helps the devastated Bill and Judy ready themselves for a return to their old lives, he comes to realize just how much the two of them and, of course, Leslie, have readied him to embark on a new life himself. In accepting the paints in front of his father, from whom he once hid his passion for art, Jess shows that he is ready to fully inhabit the truth of who he is.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Bill, growing teary, says that he envisioned leaving Prince Terrien with Jess—but after some time away from him, he’s realized he can’t give the dog up. Jess tells Bill that Leslie would want her parents to have the sweet pup.
Though Jess is no doubt sad to give Prince Terrien up, he knows that Leslie’s parents need a reminder of what a good person she was, and how her friendship changed and affected people’s lives.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
The next day, after school, Jess begins shuttling a couple of pieces of lumber at a time from the old Perkins place to the creek beyond the house. He lays two long pieces across the creek near where the rope swing used to be, forming a bridge, then starts nailing the crosspieces on. May Belle, who has followed Jess down to the creek, asks what he’s doing. Jess says he’ll tell her when he’s finished. May Belle begs to know what he’s up to and promises to keep it a secret—she won’t even tell Joyce Ann. Jess, however, says that, one day, May Belle should tell Joyce Ann—after May Belle has trained her to be queen.
In this passage, Jess begins building a bridge to Terabithia. The bridge is literal as well as symbolic—it shows that Jess is ready to begin moving on from his grief and transforming it into gratitude for all Leslie has taught him. His love for her—and for Terabithia itself—are secrets no longer; he wants to share with May Belle all he’s learned and the ways he’s grown because of Leslie’s love.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
When Jess finally finishes building the bridge to Terabithia, he puts flowers in May Belle’s hair and leads her across the structure—he urges her to look around her at all the Terabithians who have gathered to watch the arrival of “the queen they’ve been waiting for.”
In opening Terabithia to May Belle, Jess symbolically shows that he’s ready to process his grief and honor Leslie’s memory. He’s bringing May Belle into Terabithia, and one day might bring others—he hopes to share the magic of a place where everyone is free to be exactly who they are and push the limits of their imaginations.
Themes
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Related Quotes