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Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Bridge to Terabithia | Chapter 13 : Building the Bridge | Summary



Jess goes to the stream to look for his paints, regretting his rash action the day before, and uses a large branch to make a temporary bridge over the water. He heads toward Terabithia, "if it was still Terabithia," wondering whether Leslie was scared when she died. He makes a funeral wreath for Leslie, which he leaves in the sacred grove after saying a few words on her behalf.

A shout for help sends Jess running back to the stream, where he finds May Belle stranded halfway across the makeshift bridge. Jess inches out onto the branch and coaches May Belle, paralyzed with fear, back to the safety of the bank. Although frightened, Jess remains calm, and both reach solid ground. May Belle feels bad for following him and, like her brother, is ashamed of her fear. "I just wanted to find you, so you wouldn't be so lonesome," she says. Jess says that it's okay to be scared and that he too was shaking as they crossed the branch.

Back in school Jess is disturbed to find Leslie's desk already removed from their classroom. He wants nothing to do with his classmates, who had despised and shunned Leslie all year. The removal of Leslie's desk has shaken Mrs. Myers, too, and she offers Jess her genuine sympathy. She tearfully shares that when her husband died, everyone wanted her to forget him, "But I didn't want to forget." She tells Jess how much she valued Leslie as a student and will always remember Jess's dear friend.

Jess reflects on how Leslie "turned him into a king" in Terabithia, and how it is now "time for him to move on," to continue growing and changing. He resolves to honor Leslie's spirit by bringing his own gifts of "beauty and caring" to the world and to confront his fears with courage.

Bill and Judy, now childless, return to pack up the house and move away. Bill gives Jess Leslie's books and art supplies but takes Prince Terrien with him as a reminder of Leslie. Jess reassures Bill that "Leslie would want you to keep him." The next day Jess builds a bridge across the stream, and May Belle appears once again. Jess begins to reveal Terabithia to her, hinting she might do the same for young Joyce Ann sometime in the future. Jess leads May Belle into Terabithia, across the bridge, "which might look to someone with no magic in him like a few planks." He draws her into the fantasy land, whispering that the Terabithians have all come to see her, "the queen they've been waiting for."


When Jess returns to Terabithia for the first time after Leslie's death, he is concerned it might not be Terabithia without Leslie to create the magic. What has changed, however, is he now has the self-confidence at least to try to make the magic on his own. His successful completion of the wreath ritual at the sacred grove signals his readiness to take on Leslie's role and become his own magical mentor in life.

Then enters May Belle, who has sworn not to follow Jess again. She risks his displeasure, as well as his anger, not for her idle curiosity but because she is concerned for her lonely big brother, whom she loves. Her gesture of trying to reach him across the scary branch bridge is heroic, and Jess surely feels her courage in his heart, as he no longer scolds her for following him. May Belle's crisis is also a test of Jess's own courage, which he passes with flying colors. The incident helps him realize there is no shame in being afraid; true courage means acting in spite of fear.

At school Jess finds comfort in an unexpected ally—Mrs. Myers. Although he has spent the whole year imagining her as a monster, her story reveals the truth. She has experienced great loss in the death of her husband, and through this loss she understands Jess's deep pain and his distress at Leslie's desk being removed so quickly. The scene with Mrs. Myers helps Jess see her simply as another human being in need of compassion and understanding, rather than the "monster" he has made her out to be in his own mind. Leslie's death has helped him to this understanding, too.

In addition new insights about Terabithia come to the surface in Jess. He now understands even magical eras of life will end and the world will inevitably change. His apprenticeship is over, and it is time to take his place as a fully empowered "king." His goal is to bring his own special gifts to the world, and this task is the key to the magic of Terabithia. By inviting May Belle to cross the newly built bridge into the world of wonder, Jess commits to being a guiding light for her to discover her own gifts and self-esteem and to manifest them in the real world.

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