Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Chapter 13 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 857

On Saturday, Jesse awakens with a “dull headache,” but he goes out to do the milking because he wants things to be normal again. Then, thinking that he would like his paints back, he decides to go to the creek to see if he can find them. It is a beautiful spring morning, and the water level in the creek bed has fallen considerably. Jesse takes a large branch and sets it up bank to bank over the narrowest spot on the creek. He crosses over to the other side, but sees no sign of his paints.

Jesse enters Terabithia, wondering if it still possesses its magic. P.T. is afraid to cross over on the rough bridge Jesse has created, so he swims across the water. Jesse goes into the castle stronghold but does not know what to do because Leslie is not there to guide him. He wonders if Leslie was scared when she fell and if she had known she was going to die. He reflects that he does not want to die yet because he has “hardly begun to live.”

An idea comes to Jesse, and he announces to Prince Terrien that they will make “a funeral wreath for the queen.” Bending a pine bough into a circle, he weaves flowers into it, and when he is done, a lone cardinal flies down and pauses, cocking its head and seeming to regard the arrangement carefully. Jesse takes this as a sign from the spirits that his offering is worthy. He picks up the wreath and solemnly carries it into the sacred grove. Laying his offering upon the carpet of golden needles, he says, “Father, into Thy hands I commend her spirit,” knowing that Leslie would have liked these words.

The silence of the moment is broken by a terrified scream. May Belle has tried to cross the creek on the tree bridge Jesse has made but she is stuck in the middle, scared to go forward but more frightened to go back. Jesse walks across the branch to her, takes her hand, and guides her back to the other side, all the while speaking reassuringly and asking her to trust him even though she is afraid.

When they are safely on the far bank, May Belle tells Jesse that she followed him because she didn’t want him to be “so lonesome,” but, hanging her head, she admits that she “got too scared.” Jesse assures his little sister that being afraid is nothing to be ashamed of and that even he had been “shaking like Jello.” May Belle laughs, and when the two turn to race back home, Jesse lets May Belle win.

On his first day back at school, Jesse notices that Mrs. Myers has already removed Leslie’s desk from the classroom. He hears the other students whispering around him, but he only wants to be left alone. Jesse is filled with self-loathing when he remembers thinking that with Leslie gone he is now the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He does not want to hear what any of his classmates say or think because they had all despised Leslie and had gone out of their way to make her miserable.

As the class stands for the Pledge of Allegiance, Mrs. Myers calls Jesse into the hall. With tears in her eyes, she offers him her sincere sympathy. She tells him that when her husband died people attempting to make her feel better would try to make her forget him, but she didn't want to forget. Mrs. Myers’s kind words are consoling to Jesse, and they help him understand that he will never forget Leslie. He remembers all that she has done for him....

(This entire section contains 857 words.)

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By making him king of Terabithia, she has taught him “to push back the walls of his mind and...see beyond to the shining world.” Jesse realizes that it is time for him to move on for both of them, “in beauty and caring” and in strength that overcomes all fear.

Leslie’s parents return from Pennsylvania to pick up their belongings. Leslie’s father says that they moved to the country for Leslie’s sake and that it is too painful for them now to stay. He gives Jesse Leslie’s paint set and pads of watercolor paper; she would have wanted him to have them. He says that he intended to give him P.T. as well, but he “cannot seem to give him up.”

After school the next day, Jesse takes lumber from the scrap pile at the old Perkins place and builds a proper bridge over the creek bed to Terabithia. When May Belle comes by and asks what he is doing, he tells her it is a secret that he will explain to her when he is done. When he is finished, Jesse puts flowers in May Belle's hair and leads her across the bridge to Terabithia. Sharing with her the magic and joy of the world Leslie and he have created, Jesse tells his lonely and amazed little sister that she is to be the new queen of Terabithia.


Chapter 12 Summary