“Just close your eyes and keep your mind wide open.” 😭
Whether you’ve read or watched Bridge To Terabithia, you’ll know that this is a beautifully-written story that captures the magic of friendship and the power of imagination.
But, in saying that, it also chronicles the untimely death of Leslie Burke, one of the main characters who was instrumental in building the world of Terabithia alongside her neighbour, Jesse “Jess” Aarons.
From the very first moment that Leslie entered Jess’ classroom, it’s like they were destined to be the very best of friends.
She was the companion he had been searching for — someone to uplift him and bring out the creative, artistic and imaginative side of his personality.
Similarly, Jess’ friendship with Leslie allowed her to no longer feel like an outsider. And their creation of Terabithia together was something that both connected them and enabled the pair to have something special for themselves.
It almost felt like they could conquer the world together — or, at the very least, get through the rough part of high school and growing up.
This was seen when Mrs Edmunds — the school’s music teacher — invites Jesse on a day trip to the art museum, which leaves him feeling like he’s on cloud nine.
But, the happiness of the day is ripped away when Jess returns home to find out that Leslie is dead.
The suddenness of Leslie’s death leaves both Jess and the audience in a state of denial, questioning how this bright, beautiful and larger-than-life personality could have been taken just like that.
It’s the feeling of dancing on a high that’s suddenly overtaken by you crashing back to a grim and morbid reality.
I’m not going to lie, when I rewatched Bridge To Terabithia last night to refresh my memory, I was on the brink of tears when it came to Leslie’s death.
We not only have Leslie’s father telling Jess that he was “the best friend she ever had”, but we see Jess experience an overwhelming sense of guilt for someone so young.
He blames himself, to the point where he sees the Dark Master chasing after him in Terabithia, and ultimately breaks down in the middle of the forest, mourning for the friend he has lost.
It’s here that we get another emotion-filled scene, but this time it’s with Jess and his dad, who consoles him by telling Jess to keep his friendship and the world he built with Leslie alive.
This spurs on Jess to acknowledge the reality of everything that has happened. The next day, he heads down to the creek, sees the broken rope and decides to pay tribute to Leslie by way of a funeral wreath.
And then after using timber from the Burkes, he rebuilds the bridge to Terabithia and shares the magic of the place with his sister May Belle, ensuring that Leslie’s impact and legacy will live on.
It’s a moment of light, happiness and hope for Jesse, who has taken everything he learned from his friend to become a stronger person.
And that is why even though it’s been 13 years since the movie adaptation came out — and even longer since I had to read and study this book in primary school — I’m still not over Leslie’s death or the impact of the words and lessons in this novel.
So, here’s to Bridge To Terabithia for teaching us to always “just close your eyes and keep your mind wide open”.
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