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Characters / Bridge to Terabithia

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Jesse Aarons Jr.

Played by: Julian Coutts (1985) Josh Hutcherson (2007)
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: A double case of this trope. Is blond in the book, but in the two movies he is a redhead in the former and a brunet in the latter.
  • Age Lift: He's 12 instead of 10 in the 2007 film.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Towards May Belle.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: When Miss Edmunds takes him back home after their great time they spent at the museum together, he tries to thank her. He has a very hard time getting the words out, but he eventually says he will see her next Saturday.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': When invited to the museum by his teacher, he doesn't ask her if he can bring Leslie along with them. In the book, he forgets as they are already on the road, in the movie, he hesitates before deciding to not bring her up as they pass by her house. When he comes home, he finds out that Leslie died that morning after going to the creek without him.
  • Character Development: In the beginning, he was pretty surly towards May Belle. Come the ending, he has learned to be very playful and respectful towards her.
  • Despair Event Horizon: At the beginning of Chapter 11, Jesse leaps over this line when he learns that Leslie died and his trip to the art museum could have been improved for the better if he had told her sooner.
  • Freak Out: The moment when he finds out about Leslie's death, he feels as if the wind was knocked out of him, and had trouble speaking at first.
  • Friendless Background: He's shown to be a loner and an outcast as well. Leslie is his Only Friend, which to his family, comes off as strange in the book or a relief that he actually has a friend in the movie.
  • Guilt Complex: He didn't tell Leslie about the trip to the museum due to his crush on Miss Edmunds, wanting to spend time with her alone. If he’d told her, Leslie would’ve likely come along and wouldn’t have died.
  • Heroic BSoD: He suffers an extremely realistic one after Leslie's death.
  • It's All Junk: After Leslie's funeral, he goes back home to get his art supplies that the Burke family gave to him. He throws them all down the river, not wanting to have anything to do with them anymore. Because his family is poor, he regrets this decision and tries to look back for them, but cannot find them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Can have a bit of an attitude sometimes, but is a sweetheart when comforting people.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: He's an artistic boy who tries to not let his many insecurities get the best of him while Leslie is a runner who uses her sense of adventure to design an imaginary kingdom across the creek.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: The final story arc of the novel deals with Jesse dealing with the grief of losing Leslie Burke. For most of the remaining chapters, Jess is shown dealing with the Five Stages of Grief in a realistic way, refusing to acknowledge the death and thinking the departed is still around - to the point that the Disney 2007 adaptation added a scene where Jess finally snaps and punches Scott who teased him over the incident. However, by the final scene, Jess realizes he still has his younger sister, May Belle, who supports him no matter what, and finally decides to move on with his life.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • In Hebrew, "Jesse" means "God's gift" and "king".
    • Additionally, sort of meta (considering that Jesse and Leslie are fictionalized depictions of the author's own son David and his friend Lisa Hill), Jesse is the name of King David's father in The Bible.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In the book, his parents worry that he might be homosexual because he's into art and his only friend is a girl.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: He regrets hitting May Belle in the face. He wants to apologize to her, but he doesn't know how. It’s only when he saves her from falling off a log into the river that he does.
  • The Pig-Pen: After he comes back inside from milking Miss Bessie, their cow, his sisters complain that he stinks. Also, he likes to play in the mud when it rains.
  • Precocious Crush: Has this on Miss Edmunds. He can barely talk to her, and it takes a lot of effort to even reply to simple questions to her.
  • Rage Breaking Point: He tries to keep calm during Leslie's funeral while the others are crying. But when he finds out that her family decided to have her body cremated instead of buried, he ditches the rest of the event and goes home, crying himself.
  • Sleeps in the Nude: Downplayed. He sleeps in only his underwear like the rest of his siblings. This is presumably because his family can’t afford five sets of pajamas.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: He has a one-sided crush on Miss Edmunds.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Is shown to be sort of rude to May Belle, to the point that he angrily hits her when she asks him if Leslie's body was laid out. However, by the end of the story, he has learned that he should be treating his young sister with kindness.
  • Unknowingly in Love: Is oblivious to his feelings about Leslie for the entire book, even after she dies.

Leslie Burke

Played by: Julie Beaulieu (1985) AnnaSophia Robb (2007)
  • Academic Athlete: Has inherited her parents' intellectual tendencies and excels at her schoolwork, but is also a superb runner and generally enjoys outdoor activities.
  • The Ace: Leslie is this trope in two areas: running (she's the fastest kid in the fifth grade) and imagination. It is Leslie who, metaphorically speaking, brings Terabithia to life.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the 2007 film, she's more cute than either her plainer book version or bookish 1985 version.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The 2007 film changes Leslie from brunette-haired to blonde-haired.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: She becomes more bubbly and friendly in the 2007 film.
  • Age Lift: In the 2007 film, she's aged-up from 10 to 12.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: In the book but not in the 2007 adaptation. This friendliness towards her parents weirds Jesse out.
  • Death by Irony: She was a good swimmer, but she died by drowning after hitting her head on a rock.
  • Death of a Child: One which earns the book a Newbery Medal.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: She wears glasses at school in the 1985 version.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: She's killed off-screen while the narration follows Jesse on his museum trip.
  • Killed Offscreen: Jesse just finds out that she died after coming home from the museum.
  • Kill the Cutie: Thankfully, off-screen/off-page. Not that it makes it less saddening.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Inverted, she is one of the lightest and nicest characters in the book, but the book takes a darker turn with her death.
  • Gender-Blender Name: In the early 1970s "Leslie" was unisex but more commonplace for boys. This changed by the 2007 film, by which point it had become a very rare name for boys.
  • Girliness Upgrade:
    • Goes from a tomboy to a Tomboy with a Girly Streak with a more feminine appearance in the 2007 film.
    • In the 1985 adaptation, Leslie is more androgynous than boyish-looking thanks to her longer haircut.
  • Hippie Parents: At least compared to the other parents in the story.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: When Jesse first met her in the novel, he thought she might have been a boy because of the way she dressed and her short hair, as well as having a name that some boys have.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: She's a runner who uses her sense of adventure to design an imaginary kingdom across the creek while Jesse is an artistic boy who tries to not let his many insecurities get the best of him.
  • Nice Girl: She is friendly to everyone she meets, and even reaches out to Janice Avery.
  • One of the Boys: Leslie's first friend is a guy, and it is implied that she doesn't have any others. Jesse befriends and spends time with her to get away from his girly-girl sisters, despite the fact that she's a girl as well.
  • Only-Child Syndrome: Which hurts her parents all the more when she dies.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Unfortunately, this is what ends up happening to her parents.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: Leslie's athletic. She's into running and swimming.
  • The Smart Girl: She's wordy for her age and is shown to be popular with the teachers.
  • Tomboy: In the book and 1985 film. She looks androgynous, is sporty, and her only friend is a boy. This makes Leslie stand out amongst her more girly classmates.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Tomboy to May Belle's Girly Girl.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: While still a tomboy, the 2007 version shows Leslie has no problem wearing a dress and she mentions owning Barbie dolls.

May Belle Aarons

Played by: Jennifer Matichuk (1985) Bailee Madison (2007)
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: She can be this to her older siblings, especially Jess.
  • Big Brother Worship: Can also be seen as this to Jesse.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mr. and Mrs. Aaron are sick with worry in the morning that Leslie died and wonder if Jesse died with her because they can’t find him anywhere. May Belle, who saw Jesse leave earlier that morning with Miss Edmunds to go someplace, told her parents not to worry. But they don’t believe her and only do when he eventually comes home later that day safe and sound.
  • Children Are Innocent: Is only six, going on seven, and excitedly wants to visit the Burke's after Leslie's death because she's never seen a dead body before. She also follows Jess across the river, not understanding how dangerous it could be even though another girl has just died doing the same thing.
  • Daddy's Girl: His father is shown to be really fond of her, and likewise with her.
  • Girly Girl: A pretty traditional little girl, with a particular fondness for dolls.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Jesse arrives home angrily crying after finding out that Leslie’s body would be cremated instead of buried, May Belle asks Jesse where the body is laid down. He responds by hitting her the hardest he has ever hit in his life.
  • The Load: Jess considers her this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Possibly. While the rest of the family are feeling sorry for Jesse, May Belle just looks at him from a distance after he had hit her for an Innocently Insensitive comment she made at him, not wanting to go near him. Whether it’s because of anger, guilt, fear, or all of the above is anyone’s guess.
  • Parental Favoritism: Jess thinks that their dad prefers May Belle (and Joyce) over him and his older sisters.
  • Rejected Apology: In the 2nd movie, when Jesse comes to her to apologize for snapping at her, she just rolls over in bed with her back to him, not wanting to hear it. She eventually accepts it the next morning when he takes her to the woods.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Girly Girl to Leslie's Tomboy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: She tries to cross the river to meet Jesse, even though she JUST heard how Leslie died drowning while trying to cross it in the first place. If Jesse wasn’t there to save May Belle, she would have probably died, too.
  • Two First Names: May Belle Aarons.

Joyce Ann Aarons

Played by: Grace Brannigan (2007 film only)
  • Adapted Out: From the 1985 film.
  • Age Lift: Joyce is four in the book but an infant in the 2nd movie.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Her siblings consider her a whiny brat.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: She's "the baby" in the Aarons family, the youngest of five children.
  • Flat Character: Justified, considering she’s a toddler.
  • Just a Kid: Jess views Joyce as too young and immature for him to take to Terabithia, although he acknowledges that may change in the future.
  • Two First Names: Like May Belle, she's Joyce Ann Aarons.

Miss Edmunds

Played by: Annette O'Toole (1985) Zooey Deschanel (2007)
  • Cool Teacher: That, plus her looks, is what Jesse likes about her. In the movie the whole class all seem very fond of her, including bullies.
  • Hippie Teacher: Literally in the original novel due to it taking place in the 1970s. Miss Edmunds is considered an oddity as a result. She's less so in the 2007 film.
  • Hot Teacher: Is enough to make Jesse too befuddled to speak to her at times.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When at Leslie’s funeral in the 2nd movie, she is shown to have a look of shock and guilt for not inviting Leslie when she had the chance, which probably would have avoided her fate. In the book, we never see her again or how she reacts.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Is described as having light colored skin, black hair, and deep blue eyes. In the 2nd movie, Zooey Deschanel really brings this image to life.
  • Really Gets Around: When she is driving Jesse back home, she mentions how she stayed in Japan for a time and dated men whom were all shorter than her.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Had she not called Jesse to join her at the museum, Leslie would probably have survived her last trip to Terabithia.

Brenda and Ellie Aarons

Brenda played by: Sharon Alexander (1985) Devon Wood (2007)
Ellie played by: Emma Fenton (2007 only)

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Ellie is implied to be a blonde in the book, but is a brunette like Brenda in the 2007 movie.
  • Adapted Out: Ellie in the 1985 film.
  • Adaptational Curves: Brenda is stated to be fat in the book to the point that her sisters are uncomfortable sitting with her in the middle of the backseat. In the 2007 film, she is shown to be in good shape.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Brenda has dark hair and is a bit cold towards Jesse at first.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • In the 2007 movie, both sing "Happy Birthday" to Jess and are seen smiling.
    • Both have Anger Born of Worry towards Jess when he shows up after Leslie's death.
      Brenda: We thought you were dead!
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Both, being self-centred and petty and a major source of annoyance to Jess. He prefers his younger sisters to the older ones.
  • Brutal Honesty: In the book, Jesse has just got home and Brenda immediately spills the beans to him about Leslie’s death.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Brenda is shown to be a bit out there.
  • Gossipy Hens: They both like to discuss about their crushes and the great fashion items to wear.
  • Grammar Nazi: In the book, Ellie primly corrects Brenda for saying that their mother doesn't want them to have "no fun" instead of "any fun."
  • It's All About Me: Their reaction to being told their father has been made redundant is to wail that they won't get any new clothes to go to church in.
  • Lazy Bums: They have a knack for talking their way out of household chores. When their mother wants them to help her pick beans, Ellie says she'd already told their friend Lollie that Mrs. Aarons had said she and Brenda could go with her to Millsburg for school shopping and that she'd feel dumb calling Lollie and saying that Mrs. Aarons had changed her mind.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Brenda becomes gentle with Jess following Leslie’s death. Ellie joins her in this treatment later on.

Janice Avery

Played by: Bridget Ryan (1985) Lauren Clinton (2007)

Mr. Aarons

Played by: Tom Heaton (1985) Robert Patrick (2007)
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the book, his first name is Jesse Sr., while in the film, it's Jack, presumably to avoid redundancy.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • In the book, he's a lot more critical of Jess being into art, thinking of it as a feminine activity. In the 2007 movie, due to the changing times, this is dropped completely save for a moment where he doesn't scold May Belle for drawing in Jess's sketchbook and a Kick the Dog moment where he mocks his hobby when he loses his keys.
    • In the book, Jess mentions that his dad beats him like most dads do. That was common in the '70s, but is no longer seen as acceptable today, so this is removed in the 2007 movie adaptation.
  • Kick the Dog: When it seems Jess lost his keys, he angrily mutters that Jess could draw him up a new set of keys.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite being strict on Jessie early in the movie, he does console him when the latter is grieving over Leslie.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Jess sets free the pest that's been eating the vegetables in the greenhouse, knowing that his dad will put it down, Jess's dad is upset since the pest might come back and continue to cause trouble, pointing out to Jess that animals don't act like how they do in cartoons.
  • Parents as People: He's busy with work or doing housework, and when he's not, he's juggling caring for his five children. Since two of them are high schoolers and one of them is a boy, he dotes more on Maybelle and Joyce (the baby). Jess is envious of this, but eventually realizes he means well towards the end of the story. At the end of the day, he loves his family dearly.
  • Parental Favoritism: Jess thinks his father favors his daughters (specifically Maybelle) over him, since he dotes more on them while he seems more rough with him. In one example, he tucks in Maybelle for the night but only tells Jess to turn his light off.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • When Jess falls asleep after being upset from learning of Leslie's death, Jess's dad tucks him in properly and does his chores while he's asleep.
    • Later, he consoles Jess, saying that God won't damn him or Leslie to hell and that he has to keep living on for Leslie.
  • This Is Reality: He scolds Jess for letting their garden pest go, telling him that Androcles' Lion only happens in cartoons and he needs to "get [his] head outta the clouds".
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Mr. Aarons works long hours, some distance away. Although he's made redundant part-way through the book, he still spends most of his days out looking for work or picking up odd jobs. Consequently, when he is at home, he's mostly too tired or busy to have much time for his children.

Mrs. Mary Aarons

Played by: Gloria Carlin (1985) Kate Butler (2007)
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Is implied to be blonde in the book, but has brown hair in the 2007 movie.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Mrs Aarons in the book disapproves of Leslie and her "hippie" family and isn't keen on having her around. In the film, however, she's much warmer and seems happy that Jesse has a friend.
  • Mama Bear: When Ellie is casually talking about Leslie's death the morning after in front of Jesse, Mrs. Aarons angrily tells her to knock it off and stop making Jesse sad.
  • Southern Belle: Is stated to have grown up in Georgia, and she also is quite feminine and makes a nice pair of grits.

Mr. Bill Burke

Played by: Peter Dvorsky (1985) Latham Gaines (2007)
"You know that the best prize life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. That's Theodore Roosevelt's saying, not me."
  • Outliving One's Offspring: He and his wife are both still alive at the end, Leslie, their only child, is not.
  • So Proud of You: At Leslie’s funeral, he tells Jesse that he’s proud of him for being such a great friend to her in the months before her death.

Mrs. Judy Burke

Played by: Darlene Bradley (1985), Judy McIntosh (2007)

Gary Fulcher and Scott Hoager

  • Asshole Victim: No one sheds a tear for either Scott and Gary, when Jesse and Janice punches them both respectively, after the duo taunts Jesse about Leslie's death.
  • The Bully: Toward Jesse, and Leslie's death does nothing to stop them.
  • Canon Foreigner: Scott Hoager was created for the 2007 film, although he could be based on Greg Williams, a character from the book who was friends with Gary.
  • Character Catchphrase: Gary always calls Jesse "Dead Meat". In Terabithia, this is translated in the form of a hairy vulture that's constantly squawking "DEAD MEAT!"
  • Decomposite Character: They were the same character in the book, but Scott Hoager is a character made up in the movie.
  • Fiery Redhead: Gary is a competitive one.
  • Hate Sink: The story has no real antagonist, so these two are there to give the audience someone to hate. Scott is especially this, seeing how he outright taunts Jesse about Leslie's death.
  • Jerkass: Putting it very mildly...
  • Kick the Dog: Scott when he taunts Jesse about Leslie's death in class.
  • Lack of Empathy: If anything they up the ante with their bullying antics after Leslie's death. Scott in particular goes as far as to taunt Jesse about it in class, resulting in Jesse punching him out.
  • The Sociopath: Both of them, but especially Scott. See Lack of Empathy.

Ms. Myers

Played by: Jane Wolfe

  • Bait-and-Switch: When Jesse refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance while grieving Leslie's death, she pulls him out into the hall. After everything we had seen of her so far, it seems that she's about to harshly lecture him, but instead she sympathizes with him, relating to him about her husband's death and giving him words of comfort. In the film, this scene occurs after Jesse punches Hoager for making fun of Leslie's death.
  • Everyone Has Standards: She spends most of the book being an all-around stick-in-the-mud until the last chapter when she gives Jesse the story of her husband.
  • Stern Teacher: This is her usual personality. This is why Jesse and his friends used to call her “Monster-Mouth Myers.”

Wayne Pettis

Willard Hughes

  • Chick Magnet: A lot of the girls, especially Janice, have crushes on him.

Wanda Kay Moore

  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Becomes resentful when Leslie's exceeds her in class and becomes one of her tormentors along with a little group of girls.
  • Expy: A similar character named Madison appears in the 2007 film.
  • Teacher's Pet: She kisses up to that role.

Wilma Dean and Bobby Sue Henshaw

  • Beta Bitch: With Janice.
  • Girl Posse: They are friends with Janice and like to bully others as much as she does.

Greg Williams

  • Beta Bitch: Male example. He is friends with Gary.
  • Expy: Scott from the 2007 film could be based on him.