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Characters / Bridge to Terabithia

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Jesse Aarons Jr.

Played by: Julian Coutts (1985) Josh Hutcherson (2007)
  • Age Lift: He's 12 instead of 10 in the 2007 film.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Towards May Belle.
  • 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 Ms. Edmunds, wanting to spend time with her alone. If he’d told her, Leslie would’ve likely come along and wouldn’t have died.
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  • Heroic BSoD: He suffers an extremely realistic one after Leslie's death.
  • 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.
  • 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 gay because he's into art and his only friend is a girl.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: He is the only male in the Aarons siblings.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: He has a one-sided crush on Ms. Edmunds.


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 brown 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.
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  • Death by Irony: She was a good swimmer, but she died by drowning after hitting her head on a rock.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: She wears glasses 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.
  • 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)

Joyce Ann Aarons

Played by: Grace Brannigan (2007 film only)

Miss Edmunds

Played by: Annette O'Toole (1985) Zooey Deschanel (2007)
  • Cool Teacher: That, plus her looks, is what Jesse likes about her.
  • 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.
  • 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)

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, presumably due to Values Dissonance, 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. This being the '60's, it was Fair for Its Day, 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)

Mr. 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."

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.
  • Catch Phrase: Gary always calls Jesse "Dead Meat". In Terabithia, this is translated in the form of a hairy vulture that's constantly squawking "DEAD MEAT!"
  • Canon Foreigner: Scott Hoager was created for the 2007 film.
  • Decomposite Character: They were the same character in the book, but Scott Hoager is a character made up in the movie.
  • 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.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Always together.

Ms. Myers

Played by:

  • Bait-and-Switch: After Jess punches Hoager for making fun of Leslie's death, she pulls Jess out into the hall. After everything we had seen of her so far, it seems that she's about to harshly lecture him for being violent in spite of the circumstances, but instead she sympathizes with him, relating to him about her husband's death and giving him words of comfort.


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