Leslie Burke: Wikis


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This article lists the characters that appear in the novel, telefilm, and film all titled Bridge to Terabithia.


Main characters


Jesse Aarons

Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr.
Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) in the 2007 film.
First appearance Chapter 1: Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr.
Last appearance Chapter 13: Building The Bridge
Cause/reason End of book
Created by Katherine Paterson
Portrayed by
Nickname(s) Jess
Aliases King of Terabithia
Gender Male
Occupation Student
Title "King"
  • Jesse Oliver Aarons, Sr. (father, Jack Aarons in 2007 film)
  • Mary Aarons (mother)
  • Ellie and Brenda Aarons (older sisters)
  • May Belle and Joyce Ann Aarons (younger sisters)
Leslie Burke (Best Friend)

Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr. is a fictional character in the book Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. He is based on her son.[1] He is played by Julian Coutts[2] in the 1985 film and by Josh Hutcherson in the 2007 film.[3]

Real life inspiration

Debbie Elliott reports that "Katherine Paterson was inspired to write Bridge to Terabithia after her son's childhood best friend was struck and killed by lightning."[1] In the novel and film adaptations, Jesse Aarons represents her son. He is the middle child.

Fictional biography

Jesse is an artistic boy who is fearful of doing courageous things. Jesse was extremely depressed before Leslie Burke, with whom he jointly created the fictional kingdom of Terabithia, comes into his life. He is a very good runner and only lost to Leslie in the school race. But through Terabithia, Leslie gave him courage.

Afterwards, he finds out his one and only best friend, Leslie, drowned trying to enter Terabithia alone when he went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. with his teacher, whom he had a crush on. When he accepts Leslie's death, he lets go of his frustration. Jesse soon realizes Leslie has made him strong and courageous through Terabithia. After making peace with Leslie's death he makes his younger sister, May Belle, the new queen (in the film version, a princess) since the queen, Leslie, had died.

1977 book

It comes to being Christmas time, and Jesse gets Leslie a puppy. Leslie gives Jesse his present: an art set. Jesse is shocked but loves the present.

Jesse has an unspoken infatuation with his music teacher, Miss Edmunds, which is the reason why Jesse does not invite Leslie to the museum with him and Miss Edmunds.

2007 film


An interview reveals that while "the young actor says he had to imagine what it would be like to experience the terrible loss his character had to come to terms with, he was able to relate to the hard time Jesse had at school."[4]


After hearing that Jesse loves drawing, Leslie gives him an art set for his birthday. He says, "This must have cost a fortune ..." In return, Leslie tells him, "Well, I can take it back and get a cheaper one if you want." Later, to show his appreciation, Jesse gives Leslie a dog she names "Prince Terrien, Troll Hunter Extraordinaire".

Like the book, the film revolves around the dramatic focus of Jesse's relationship with Leslie Burke (played by AnnaSophia Robb) he also has a crush on Miss Edmunds (played by Zooey Deschanel[5]). Leslie's secret crush on Jesse is hinted at in several scenes, such as her reaction to the gift of Prince Terrien by hugging him. He also starts feeling the same way when he is mesmerized by her the last time he was with her. During her funeral, Leslie's father reveals to Jesse that he was the best friend she ever had.


Regarding the performance, Bill Warren notes that the "kid actors are exceptionally good, particularly Josh Hutcherson..."[6] Chris Barsanti writes that Hutcherson portrays Aarons "with sullen inattention..."[7]

Comparison to other fictional character

Alice B. McGinty draws an interesting comparison, including a possible influence, between the Jody Baxter character of The Yearling and the character Jesse Aarons.[8]

Leslie Burke

Leslie Burke
Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) in the 2007 film.
First appearance Chapter 2: Leslie Burke
Last appearance Chapter 10: The Perfect Day
Cause/reason Death.
Created by Katherine Paterson
Portrayed by
Aliases Queen Of Terabithia
Gender Female
Occupation Student
Title "Queen"
  • Judy & Bill Burke (Parents)
  • Prince Terrien or P.T. (Pet Dog)
  • Jesse Aarons (Best Friend)

Leslie Burke is a fictional character in the award-winning book and movies titled Bridge to Terabithia. She was portrayed by Canadian actress Julie Beaulieu[2] in the 1985 PBS telefilm. In the 2007 movie, this same role was portrayed by the young actress AnnaSophia Robb.

Real life inspiration

Debbie Elliott reports that "Katherine Paterson was inspired to write The Bridge to Terabithia after her son's childhood friend was struck and killed by lightning."[9]

Fictional biography

She recently moved to Lark Creek as of this book and movie. Leslie is a smart, talented, and outgoing girl, her talents include creativity and running. She can run faster than any of the boys in her class. She was not socially accepted by the other students in the new school she was attending. She and Jesse Aarons are outcasts at their school. Jesse Aarons thought highly of her, and was best friends with her. For Christmas, Jesse gave Leslie a dog whom she called Prince Terrien or P.T.

Jesse has a crush on his young music teacher, Miss Edmunds, and would do anything to be with her. The central crisis occurs when Jesse accompanies Miss Edmunds to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and Leslie goes to Terabithia alone.

Near the end of the book, while Jesse is away at a museum, Leslie tries to swing across on the rope to Terabithia. As she is swinging, the rope snaps (as Jesse warned her it would) and she plummets into the creek, hitting her head on one of the rocks, and she went into unconsciousness and drowned. This deeply shocks Jesse, who considered her death his fault, as he had considered inviting her to go with him to Washington D.C. and had decided against it so he could be alone with his music teacher. It was then that Leslie tried to cross to Terabithia alone, ultimately the cause of her death. Jesse can overcome his grief only with the strength and courage that his friendship with Leslie has given him. Jesse must trust in what Leslie has taught him to help over come the horrors that reality can bring and with their friendship it helps Jesse to cope with the tragedy. Their friendship makes him realize what Leslie has also taught him, to open his mind to every possibility and leave reality behind.

And Jesse attempts to deal with his grief by going back to Terabithia, and making a memorial for Leslie. He worries that Leslie will not enter Heaven, because she does not believe in Jesus. When his father follows him into the forest, Jesse begins to cry and his father hugs him. Jesse expresses his worry about Leslie through his sobs, with Jesse's father comforting him.

He hears a cry for help and finds his younger sister, May Belle, calling for help. She was trying to get to Terabithia too by climbing on a tree bridge over the river but got stuck in the middle. He helps her out.

Leslie's grief-stricken parents decide to move away. Before they go away her father tells Jesse that Leslie loved him and thanks him for being such a good friend to her.

In the 1985 film, Leslie refers to her parents by their first names, but in the 2007 film, she calls them Mom and Dad.


In the 1977 book Leslie went to school the first day wearing cut-offs and a t-shirt. In the 2007 movie, Leslie's clothes were outrageous and colorful, primarily because of the time alteration between the novel and film. She also has on armwarmers.

In 2007 film

In the 2007 movie, the young actress AnnaSophia Robb played as Leslie Burke. When asked, "What did you like about it and what did you see in Leslie that you related to?" Robb replied, "I love Leslie's character and the story of friendship and imagination and bullies and giants and trolls and squogers."[10] Robb has received praise from one critic for her "charming performance."[11] Todd Gilchrist and Christopher Monfette go further with their praise of the performance, writing, "Robb, meanwhile, has the same sort of radiance that Natalie Portman did at her age, and seems poised to become one of Hollywood's next great child actors. Knowing how to portray Leslie's cleverness and uniqueness as inadvertent, incidental, or even unconscious, Robb plays perfectly the exact kind of girl who could always beat all of the boys at sports - and they would still love her for it."[12] ames Plath asserts, "it's AnnaSophia Robb who really shines. Her character is supposed to be a life-changing life force, one of those clichéd people who can light up the room and change the energy level just by walking into it, and that's how it is. When she's onscreen, there's a special feeling."[13]

Comparison to other fictional characters

Joel Chaston and M. Sarah Smedman refer to Leslie as "a modern version of Mary Lennox."[14]

Leslie Burke is also the title of a song by Austin, Texas pop band The Sour Notes, inspired by Leslie's rope swing accident while entering Terabithia.

Other characters

  • Joyce Ann Aarons - Jess's bratty four-year-old sister. May Belle thinks Joyce Ann is "nothing but a baby". She is played by Grace Brannigan in the 2007 film.
  • May Belle Aarons - May Belle is one of Jess's younger sisters. She is described as the only one of Jess's siblings with whom he feels comfortable. However, because she is six years to Jesse's ten, she does not fit the mold of the ideal confidante to Jess, leaving him still desperate for companionship. She clearly worships him from the beginning, and like him feels that she does not have a place in the family. She is the first of his sisters to learn about Terabithia, and becomes Queen after Leslie dies.[15] She is the only one Jess allows to enter into his world and the only one who has any sort of empathy for, or acceptance of, Jesse in his family. She is played by Jennifer Matichuk in the 1985 film and Bailee Madison in the 2007 film.
  • Ellie and Brenda Aarons - Ellie and Brenda Aarons are Jess's two older sisters. They primarily exist as secondary static characters, or characters who do not grow or change as a result of the events of a story. They are never mentioned separately within the novel and are never portrayed in a positive light. From the beginning of the story, they continually ask for favors from their mother, and pocket money which she cannot afford to give them. With sufficient whining, they know how to get their way with their parents, as by asking for five dollars to pay for school supplies from their mother by saying that their father promised that they could have the money. Being the elder of the two and the eldest child in the family, Ellie develops the ideas of their ideas. Both have an incredible desire not to have anything to do with Jess specifically, but with all of their younger siblings more broadly. At the climax of the story, when Jess learns of Leslie's death, Brenda is the one who tells him of it. The fact that Brenda is the one who breaks the news to Jesse in the novel only serves to increase the shock. Ellie is played by Emma Fenton in the 2007 film. Brenda is played by Sharon Holownia in the 1985 film and Devon Wood in the 2007 film.
  • Janice Avery - The school bully at Lark Creek. Janice is very overweight and tends to become offended when people tease her for being so. She has a crush on Willard Hughes, which Jess uses to trick her. Janice's father beats her and she secretly smokes marijuana. Betrayed by friends and comforted by a sympathetic Leslie. She is played by Bridget Ryan in the 1985 film and Lauren Clinton in the 2007 film. The tree giant in Terabithia is based on her
  • Miss Edmunds - The somewhat unconventional and controversial music teacher, whom Jesse greatly admires. She invites Jess to go to the Smithsonian Museum, which leads Leslie to go to Terabithia by herself. As a result, Leslie is alone when she falls from the rope and drowns. She is played by Annette O'Toole in the 1985 film and Zooey Deschanel in the 2007 film. In the 1985 film, Mrs. Edmunds seems to take the role of Mrs. Myers. She tells Jess the story of a relative dying after Leslie dies instead of Mrs. Myers, and she, instead of Mrs. Myers, gives the homework assignment of watching a show on television.
  • Prince Terrien - A puppy that Jesse gave Leslie as a Christmas present. He is the guardian and court jester of Terabithia. Leslie's parents take him as they leave the community forever at the end of the novel.
  • Gary Fulcher - A cocky kid. Jesse and Gary see each other as bitter rivals; how long this has been the case is unknown. Gary and Jesse's rivalry led to Jesse's practicing running all summer long, in anticipation of the new school year, wherein Jesse hoped to be the fastest kid in the fifth grade. Both are beaten at this by Leslie. He is played by Tyler Popp in the 1985 film and Elliot Lawless in the 2007 film.
  • Mrs. Myers - Jesse and Leslie's 5th grade teacher, who is given the nickname "Monster Mouth Myers" by some. She thinks highly of Leslie, but is secretly made fun of by Jesse and Leslie. In the 1985 film, she only appears one time. But in the 2007 film she is played by Jen Wolfe.
  • Leslie's Parents - Novelists who come to the story's location for purposes of their work. Unlike most of the locals, they do not watch television and do not believe that all who ignore or reject Christianity are subject to damnation. The two move away after their daughter's death.


  1. ^ a b Debbie Elliott, "'Terabithia' Inspired by True Events," NPR (February 18, 2007).
  2. ^ a b Marsha Ann Tate, Canadian Television Programming Made for the United States Market: A History with Production and Broadcast Data (McFarland, 2007), 142.
  3. ^ Ann Catherine Paietta, Teachers in the Movies: A Filmography of Depictions of Grade School, Preschool and Day Care Educators, 1890s to the Present (McFarland, 2007), 33.
  4. ^ Vicky Roach, "It's a dream come true," The Daily Telegraph (June 15, 2007).
  5. ^ Ryan Parsons, "Bridge to Terabithia One-Sheet?" on CanMag (August 23, 2006).
  6. ^ Bill Warren, "Bridge to Terabithia," Audio Video Revolution (01 September 2007).
  7. ^ Chris Barsanti, "Review of Bridge to Terabithia," Filmcritic.com (2007).
  8. ^ Alice B. McGinty, Katherine Paterson (The Rosen Publishing Group, 2004), 24.
  9. ^ Debbie Elliott, 'Terabithia' Inspired by True
  10. ^ Bridge To Terabithia, AnnaSophia Robb, LondonNet (21st December 2007)
  11. ^ Caroline Hennessy, Review of Bridge to Terabithia, RTÉ (2008).
  12. ^ Todd Gilchrist and Christopher Monfette, Bridge to Terabithia REVIEW: We cross the bridge to tell you what's on the other side, IGN (June 13, 2007).
  13. ^ James Plath, Bridge to Terabithia (Blu-ray review), DVDTown.com (Jun 19, 2007).
  14. ^ Joel Chaston and M. Sarah Smedman, Bridges for the Young: The Fiction of Katherine Paterson (Children's Literature Association and The Scarecrow Press, 2003), 69.
  15. ^ Paterson, Katherine; Diamond, Donna. Bridge to Terabithia Movie Tie-in Edition. HarperEntertainment. ISBN 0-06-122728-5. The last sentence of the novel,"Shhh, yes. There's a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they've been waiting for."


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