|Created by Katherine Paterson|
Aliases King of Terabithia
|First appearance "Chapter 1: Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr."|
Last appearance "Chapter 13: Building The Bridge"
Portrayed by Julian Coutts (1985 film) Josh Hutcherson (2007 film)
This is a list of characters that appear in the 1977 children's novel Bridge to Terabithia, and the 1985 telefilm and 2007 film adaption.
Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr.
Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr. is a fictional character in the book Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. He is based on her son. He is played by Julian Coutts in the 1985 film and by Josh Hutcherson in the 2007 film. 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." In the novel and film adaptations, Jesse Aarons represents her son. He is the middle child.
It comes to being Christmas time, and Jesse gets Leslie a puppy named P.T. (short for Prince Terrien). 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.
Knowing 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). Leslie's crush on Jesse is hinted in several scenes, such as her reaction to the gift of Prince Terrien by hugging him. He also falls in love with her the last time he saw her. During her wake, Leslie's father reveals to Jesse that Leslie loved him, and that he was the best friend she ever had. He then also realized how much he cared for her and that he really did love her, which then Jesse blames himself for letting her die and not inviting her to go to the museum with him, and he decided to let his anger out on others which everyone tried making him forget but only brought him more frustration. He then accepts Leslie's death and builds the bridge of Terabithia of which he made his sister May Belle the new princess.
Regarding the performance, Bill Warren notes that the "kid actors are exceptionally good, particularly Josh Hutcherson..." Chris Barsanti writes that Hutcherson portrays Aarons "with sullen inattention..."
Comparison to other fictional characters
Alice B. McGinty draws an interesting comparison, including a possible influence, between the Jody Baxter character of The Yearling and the character Jess Aarons.
Leslie Burke was a fictional character in the award-winning book and movies titled Bridge to Terabithia. She was portrayed by Canadian actress Julie Beaulieu in the 1985 PBS telefilm. In the 2007 movie, this same role was portrayed by actress AnnaSophia Robb. She is based on Lisa Hill.
Real life inspiration
Debbie Elliott reports that "Katherine Paterson was inspired to write The Bridge to Terabithia after her son's childhood friend Lisa Hill was struck and killed by lightning."
Leslie is depicted as being tomboyish, kind, sweet, friendly, free-spirited, cheerful, daring, strong, intelligent, athletic, and clever, gifted with imagination, creativity, and swiftness, claiming the position of the fastest racer in the fifth grade, a title normally intended for boys, to the irritation of Jesse. Her family had relocated to Lark Creek during summertime at the start of the book, but after starting school she is socially ostracized for her utter tomboyishness, nonconformism to certain standards, and eccentricities. However, she soon gains the friendship of Jesse Aarons and, later, that of the bully Janice Avery, after learning of the girl's abused background.
Leslie's parents are portrayed as being carefree and relaxed, but criticized for their hippie lifestyle and dress. They permit their daughter to address them by their given names and demonstrate great creativity when redecorating their home, but abstain from television. As a sanctuary from the burdens faced in reality, Leslie and Jesse decide to design an imaginary fantasy kingdom that they call Terabithia, over which they reign as king and queen. They craft a small wooden shelter in which to hide when visiting this refuge accessed by a rope swing hanging over a creek. They frequently rely on the comforts of Terabithia to escape from daily life, adopting a puppy named Prince Terrien (abbreviated as P.T.) to join them on their fictional adventures.
Although the bond between Jesse and Leslie intensifies over time, Leslie dies after a rope swing snaps over Terabithia and drowned in the creek beneath. This leaves her family and only friend in miserable, grieving devastation, resulting in the Burke family's choice to relocate to their former residence prior to Lark Creek. Jesse's little sister May Belle adopts the position as Queen of Terabithia after Leslie's premature and sudden demise, ending the novel with the indication that all will be restored.
In the 1977 book, Leslie went to school the first day wearing a T-shirt and cut-offs. 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 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." Robb has received praise from one critic for her "charming performance." 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." James 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."
Comparison to other fictional characters
Joel Chaston and M. Sarah Smedman refer to Leslie as "a modern version of Mary Lennox."
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.