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    Updated on 13 Sep 2020. Posted on 10 Sep 2020

    It's Time We Finally Talk About How Traumatic Leslie's Death Was In "Bridge To Terabithia"

    "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.

    Puffin Books, Disney

    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.

    Jess and Leslie running along a dirt road looking happy
    Disney

    From the very first moment that Leslie entered Jess' classroom, it's like they were destined to be the very best of friends.

    Disney

    She was the companion he had been searching for β€” someone to uplift him and bring out the creative, artistic and imaginative side of his personality.

    Disney

    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.

    Leslie and Jess hanging out in their "castle" while in the woods
    Disney

    It almost felt like they could conquer the world together β€” or, at the very least, get through the rough part of high school and growing up.

    Leslie and Jess looking at the view after climbing a tree
    Disney

    This was seen when Mrs Edmunds β€” the school's music teacher β€” invites Jesse on a day trip to the art museum, which leaves him feeling like he's on cloud nine.

    Jess having lunch with Mrs Edumunds in the art museum cafe
    Disney

    But, the happiness of the day is ripped away when Jess returns home to find out that Leslie is dead.

    Disney

    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.

    Leslie sitting on a wooden bench, doing her homework
    Disney

    It's the feeling of dancing on a high that's suddenly overtaken by you crashing back to a grim and morbid reality.

    Disney

    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.

    CBS

    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.

    Leslie's dad telling Jess "She loved you, you know"
    Disney

    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.

    Disney

    Jess believes that it's his fault that Leslie died because he didn't invite her along on the day trip with Mrs Edmunds. In his mind, that would have prevented her from attempting to go to Terabithia herself and drowning.

    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.

    Jess is crying while being cuddled and consoled by his father
    Disney

    Even just looking at this picture makes me sad all over again.

    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.

    Disney

    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.

    Disney

    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.

    Jess looking at his sister May Belle while they're crossing the bridge to Terabithia
    Disney

    And that is why even though it's been 13 years since the movie adaptation came out β€” and even longer since I had to read and study this book in primary school β€” I'm still not over Leslie's death or the impact of the words and lessons in this novel.

    May Belle glancing at the bridge to Terabithia being transformed by their imagination
    Disney

    So, here's to Bridge To Terabithia for teaching us to always "just close your eyes and keep your mind wide open".

    Disney

    RIP Leslie Burke.πŸ’–

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