Bridge to Terabithia Questions and Answers
by Katherine Paterson

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Why does Leslie die in "Bridge to Terabithia"?

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In Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Leslie drowns in the creek in the woods.

Jess, Leslie's best friend, decides to spend the day in Washington, DC with one of his teachers. He comes home happy and satisfied with the outing, only to find his family upset. His mother starts sobbing when she sees him. His sister says, "your girl friend's dead, and Momma thought you was dead, too."

Jess is told that Leslie drowned and was found in the creek. He refuses to believe it because she was a strong swimmer. His father explains, "That old rope you kids been swinging on broke. . . . They think she musta hit her head on something when she fell." 

Jess has a hard time coming to terms with what he's heard and believing that Leslie is dead until Bill, Leslie's father, mentions they're having her cremated. 

Leslie and Jess are based on Paterson's son David and his childhood friend Lisa Hill, according to an interview with NPR. When they were eight years old, Lisa was struck by lightning and killed. Though she didn't drown like Leslie, Leslie's death is still based on what happened to Lisa.

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No one can say for sure why Leslie drowns. This is how it happened:

Jesse has big crush on his teacher, Miss. Edmunds. When Jesse goes with Miss Edmunds to the National Gallery of Art, Leslie goes to Terabithia by herself. The creek is overflowing because of the rains and she swings on the rope above the creek to cross it. The rope breaks and she falls into the creek. Although Leslie is a good swimmer, she can’t make it to shore and she drowns.

Her death brings the story to the climax, or the central crisis. Through her death, Jesse has to come understand himself and overcome his fears.

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ehand89 | Student

Leslie tragically dies after she attempted to visit Terabithia on her own. The rope breaks and she falls into a creek and sustains a head injury that keeps her unconscious until she drowns.

"Katherine Paterson was inspired to write The Bridge to Terabithia after her son's childhood friend Lisa Hill was struck and killed by lightning."

It was necessary for Patterson to include themes of loss due to what inspired her to write the book in the first place; the tragic death of her son's childhood friend. In killing Leslie, Patterson is able to impart the wisdom she learned through her own life experience onto the audience.

Paterson says that the books we read in childhood are a rehearsal for experiences later in life.

"It's been absolutely miraculous to me over the years that people have not only read the book but they have loved it," she says. "People bring their own lives to the book, their own images ... that creates it."

rainbowboss | Student

im sad for her she was the best in the story if i were jess i would of thout to take the death instad of Leslie

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urmomhaha | Student

What I say, is she died to really touch the reader, to really stand out and feel sad. That's my opinion.

calde1995 | Student

She dies because she died!!!


monkeygirl222 | Student

the real reason she dies is to say life is short so keep your mind wide open to see the truth.people die all the time but if you die and never live there is no dying.and Jesse love her.think beyond the story everybody needs a terabithia.

jocy17 | Student
  • She dies because she wanted to be with Jess and went to bridge to terabithia when Jess told her not to so she wouldn't be coward.
m655rachie | Student

Leslie Dies in the book because she drowned in the river. she did this by having the rope break, and she cannot swim.