World Snake Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"For every snake a ladder, and for every ladder a snake."
Snakes and Ladders
Snakes and Ladders, known originally as Moksha Patam, is an ancient Indian board game regarded today as a worldwide classic. It is played between two or more players on a gameboard having numbered, gridded squares. A number of "ladders" and "snakes" are pictured on the board, each connecting two specific board squares. The object of the game is to navigate one's game piece, according to die rolls, from the start (bottom square) to the finish (top square), helped or hindered by ladders and snakes, respectively.
The most widely known edition of Snakes and Ladders in the United States is Chutes and Ladders released by Milton Bradley in 1943. The playground setting replaced the snakes, which were received negatively by children at the time. It is played on a 10×10 board, and players advance their pieces according to a spinner rather than a die. The theme of the board design is playground equipment, showing children climbing ladders and descending chutes.
The artwork on the board teaches morality lessons: squares on the bottom of the ladders show a child doing a good or sensible deed, at the top of the ladder there is an image of the child enjoying the reward; squares at the top of the chutes show children engaging in mischievous or foolish behavior, on the bottom of the chute the image shows the children suffering the consequences.
The phrase "back to square one" originates in the game of snakes and ladders, or at least was influenced by it – the earliest attestation of the phrase refers to the game: "Withal he has the problem of maintaining the interest of the reader who is always being sent back to square one in a sort of intellectual game of snakes and ladders."
For more on this classic board game, click the 1950's Milton Bradley version.