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The Eternal Collage of Vice and Virtue

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Snakes and Ladders–sometimes known as Chutes and Ladders in America–is based on an ancient Hindu game called Moksha Patam. It teaches that life is rooted in karma, or destiny. In the game, the progression of one’s token along the numbered spaces on the board represents Life, the Ladders symbolize Virtues (or advancement), and the Snakes stand for Vices (or failure). Many versions of the game actually specify the vices and virtues, associating them with certain numbered spaces located at the heads and tails of the snakes and the ladders.

Snakes and Ladders (2012). Digital collage created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.

The game is extremely simple: all players put their tokens on the starting space (in this case containing the number “1”), and each player takes a turn rolling a die (one of a pair of dice) to determine how many spaces to move his or her token.

If the token reaches the bottom of a ladder (the lower-numbered space the ladder’s base sits on), the token immediately advances to the higher-numbered space at the top of the ladder, and at the player’s next turn continues the game from that higher-numbered space. This game is fun like casino games at 666casino, aside from being fun, winning big prize is easy if you feel lucky enough.

On the other hand, if the token reaches a space occupied by a snake’s head, the token immediately descends to the lower-numbered space where the snake’s tail rests; at the player’s next turn, the token continues the game from that lower-numbered space. The first player to reach the hundredth space (shown here as a star) wins the game.

Snakes and Ladders came to England from India in Victorian times, and became very popular. Most of the board layouts for the game are square grids of eight-by-eight, ten-by-ten, or twelve-by-twelve spaces; however, the present artwork was inspired by a late nineteenth-century spiral game-board layout for Snakes and Ladders.

The spiral arrangement of numbered spaces reinforces the sense felt by many that the chain of life’s incidents seems to turn around on itself, like the coils of a snake: no outcome ever perfectly duplicates a past occurrence, but merely leaves a whiff of reminiscence behind before giving way to the next event. To add a small touch of colors you can get table liners cheap for every special event you organize .

The use of  Snakes and Ladders to teach morality conveys a disturbing sense of futility: one normally learns to embrace virtue and avoid vice, but the chance element of the game removes all ability to act or choose. Without free will, are not virtue and vice equally meaningless?

(All artwork, descriptions, & other text created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.)

34 Comments… add one

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34 comments… add one
Joyce October 9, 2012, 5:18 pm

I much rather catch a ladder than a snake.

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:30 pm

So would I, Joyce…but the game and the laws of probability don’t give one much choice. Thanks for your comment!

Dominique@Dominique's Desk October 9, 2012, 5:41 pm

I remember playing Snake and ladders as a kid and my kids too love playing this game. We have the thomas the train edition of this game.

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:28 pm

Is the Thomas the Tank Engine edition called Snakes on a Train? (Just kidding!!!) Thanks for your comment!

Reno, the Biggest Little City October 9, 2012, 5:48 pm

Hey, I recognize that. It was Chutes & Ladders when I was a kid.

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:27 pm

Yes indeed, as I mentioned in the first sentence of the post. Thanks for your comment.

Paula J October 9, 2012, 6:21 pm

Reminds me of Chute’s and Ladder’s. Also reminds me of a horoscope chart of some sort.

Happy WW 🙂

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:26 pm

Yes. Actually it is exactly the same as Chutes & Ladders (as pointed out in the first sentence of the post). However, its resemblance to a horoscope chart is a new twist for me. Thanks for your comment, Paula!

Wayne October 9, 2012, 6:41 pm

That was my favorite board game as a kid.

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:23 pm

And it seems also to have been a favorite game of many others as well…Thanks for your comment, Wayne!

Aussiepomm October 9, 2012, 6:50 pm

I’ve not seen the spiral version, and I must say, I actually like it!!

Mines up as well at AussiePomm – Such a Drag…!!!!

Have a great day!!

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:20 pm

Thanks very much–it’s kind of you to say so!

Judy Haughton-James October 9, 2012, 6:51 pm

It is so interesting seeing this collage and reading about Snakes and Ladders. It was always a favourite board game for me and my twin sister. Thanks for hosting and Happy WW!

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:20 pm

Thanks for your comment, Judy. Happy WW!

Betty October 9, 2012, 7:05 pm

Thanks for the link up. Will try to get a linky on my blog page for next Wednesday!

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:19 pm

Thanks, Betty

Jeanna October 9, 2012, 7:51 pm

I’ve never seen Chutes & Ladders look so cool & intricate. Very interesting background.
Are you going to do one on Candyland?

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:18 pm

Thanks, Jeanna! I appreciate your kindness. I hadn’t planned to do a game-board for Candyland, mostly because it’s someone else’s intellectual property and isn’t yet in public domain.

But the other reason I probably wouldn’t do a Candyland variant is that it’s not significantly different from Snakes & Ladders. Although the other board games are also “chase games” or games of pursuit, they are different from each other and also involve an element of skill, which this game does not.

Danielle Royalegacy October 9, 2012, 8:21 pm

What a nice version of the classic game!

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:11 pm

Thanks very much, Danielle–I appreciate your kind comment!

alissa apel October 9, 2012, 9:55 pm

I’d like to play the game.

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:11 pm

It does look like fun, Alissa. I’ve never played it either–not as such–but I think the American Game of Life is based on it, and I do remember playing Life when I was a child.

Mary October 10, 2012, 12:33 am

My boys would LOVE your version with the snakes!! 🙂

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 1:07 pm

Thanks, Mary! You can buy a reproduction print of my Snakes & Ladders game-board in several different sizes (on paper, canvas, acrylic, or metal); by clicking on the picture itself, you’ll be taken to my site on Fine Art America, a great company that sells prints of all of my digital collages.

jessica @peekababy October 10, 2012, 12:50 am

I was just discussing Chutes and Ladders with someone on Instagram…it’s totally the game that every kid wants to plan and every parent dreads 😉

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 12:57 pm

Interesting…why does every parent dread Snakes & Ladders?

Lena Sledge October 10, 2012, 1:18 am

I learned something knew today, didn’t know it was based on a Hindu game.

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 12:57 pm

I also only learned of this when I was designing the game-board. Thanks for your comment, Lena.

stevebethere October 10, 2012, 2:16 am

I used to love Snakes and Ladders as a kid but that one looks more interesting 🙂

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 12:55 pm

Thanks, Steve–I appreciate your kind comment!

Daryl October 10, 2012, 7:49 am

Eric, watch out or Parker Bros. will be stealing your ‘game’

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 12:54 pm

Thanks for your flattering comment, Daryl! Unfortunately for my future prospects of growing rich on spiral Snakes & Ladders, the game has been in the public domain for many years. Parker Bros. is free to do their own version, whether I like it or not (however, they can’t legally plagiarize the original features of what I did in my treatment of the game theme).

Rosey October 10, 2012, 6:13 pm

I didn’t realize the origin of the game. Interesting post!

Eric Edelman October 10, 2012, 10:23 pm

Thanks, Rosey!

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