Here's a motivational article using Snakes and Ladders as a basis: Snakes & Ladders – The Game Of Life.
Images of an English board and its box lid have been added below and the owner has questions.
Snakes and Ladders online and through history

I've always thought Snakes and Ladders was a beautiful game, and it comes in lots of versions. Many Americans haven't even heard of it, and think it's a "wrong" name for Chutes and Ladders. The website below even refers to two games they have from the late 19th century as "chutes and ladders spinoffs." Yikes, no! The game itself is very old, and "Chutes and Ladders" is a(nother) American claim to copyright something traditional. I've never owned a Chutes and Ladders game, but does someone who owns one want to write and say whether they credit it as traditional? (I'm guessing they don't.)


Sleds and Toboggans (c.1895) [once for sale (expensive) as a poster at]. They must've scored a French printshop warehouse from 100 years ago, because they have several game boards being sold as posters—the printed paper, not mounted on board. read note I received in 2011!

They also have had one from the turn of the century (not THIS century, 19th to 20th) with cats, which I own as a piece of wrapping paper I had laminated. If anyone sees the sleds and toboggans as wrapping paper, please e-mail me!

History and Origins: Moksha-Patamu (Snakes and Ladders)
There's more, but this is interesting:

The game is Hindu and was used to teach children about the religion in that the good squares allow a player to ascend higher in the league of life whereas evil will reduce a player back through reincarnation to lower tiers of life. Presumably the last square, 100, represents Nirvana.

The morality of the game must have appealed to the Victorians, who took to the game when it was published in 1892 in England. Called Snakes and Ladders, the game play was pretty much the same but some of the vices and virtues were renamed according to Victorian ideals.

The virtues (Hindu) are named there, and some of the English substitutions.

Board Game Geek has a page on this game, and just about every other boardgame you could think of.

Here's a comment on the back and forth direction:

Because books were mainly read out loud, the letters that composed them did not need to be separated into phonetic unities, but were strung together in continuous sentences. The direction in which the eyes were supposed to follow these reels of letters varied from place to place and from age to age; the way we read a text today in the Western world-from left to right and from top to bottom-is by no means universal. Some scripts were read from right to left (Hebrew and Arabic), others in columns, from top to bottom (Chinese and Japanese); a few were read in pairs of vertical columns (Mayan); some had alternate lines read in opposite directions, back and forth-a method called boustrophedon, "as an ox turns to plough", in ancient Greek.Yet others meandered across the page like a game of Snakes and Ladders, the direction being signalled by lines or dots (Aztec).

Alberto Manguel, Chapter 2 of A History of Reading (New York; Viking, 1996). The Silent Readers

Though their comment was to be that Snakes and Ladders goes up, down and all around, the way the numbers are set on the board, that's "boustrophedon"—as an ox turns to plough—to the right, then to the left, then to the right... (sample of boustrophedon writing)

Hampshire County museum's Board Games page
in their Toys and Games collection. Beautiful history site—typical of museums in the U.K to provide great photos, info and links.

Museum of Childhood, a division of the Victoria & Albert museum, has a good page on Snakes and Ladders as well.

Victoria and Albert Museum has a page up for the year of the snake:

A mom named Susan wrote:

I was recently looking up the history of one of my beloved games Snakes & Ladders when I came across your website.

I am sending you a photo of a snakes and ladders game that I own. From the type of materials used to make the board I don't think it is older than around 1970 but I do love the graphics because they are probably a reproduction of an original board which to me looks likes a style from the 1920's or 1930's. On the back it looks like the game parcheesi but there are no marks or writing to indicate who made the board or when.

Its especially nice because it carries the Victorian idea that you mention about vices and virtues. You'll notice some of the photos-16 for example where the two boys are wrestling and the snake takes you to 6 which show them both with injuries. I also love 62-the boy is smoking and the snake takes you to 19 and shows him sick. My daughter and I have played this game since she was around 4 years old (she is now 15) and we love it!

click for larger image

"this board had belonged to my great-grand-mother..." e-mail from France:

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for your web page! I found it by chance as my husband and I were trying to find an on-line snake and ladder game. It was a great surprise for me as I recognised the snake and ladder board I used to play with twenty years ago when I was a child: the sleds and toboggans. Actually, this board had belonged to my great-grand-mother, and had been kept since then by my grand-mother. As a 10-year-old child, I marvelled at the thought I was playing with a game my great-grand mother used to play with at the beginning of the century!

I suppose the board must be still at my grand mother's house. I am definitely going to check this. Anyway, finding your page was a nice Proust's madelaine, so thank you.

Armelle Grévellec (January 2011)

Can you help with any info, date history of this board? The only print on there is BETAL GAMES, Designed and printed in England. Copyright. The silhouette picture on the front would appear to show the outline of Windsor Castle?? Many many thanks Baz
PS I also have the equivalent in Ludo.

Here's one from India without overt morality or etiquette lessons:

This one is in The Museum of Childhood, in London. It's English and the art portrays India:

click to enlarge; it was in a glass case and I was fighting glare; sorry

Photo by Pushpa Ramachandran: "The Tactile Snakes and Ladder- it is accompanied by tactile dice as well.. — at University Road, Pune."

A game to show children how they might be elected to the Scottish parliament:

(printable, free; click to get to the very large version)

(Contains Scottish Parliament information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licencev1.0)

From an online catalog of Indian imports in February 2015:

Parama Padam Sopanam (Steps to the Highest Place)

Parama Pada Sopanam means Steps to the Highest Place (where Parama Pada means highest place and Sopanam means steps). This is a traditional version of the popular game of Snakes and Ladders. The game was believed to be symbolic of a man’s attempt to reach God. The ladders represent virtues and the snakes represent vices. The snakes carry names linking them to stories from our epics.

Kreeda has slightly modified the traditional game to appeal to today’s children. Done on a 2 feet by 2 1/2 feet canvas, the game is attractively designed and appealing. All the snakes in the games have names such as Bakasura, Kumbakarna etc. which are representative of certain vices. The instruction sheets with the game give a short story of these characters to make it more appealing to children and parents who may not know the tales.

This game is suitable for two or more players of all ages.
Other Names: Snakes and Ladders, Moksha Padam, Gyan Chaupar

If you come across good snakes and ladders pages or artwork,
or if you have any further information on boards shown above,
please e-mail me at

Games links

Unschooling and Games

(with a toys and games section near the end)