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A Board Game for the Holidays-Snakes and Ladders the Jane Austen Way

January 3, 2012

We know that Jane Austen was adept at playing with a cup and ball and at spilkins, but other games were available for children to play with in her era. Puzzles were made at home or commercially:  remember the ” letters” – an alphabet- made by our heroine for her nieces and nephews in Chapter 41 of Emma? Jigsaws were also available to purchase.  Jane Austen certainly knew of them because in Chapter 2 of Mansfield Park she made mention of one of the types available.  Poor Fanny Price is thought to be stupid by her cousins, Maria and Julia Bertram, because amongst her other perceived failings,  she cannot put a puzzle of the map of Europe together.

Commercially produced board games,which were mostly of an educational or morally improving nature, were also thought to be suitable as educational tools. At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, firms began to produce them in profusion.

In the garden at the Museum some rather large board games are available for children ( of all ages!) to play.  Though the board game  Snakes and Ladders was not invented until after Jane Austen died, the Museum has evolved its own morally improving version with reference to the plot lines in Jane Austen’s novels, and we thought you might like to see it.

If you land on any of these snakes

…then you will be punished by forfeiting your progress in the game…However, if you land upon one of these ladder incidents…

your virtue will be rewarded!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy Bracegirdle permalink
    January 3, 2012 11:36 am

    Love this – I must visit Chawton again!

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 3, 2012 1:35 pm

      Thank you, Amy. Do come again, there is always something different to see….just remember that the Museum is only open on weekends – Saturday and Sunday – in January and February 🙂

  2. Cathy Allen permalink
    January 3, 2012 11:31 pm

    I did not know that this game (and others!) had been commercially available for so long, and I’d never heard of this British version of it. I’m sure our American version, “Chutes and Ladders,” for quite young children, is derived from it. How interesting, and what fun there, in the garden!

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 4, 2012 10:35 am

      That’s very interesting, Cathy. I didn’t know of “Chutes and Ladders”-I wonder why they altered it from “snakes”?

  3. January 4, 2012 8:44 am

    Very good to teach the novels in this way, wonderful. It’s very clear and engaging.

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 4, 2012 10:36 am

      I think it was John Locke who promoted the idea of learning through play.It certainly is a good educational tool and fun too 😉

  4. January 4, 2012 6:56 pm

    A clever idea! Perhaps eventually we will be able to buy a copy to play at home or at meetings of Austen fans. I think the American version changed the “Snakes” to “Chutes” because we wouldn’t want anything to frighten the children, now would we? 😉

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 5, 2012 2:11 pm

      Ah! Thank you! I’ll pass your idea on to the Curator,if you don’t mind.

      • January 22, 2012 9:49 pm

        I’m flattered! I hope it is taken up and produced — a different version for each novel!

      • jfwakefield permalink*
        January 23, 2012 9:23 am


  5. January 5, 2012 7:35 am

    What a creative idea to change the incidents to those from Jane’s novels! How fun! 🙂

    • jfwakefield permalink*
      January 5, 2012 2:12 pm

      It is great, isn’t it. Learning about Jane Austen and morals while at play. I think she might approve;)


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