Candy Land Wiki

Candy Land (1949), also subtitled A Sweet Little Game for Sweet Little Folks, is the original edition of the popular board game series. It was followed by the 1955 version of the game.


The origins of the game are heavily tied to the American polio epidemics of the early 20th century. Outbreaks of the disease meant young children were kept quarantined in wards where they had limited opportunities for entertainment or even movement. The luckier ones might be confined to this dreary atmosphere for a week, but for some it meant paralysis or death. Eleanor Abbott was a retired school teacher suffering from polio in the same San Diego hospital as a children's ward when she designed the game in 1948.[1]

This context is reflected in the engineering, as described by board game researcher Josh Brieger. "Candyland is an accessible game with rules that require limited amounts of cognitive load from players to play and can be understood by a wide variety of ages: perfect for playing with sick children at a variety of energy levels."[2] The game cards use symbols so the ability to read is not required. The short duration is ideal for a small child's attention span. This also allows for multiple games to be played in quick succession, meaning there is not so much time investment that they will be too disappointed by losing. Brieger also mentions that Candy Land "receives flak sometimes in that it is a game whose outcome is "predetermined" by the shuffle of the cards. But even so, to a young child, Candyland is filled with wonder and surprise. If you've seen the joy and excitement on a child's face when a shortcut is drawn or a parent suffers a setback, it's plain to see that FOR ITS AUDIENCE, Candyland is a game with fantastic emotional stakes and payoffs."[2]

Abbott was encouraged to pitch her board game to the Milton Bradley Company. Mel Taft, an executive who began working at the company the same year, remembers taking her call and then paying a visit to her home. The company liked Abbott and agreed to produce her game as a temporary fill-in. To their surprise it became a huge hit, outperforming their previous best selling game Uncle Wiggily. The enormous popularity of Candy Land was a huge boost to Milton Bradley, putting them in the same league as their former distant rival Parker Brothers. Despite this financial success, Taft recalls Abbott caring about the children as her top priority. "Eleanor gave most of her royalties right back to the kids. She bought supplies and equipment for all the schools."[1]


There are several key features that distinguish this version from most later editions, connecting it more heavily to its polio ward origins. Earlier designs show a line running up the leg of the boy character, but later designs omit this line. This is possibly intended to be a leg brace commonly worn by children with polio.[1]

The end goal is notably to simply get "Home" which is depicted as an unassuming little house. The next version will change this to a house made out of candy labeled "Home Sweet Home" and later versions will replace the house entirely with "Candy Castle." This is an element of location-specific escapist fantasy. To a child in a polio ward, returning home might be their fondest desire. Children playing future versions of the board game need a little more incentive in their destination. The scenery in this version of Candy Land does contain fantastical elements, but the structures themselves are fairly simple and easily connected to the real world. The children move through woodlands, wetlands, over hills, past an orchard and a lake, as they might normally in their daily lives outside. The treats are similarly basic, not exactly complicated confectionary. Candy Land is not just a fantasy of consumption, but a fantasy of mobility.





  • This version of the game includes no written story as there would be in later versions. The only characters appearing in the art are the unnamed children, later referred to as the "Candy Land Kids" in 1984, and the enigmatic Gingerbread Man who will not be officially named until 1962.
  • Eleanor Abbott designed this version of the game, but it is unclear if she also created the artwork for the commercial version. Mel Taft recalls "Eleanor brought us her game sketched out on butcher's paper" implying she at least drew the prototype. Historian Tim Walsh says the exact identity of the artist is probably lost to history.[1]



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