This morning, while proofreading one of the finer comics in today’s funny papers, I had the occasion to look up the spellings of old-school board games such as Mousetrap, Chutes & Ladders, and of course, Candy Land.
The google image result for Candy Land brought up a large map of the Candylandscape circa the 1978 edition. I thought of the Wizard of Oz movies or Willy Wonka as I let my mind wander back along the Lollipop Woods, the Ice Cream Sea and the Mollases Swamp.
I looked at each landmark and remembered my childhood, but also wondered why the picture was so quilted-looking before I read the caption and saw some lady had constructed it out of beads. 100,000 beads, in fact.
The dedication this artist put into the project was as astounding as the end result, and it also took me from feeling sheepishly nostalgic to realizing Candy Land serves as an affectionate homeland for many more than just me, as this image I found on flickr demonstrates.
A wikipedia search revealed that Candy Land was invented in 1940 in San Diego by Elanor Abbott, a woman recovering from Polio.
Hasbro (which bought Milton Bradley) had to sue in order to retrieve the domain name http://www.candyland.com from the operators of an adult Web site.
I also learned that Plumpy the Plumpa Troll was replaced by Mama Gingertree, reportedly for unknown reasons.
The more I looked, however, the more clear it became that Plumpy had over the decades become the personfication of bad luck for thousands of highly sensitive and impressionable young children.
For example, I found an article by a psychologist describing her special needs student’s reaction to playing Candy Land for the first time:
For those of you who forget (or never played) the game is played by choosing cards and advancing to that place on the board. The winner is the first one who gets to the castle at the end.
Daniel was very intense as he played, and kept getting flustered by “Plumpy” Plumpy is the card in the deck that sends you back almost to the beginning. No one likes Plumpy, but I think of the game as a highly evolved, spiritual game, in that it lets us know what we can control (taking turns, not cheating) but is like life, in that there is much we cannot control, like love, or birth or death.
So, when a Candyland player is going along, and is suddenly swept up to the Queen Frostine card, or cast down to the little plum, Plumpy, then that is a lesson in things we cannot control. For children, much of their lives are involve things over which they have no control: where they live, who their teachers are, whether their parents get divorced, or stay together, etc.
So I love Candyland.
But Daniel did not.
Another article, this one written by the mother of a young girl, seemed to take it personally every time her daughter was dealt the unfortunate “Plumpy” card (a reverse trump card, if you will), which sent the girl into a state of despair.
That said, the main trouble with Candyland, in my opinion, is not the win-lose scenario. It’s Plumpy. Seriously, I really do think that Plumpy is responsible for a good deal of the rising Prozac trade. With Plumpy in action, a game of Candyland can last as long as the Dark Ages. Maybe longer. As soon as you approach the final curve of the path, Plumpy will rise from the depths of the card pile and send you packing your bags back to the sugarplum trees. After about six encounters with him, most parents are ready to ring his fuzzy little neck.
Normally I would seek a response from Plumpy’s people, but he was nowhere to be found. Even the Wikipedia text that came up when I searched for him had vanished from all but the cached version of the entry.
All we know for sure is that Plumpy was replaced by Mama Gingertree. So what does that tell us? Most likely, replacing the scapeplum Plumpy with a matriarchal character was the result of recent breakthroughs in child psychology.
Or perhaps the collective resentment against Plumpy had become multi-generational, and a simple change of face was needed. In other words, Plumpy had to take the fall.
Another possibility is that Hasbro is guilty of the same anti-purple prejudice displayed by the McDonald’s Corporation when they gave Grimace the so-called “purple” slip.
Or maybe Ma Gingertree’s just got that certain spice.
Whatever the reasons, history has taught us there are grave consequences to deposing public figures for political gain. Also worth considering is whether the gender switch suggests that this country may, in fact, be ready for a female president.
Certainly much about the circumstances attending Plumpy’s downfall invites further discussion. But let us end instead with a salutation to the Plumpster himself: Plumpy, you may have been kicked out of Candy Land, but there I’m sure there’s a special place for you in Plumpa Troll Paradise.