“Puff the Magic Dragon” not about drugs, author claims

March 21, 2008 – 11:53 pm

puff iconPeter Yarrow, 69, the founder of Peter, Paul and Mary who composed and performed the group’s famous song, “Puff the Magic Dragon” insists that it is not an ode to marijuana smoking.

puff bigThe long assumed folklore that the lyrics to “Puff the Magic Dragon” refers to smoking marijuana has been debunked by the co-author himself.

The song makes reference to “paper dragon” (draggin) and speaks of “travelling along t cherry lane” which “cherry” is often used as a term for the burning end of a joint.

Quotes Yarrow:

“No,” Yarrow told Reuters recently. “Even if I had had the intention of writing a song about drugs … I was 20 years old at Cornell in 1959 when it was written and I was so square at that time. … Drugs had not emerged then.”

But, Pete, what about those lyrics?

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff/ and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh.

Wasn’t that less about Puff and more about, you know, puffing?

Nope, says Yarrow.

So, what is it about?

“The innocence of a lost childhood.”

Conspiracy theory:

My thoughts is that the author wants to continue the controversy, thus keeping interest in the song, which translates into more residual income. Additionally, if he can maintain the ‘innocence’ of the song, theres potential for future marketing for additional projects aimed towards children (like a major motion picture adaptation) which would be more plausible with mainstream media giants if the song wasn’t associated with drugs.


Peter, Paul And Mary.- Puff (The Magic Dragon) (Lipton/Yarrow)

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh!

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene’er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name. Oh!

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. Oh!’

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