Who doesn’t remember and love this wonderful folk song for children, performed by the trio Peter, Paul, and Mary?
Puff The Magic Dragon evokes that magical time in all of our lives when life was simple. That was when Santa Clause was real. It’s when we actually played and let our imaginations take us to far-off lands. We invented imaginary friends and something like a magic dragon was very real to us indeed.
The song Puff The Magic Dragon brought some relief to youngsters too. It is by proving that dragons were not so fearsome after all. Before this song came along, bedtime for kiddies involved a ritual of leaping from the bedroom doorway onto the bed, so the dragons under the bed couldn’t grab you by the ankles and drag you away.
The song we know and love began its life as a poem. written in the spring of 1959 by a young university student by the name of Leonard Lipton. Leonard was attending Cornell University in central New York near the picturesque Finger Lakes region. A physics major, Leonard seemed the unlikely author of the poetry of any kind.
Is Puff The Magic Dragon a Song About Drugs?
The answer is no.
This urban legend actually started right after the release of the song in 1963 as the result of a story in a New York newspaper. The story speculated about the name Jackie Paper being a reference to rolling papers used in marijuana cigarettes. And the very name “Puff” supposedly implied smoking marijuana.
The song is actually about childhood, and the loss of innocence that comes with the end of childhood, nothing more sinister than that. As Leonard wrote in a post on WordPress in February 2009, “When I wrote Puff I didn’t know from marijuana. We’re talking about Cornell in 1958. People were going to hootenannies – they weren’t smoking joints.”
Jackie Paper did not die, which is the way some people interpreted the lyrics. He simply grew up and no longer believed in magic dragons.
There was an additional verse in the original poem that introduced a new child for Puff to play with, but neither Peter nor Leonard can recall the exact words.
A new child – a girl – was introduced in a book published in 2007 by Peter and Leonard based on the song’s lyrics. At the end of the story, the girl is introduced to Puff by Jackie Paper.
Puff spent 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the number two spot on May 11th, 1963.