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The Truth About "Puff"

Posted by twayneking on Saturday, September 16, 2017

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 © Gorbash - Flight of Dragons by Zoonar at Deiviant Art
Did you know that Puff the Magic Dragon was NOT about drugs? Someone asked me about that and I happen to have firsthand information on the origins of that much-maligned children's song. It turns out that There never was any other meaning than the obvious one. I can say that with certainty, because I met the Dragon's father (author of the song, Peter Yarrow) in person. Peter assured us that it was just a children's song. Jackie Paper represented the pages of a children's story, nothing more and the song was about the loss of childhood innocence.

We went to a Peter Paul and Mary concert in Fort Worth in the middle of the controversy. Peter added the following verse for that performance.

Together we can sing it
It's just a children's song

"And there never was any meaning other than the obvious one
and you can say you heard it from the dragon's father!"

Then they went  back to the chorus.

Everyone in the place just roared.

We took all three of our kids, to that concert where PP&M, Tom Paxton and Josh White all performed.  Sheila and I wanted to see PP&M just as much if not more than the kids did. The kids were raised on the Peter, Paul and Mary's children's songs and my goofy interpretations thereof, including Puff and The Boa Constrictor Song. We came early to the concert and were surprised to find Peter Yarrow out front greeting people as they came in.  He introduced himself very politely to my daughter who hugged him. He planted a kiss on her cheek. She was greatly impressed. 

Puff was written in 1958 when Yarrow was in school and before he even knew anything about marijuana. The story is really cool and can be found at this link (below). You should look it up. In any case, when the author, himself, tells me what the song means, I, for one, tend to believe him.
So you can mark Puff the Magic Dragon* "Safe" for summer camp and youth groups with confidence. You heard it from a man who heard it from Puff's daddy.

© 2016 by Tom King

*Peter does a more expanded version debunking the drug meaning mythology in this link from their 25th anniversary concert

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