Puff the Magic Dragon is a song about a melancholy dragon
that lived by the sea. It was originally a poem written by
Leonard Lipton in 1959, when he was 19 and going to Cornell
University. Leonard Lipton was originally inspired by
another poet who had written along a similar theme about
dragons: specifically an Ogden Nash poem titled "Custard the
Peter Yarrow, a friend and colleague of Leonard Lipton, then
took Leonard's poem "Puff the Magic Dragon," wrote more
lines and turned the whole into a song. The song became
popular when a group called "Peter, Paul and Mary" started
performing the song in 1961, then in 1963 recorded the song.
"Puff the Magic Dragon" is now a popular folk song that
still can be heard on "oldies" stations and children's
programs across the United States and Britain.
The lyrics tell of an imaginary dragon that was created by
character Jackie Paper, who then loses interest in his
imaginary friend as he grows up, and leaves him by the
seaside in Honah Lee (an imaginary land). The dragon sinks
into a depression and is not heard from again - until 2007
when an author decided to write a story about a little girl,
supposedly Jackie Paper's granddaughter, who goes to play
with the imaginary dragon and makes him happy again.
The original poem by Leonard Lipton and the added verses by
"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.
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 when e'er they came, Pirate
ships would lower their flag when Puff Roared out his name.
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.
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea And frolicked in the
autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee."
Some adaptation was made to the poem by the group "Peter,
Paul and Mary" to make it more of a folk song. They added a
couple of refrains and ended some of the verses with "Oh!"
Other than that the original poem stayed mostly intact when
it made the transition to song.
The song did gain some controversial aspects during the
1960's when people associated the dragon and Puff with
marijuana smoking, which the group and the original authors
of the poem vehemently denied. The song was banned in
Singapore, along with "Yellow Submarine" and "Lucy in the
Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles, because of the drug
In 1978 a short television series was adapted from the poem
and song into thirty minute specials. Jackie Paper and his
Adventures of Puff were adapted and Puff was depicted as a
hero who saved children in three shows: "Puff the Magic
Dragon", "Puff The Magic Dragon and the Land of the Living
Lies," and "Puff and the Incredible Mr. Nobody". Burgess
Meredith played the title role.
"Puff the Magic Dragon" inspired other great television
films and is still a popular song and poem today. And even
though the poem ends sadly and the dragon doesn't live
"Happily Ever After," it is still a great poem. This poem is
more about the growing of a little boy and his imagination
than it is about the poor dragon. The song is obviously an
ode and memorial to the joys and imagination of childhood.
This reflection on life and growing up also harks back to
older days that have been left behind by most children
today. Imaginative play is much rarer among the children of
today because of the mass media cartoons, toys, games, and
video games available. A child is now much less likely to
sit down and imagine a complicated story about frolicking
with a dragon when it can watch cartoons or play a video
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