Being a naive soul it was only as my two little darlings began negotiating the murky underworld that is secondary school that I was made aware of certain connotations being attached to the Peter Paul and Mary classic Puff The Magic Dragon. They assured me the lyrics were really about drug abuse, Puff the magic dragon obviously referring to the act of smoking pot, Little Jackie Paper referring to cigarette papers and autumn mists being the clouds of smoke produced by this activity. Oh cruel world, surely my all time favourite children’s song could not have been a subversive ditty for pot heads to snigger along to?Hours of heated debate followed.
Admittedly they, and presumably others who swallowed this idea, were a bit stumped about the second verse where Jackie and Puff sailed across the oceans meeting kings and princes and pirates, although I’m sure that this could be seen as a drug fuelled dream or meetings with dealers. However if the analogy holds true then the addiction is grown out of, as “Jackie paper came no more and Puff that mighty dragon ceased his fealess roar” and the dragon slips sadly away to his cave.
But finally, Puff is vindicated as the story is being told in a children’s picture book. Peter Yarrow, co writer with Lenny Lipton, sets the record straight by adamantly stating that it is not about drugs but about lost childhood. And for those soppy old fools like me who always felt for poor, abandoned Puff it’s even got a happy ending!
Puff the Magic Dragon
by Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton and Eric Puybaret
Published by Macmillan
Drink and Drugs Index