Puff, the Magic Dragon

This story used to make me so sad, I could barely stand it. Whenever I heard Peter, Paul, and Mary sing it, I’d have to turn it down, get out of the room, or cover my ears, and I’m referring to my time as a parent. Jackie Paper comes no more? Puff’s “head is bent in sorrow, geen scales fell like rain…Puff, that mighty dragon, sadly slipped into his cave.” Does he just die? Alone like that? After all that frolicking in the mist, that’s how it all ends? Horrible. I can’t take it.

But now everything is OK. After all these years, a beautifully illustrated version came out in 2007, where a girl saves the day, saves Puff, saves us all. The lyrics are ilustrated just as you can imagine, until the text repeats the chorus for the final time. Then a girl is shown climbing down a hill, spotting puff, who smiles gleefully  at her. On the next page, she strokes him under hs chin while he presses his nose toward her forehead, her father looking on in the background, also smiling.

Thank God Peter Yarrow had a daughter and was inspired to come out with this book. In his author’s notes, he writes that he recorded a special CD with Bethany (which comes with this book.) Lenny Lipton writes in his author’s notes that when he was in Hawaii, a friend asked him how he came to set the book in Hanalei, and he said he’d never heard of Hanalei. (I never realized the island sounded Hawaiian until I read this.)  He goes on to write, “There are many what-ifs along the way with Puff. I left a poem in Peter Yarrow’s typewriter, and he added  some new lyrics and turned it into a song.”

This book makes me think Yarrow, Lipton, and Yarrow’s daughter were as troubled by Puff’s sad story as me and probably millions of parents and kids. My mom got this book for my daughters, and now when we hear the song, Granny tells how Puff was so sad, but then Alice came! My three year old lights up every time she hears that. It’s amazing this song has transformed from tragic and all male into a happy, girlpower story just with a couple illustrations (see, guys, that’s all a little imagination takes.) The interpretation that this song was about marijuana/ addiction has never consoled me. This beautiful book does.

2 thoughts on “Puff, the Magic Dragon

  1. my 3-year old daughter loves this song, but i can’t help hearing “grave” instead of “cave”, and i’ve been hoping for another kid to come rescue puff from his loneliness. i’ve even spent a little time trying to come up with another verse for a better ending… i’m glad peter yarrow did something about it. i’ll go looking for the book, now.

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