Things keep breaking at my house. Expensive things, like my car. To chill out, I’m revisiting an iconic childhood dragon story, “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” You all know it. Sing with me:
Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea/And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee./Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff/and brought him strings and sealing wax, and other fancy stuff.
Not only the dragon is magical here. The whole tale of their adventures (pirates and princes and giants, oh my!) ending in separation as the child grows up is sweetly sad and universal. Almost the same story comprises the backbone of the Toy Story movie series, to name just one. Indeed, one could take out Puff and substitute any beloved childhood activity that had to be given up in adulthood. Whether it’s running, rocketry, singing or playing with dolls, the price of maturity remains.
Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sails./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 flags when Puff roared out his name.
Yes, I hear some of you out there snickering at me over the supposed drug references contained within this song. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear me rolling my eyes back at you. Leonard Lipton, who wrote the original poem in 1959, and all the members of Peter, Paul and Mary, the band who immortalized the song in 1962, insist that no such meaning was ever intended. They’re the authors — they know what they were trying to say. If others disagree, it only shows that some people can find something naughty in anything at all.
As for me, I’m still singing along:
A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys./Painted wings and giant strings make way for other toys./One gray night, it happened. Jackie Paper came no more./Puff, that mighty dragon, sadly ceased his fearless roar.
Maybe Puff will come get me before the auto shop calls.