♫ Puff The Magic Dragon ♫

I could have sworn I had played this before.  I went looking through my archives and found no reference to it, no song played … nothing.

Now, I actually had begun tonight’s music post as Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers, but then I saw a comment by our friend Ellen who reminded me that today is “Annual Appreciate A Dragon Day”, and she suggested a song I just played a day or so ago, the adorable John Lewis & Partners video with the Dragon in I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore, or else this one, Puff the Magic Dragon.  Now, I don’t mind redux-ing, as I have done so often of late, but to redux a short 7 days later is a bit much.  So, I went for Puff, which as I said, I know I already did, but apparently I didn’t index it properly.

PuffPeter Yarrow, the ‘Peter’ of Peter, Paul & Mary, wrote the song in 1958 before he joined the group. It started with a poem his roommate, Lenny Lipton, left in his typewriter …

“Lenny Lipton and I were at Cornell, and it was exam time. He came to my place in Collegetown, sat down at the typewriter, and wrote some poetic words – he had been thinking about Ogden Nash for a while. And he wrote part of what became the lyric. He actually left the piece of paper in the typewriter when he left because he was absorbed in getting to his exams. It was not intended to be a lyric of a song or anything – it was just something that he typed on paper, and I looked at it and loved it. I wrote the rest of the words to give it a song form and a dramatic arch, and the music to it.

Later, on the second album [Moving], when we were looking for children’s songs – we did some children’s songs on the first album, including ‘Autumn to May’ and ‘It’s Raining’ – I suggested ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon,’ and we put it on the album, without any thought that it might ever become popular in any important way. Yet, it happened spontaneously at some point, because a DJ somewhere in the Northwest started to play it on the radio, and it just took off, and it’s the song that it now is.”

A few years after this song became a hit, Yarrow found Lipton and gave him half the songwriting credit. Lipton, who was a camp counselor when Yarrow found him, gets extensive royalties from the song.

According to Lipton, Lipton was feeling homesick when he wrote it. One day, he was on his way to dinner at a friend’s house, and was a little early, so he stopped at the library and happened to read some Ogden Nash poems. The title of the poem that grabbed him was The Tale Of Custard The Dragon, which is about a “Really-o Truly-o Dragon.”

Lipton was friends with Peter Yarrow’s housemate when they were all students at Cornell University. On the walk from Cornell’s library to the friend’s house (where he was to eat dinner), he wrote the poem, which was about the loss of childhood. But no one was home when he arrived – there was some sort of mix-up about dinner. So he just went in and used Yarrow’s typewriter to get the poem out of his head. Then, he forgot about it. Years later, a friend called and told him Yarrow was looking for him, to give him credit for the lyrics. Lipton had actually forgotten about the poem.

And on that note, my friends, in honour of Annual Appreciate a Dragon Day, I give you … PUFF!  The Magic Dragon …

Puff the Magic Dragon
Peter, Paul and Mary

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

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 whene’er they came
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

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 oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

Songwriters: Leonard Lipton / Peter Yarrow
Puff the Magic Dragon lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management

29 thoughts on “♫ Puff The Magic Dragon ♫

  1. Ah from sweet times of innocence.
    Here’s a snippet from my childhood/teens. Related to this song.
    Back when 1965 etc there was a regional TV shows called ‘Discs a Go-go’ The logo was a kind of two legged fox (Go-go)…Anyway one segment of the show would be a record and interspersed with drawings (not moving cartoons- we are talking low budget here) of Go-go in some relevant action pertaining to the verse; there would be a kind of narrative. NO big deal but harmless fun.
    ANYWAY, they did Puff The Magic Dragon. With a cute little boy Go-Go (Jackie P) and a small dragon ‘Puff’ who could grow in size depending on the verse (think Calvin & Hobbes)…anyway when it came to the sad last verse, little Puff goes into his cave. BUT when it came to the last singing of the chorus we see a grown up Go-Go (Jackie P) having made a paper hat for his Go-Go-jnr (Jackie jnr) who tell scampers off the Puff’s cave, and knocks on the door. An overjoyed Puff sees his new friend and the last caption is Puff galloping off with his new friend on his back and saying out to the viewer ‘Let’s a go-go’…..
    Sweet Uh? That’s how I always imagine the song..55+ years on.

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  2. I thought you had as well but maybe it was just an ensuing discussion after playing another Peter Paul and Mary tune you played. I had no idea about any Dragon Appreciation Day. Did you ever read or listen to the children’s book ‘There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon’? It’s great also. The children’s tv film they made based on Puff the Magic Dragon was poignant.

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    • Ellen suggests it may have been part of a non-music post, such as Jolly Monday or Saturday Surprise, so I will check that tomorrow. I didn’t know about Dragon Appreciation Day either, but Ellen keeps me informed of such things 😉 No, I haven’t heard of that book, but I’ll check it out! Thanks! I first read your last sentence as “… Puff the Magic Dragon was pregnant”!!! Needless to say, I was a bit stunned, but then I re-read it! 🤣

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  3. What a perfect selection of a song for Appreciate A Dragon Day or as it also known, AADD (all capital letters, please)! A wee confession seems needed, I had no illusions that you would redux the first song suggested and therefore this song would be used provided you had time to do so…one might say it was a bit devious! Another wee confession…my memory seemed inclined to lead me to believe that you had included this song in a post that was not strictly a music post, but I was not beyond a doubt certain of that as fact, my brain being where it is these days! At worst “Puff the Magic Dragon” would be a redux and at best it would be new music…a win win either way! I LOVE THIS SONG! Now then, you have admirably given the trivia behind the song and I will add nothing more. I will confine my trivia to AADD that is being beautifully celebrated with the beloved song. The author, Donita K. Paul, created “Appreciate A Dragon Day” on this day in 2004 to celebrate the coming release of her book “DragonSpell” on June 15, 2004. This began a successful series of Dragon books aimed at children of the middle school level. However, Benjamin’s favorite would be Donita’s 2010 book for K & up that was co-authored with her daughter, Evangeline Denmark, “The Dragon and the Turtle” that is delightfully illustrated by Vincent Nguyen. As long as we are talking about Dragon tales, I would be remiss not to mention “Miss JoyRoses” writings about a Dragon, later named “Dinosauris” by a gem of a boy! Her Dragon was introduced on January 24, 2019 in one of her delightful tales and has reappeared in others with Benjamin’s favorite two elves named Jinx and Jangle. Mayhaps one day they, too, will all find themselves in a published book! Since we are on the subject of Dragon’s bringing success to their clever originators, I must make mention of Real and Muff Musgrave’s “Pocket Dragons”…lest my Dragon loving eldest daughter might never forgive me. Real met Muff whilst both were in college in Texas, he an art student drawing life size dragons at the time. They married in 1968 and at some point he began drawing small dragon pictures based on poses of their dog “Flower” that fit into the pocket of his tweed coat. The flat artwork eventually led to figurines that Real sculpted and the first set of 27 figurines went on sale in mid 1989 after being produced in Stoke-on-Kent in England. Real and Muff retained almost complete creative control over the growing line clear up to their retiring in 2005 to their home at Flower Mound, Texas and the retirement of the Pocket Dragon collection that became effective on December 31, 2006 (much to eldest daughter’s dismay). Dragons had provided a significant monetary income that allowed them to travel all over the world as they promoted their creations. As of 2006, thousands upon thousands of the over 400 different Pocket Dragons had been released and found loving homes around the world, as well as games, books and hundreds of other products. I cannot be sure of how many of these adorable Pocket Dragons occupy shelves in eldest daughter’s room, never mind the ones that remain in boxes elsewhere, but it takes her hours to dust each of them with different sized makeup brushes. In honor of the day, one of them went to work with her and most likely posted on Facebook. My Propensity for Loquacity has gone on overly long, but I believe a quote was promised. I leave you with these words of the heroine, Claudia Hampton, in Dame Penelope Lively’s 1987 excellent novel “Moon Tiger” : ” ‘Are there Dragons?’ she asked. I said that there were not. ‘Have there ever been?’ I said all evidence was to the contrary. ‘But, if there is a word Dragon’, she said, ‘then once there must have been Dragons’.” The Dragons and I Thank-YOU!!

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    • Ahhhh, but you are a Sneaky Pete! And another “Ahhhhhh” … you may be right … it could have been included in either a Saturday Surprise or Jolly Monday post! I shall check again tomorrow. What absolutely delightful trivia you have provided to accompany this song! I’m fascinated, especially, by the story of Real and Muff Musgrave and the pocket dragons and have made a note to look it up tomorrow! Thank you, as always, for your wonderful addition to the post! You have brought dragons to life for us! Hugs!

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  4. How the powers-that-be ever saw this as a song about smoking marijuana I will never know, except that they had minds filled with prurient meanness. But that prurience sure helped sell records.
    You have played it before, Jill, my off-again on-again memory agrees with you. Before I even opened the pist I wondered why it wasn’t a redux. No matter. I enjoyed hearing it again. But Sunday past, I think it was, was National Kiss a Ginger Cat Day, and you didn’t play The Cat Came Back. I was oh so looking forward to it, lol. (Belatedly. It was almost midnight when Gail told me that.)

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    • I read the explanation for how it was viewed as being about marijuana last night, and just shook my head. Didn’t even bear repeating. Some people just see shadows behind every tree, I think. I know I remember playing it before, but I looked again tonight and cannot find it. Perhaps it somehow got deleted? Well, I missed National Kiss a Ginger Cat Day for sure, and I’ve never heard the song ‘The Cat Came Back’, so I’m very very sorry to disappoint you on that one! Next time warn me a day or two ahead of time! 😉

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      • Like I will remember by next January. If I write notes to my future self, I put them in places I cannot help but find them. I haven’t found one yet, so I figure I just forgot to remember to write them.
        But it seems I am missing a lot of little things too, like a pocket watch I put away in about 2005. Haven’t seen it since.

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        • Ha ha … I can so relate to that! But, at least you remember that you HAD the pocket watch to begin with, so your mind is still functional. Actually, from conversations we’ve had, I am fairly certain your mind is still sharp as a tack … it’s just thrown out some of the detritus to make room for more important things. Tell Gail I said “Hi!”

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        • Heh heh … I was a teenage hellion, which is why my parents insisted I go to work full-time at age 13 … they figured between that and school, I wouldn’t have time to get into too much trouble. 😉 Ahhhhh … thank you for enlightening me on that definition! Here it just means feisty. I got in trouble with the word “bonk” not long ago, too, for here it just means hit, but on your side of the pond it is a bit different … a lot different, actually. Sometimes I’m not sure we actually speak the same language in the UK and US. Hugs, dear Jack! ❤

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  5. I remember this from when I was quite young, a great sing along, children’s song. However, as an adult I refuse to sing along and nothing you say can make me. Oh, Black Forest Gateau you say, Hmmm. OK, but he;s never going to be a Welsh dragon OK.
    Cwtch

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    • Now wait … this didn’t come out until 1963, when you were 12! Well, I guess relatively speaking that was quite young 😉 Yep, sing it loud enough for me to hear, and you will have a slice of BFG. No, there are none quite like the Welsh dragon, but Puff is cute, don’t you think? I nearly cry every time that Little Jackie Paper stops coming to play with Puff.
      Cwtch

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