“Puff, the Magic Dragon” Controversy.

The lyrics hereunder tell the story of an ageless dragon named “Puff”, and his playmate, “Jackie Paper”, latter a little boy who grows up and moves on from the imaginary adventures of childhood, leaving a rather disheartened “Puff” without a friend. The song’s story takes place by the sea in the fictional land of Honah-Lee.

Just over 60 years ago a song entitled “Puff, the Magic Dragon” (or “Puff”); written by Peter Yarrow a member of that great American folk group known as “Peter, Paul and Mary” was recorded and released in January 1963. The song was based on a poem initially written by Leonard Lipton.

Even though the song’s composer, Peter Yarrow, insisted that it was not talking about smoking marijuana, that wasn’t good enough for then United States Vice President Spiro Agnew, who deemed it to be pro-narcotics and called for the banning of the tune.
Despite the voices of the powerful and those seeking attention, speaking out against the song, it ended up being a smash hit, peaking at No 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and thus becoming one of the folk trio’s most enduring of hits.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Peter Yarrow insisted that the song was about the hardships of growing older and had absolutely no relationship, whatsoever, to drug-taking.

After the song’s initial success, speculation suggested, in a 1964 article published in Newsweek, that the song contained veiled references to smoking marijuana. The word “Paper” as in the surname “Jackie Paper”, the dragons human friend was claimed to be a reference to rolling cigarette papers; the words “by the sea” were interpreted as “by the C” (i.e. as in cannabis), the word “mist” supposedly stood for “smoke”, the land of “Honah-Lee” stood for “hashish”, and “dragon” was interpreted as “draggin” (i.e. inhalation of smoke). The name “Puff” was supposed to be a reference to taking a “puff” on a joint.
These suppositions later was claimed to be common knowledge to everyone; in a letter sent to The New York Times in 1984.
The song was banned in Singapore and Hong Kong because authorities believed it did contain references to a drug culture. Our readers can now make up their own minds.

Puff (The Magic Dragon)

Words and Music: Peter Yarrow and the late Leonard Lipton (1940 – 2022)

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.

Oh! Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah-Lee.
Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea,
And frolicked In the autumn mist in a land called Honah­-Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail;
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puffs gigantic tail.
Noble kings and princes would bow whene’er they came.
Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name.
Repeat Chorus

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 that cherry lane.
Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.
Repeat Chorus


Several new optional verses have since been introduced, including:-

One fine day it happened; Puff woke up from a dream.
He thought he heard a familiar voice and Jackie’s laugh it seemed.
He looked around his cavern and over by the door,
Stood a little boy with a piece of string and a smile he’d seen before.

“Hello My name is Billy, my dad told me your name.
He said I’d find you in the cave along the cherry lane”
Puff, that mighty dragon smiled in his joy,
He’d never be alone again for this was Jackie’s boy.


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