Video of the Week: Lenny Lipton Clears the Air About His Poem ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’

Despite plenty of circumstantial evidence to the contrary (Jackie Paper = rolling papers, “puff” = to take a puff from a joint, “dragon” = “draggin'” i.e. to take a drag, etc.) Peter, Paul & Mary have always insisted “Puff the Magic Dragon” has nothing to do with marijuana, but rather is a lament for the lost innocence of childhood.

Peter Yarrow was inspired to write the song by a poem he found on a typewriter, a poem written by Lenny Lipton and in turn inspired by an earlier poem, Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash.

In this video Lipton reveals the poem’s origins and puts to rest the persistent legend that the song was written as a veiled drug anthem (although of course people will still believe what they choose).

Incidentally, the poem originally had an additional verse in which Puff found another child to play with after returning. But neither Yarrow nor Lipton have clear recollection of the missing verse, and the original paper Lipton left in the typewriter is lost.

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