First recorded 50 years ago, Peter Paul and Mary
's Puff the Magic Dragon
has a rather sad ending: Puff 'sadly slips into his cave' while little Jackie Paper grows up and puts his childhood behind him. But in 2007, Peter Yarrow published a book, Puff, the Magic Dragon
, in which the classic song remains the same, but whose illustrations give us a new glimpse into Puff's future. Here is Mr. Yarrow, performing the song with his daughter Bethany at Woodstock's Bearsville Theatre, in '07
.Alternate version of the video
. (The Google Books preview of Puff has only a couple of pages available.)
. The song was based on a poem written by Lenny Lipton
in 1959, and then adapted to music by Peter Yarrow. When Yarrow joined Peter, Paul and Mary in 1961, the group played the song at appearances for a year, and then recorded for their first album in 1962.
“Over the years hundreds of people have submitted a last verse to me [about Puff playing with another child]. I was keenly aware of that idea."
One of the main points of the song is that you have to put aside childish things to take your place in the world. You have to live with differences and do your part to do good works and it's a sad time to leave those childish things behind . . . but you can also carry your dragon into your adult years, because that dragon becomes your hopes, your refusal to be cynical. That is your new dragon.
It's about taking that sweetness of your life and not just saying "Okay, I'm off the hook and someone else is going to go off and play with Puff." Your job is to recreate your belief in Puff as an adult. It's up to you to find your Puff the Magic Dragon in the world.
It was an important gesture to have the ending include Jackie Paper's daughter, because I'm giving my world over to my daughter, I'm saying "It's yours now, sweetheart, carry it on." That's what I'm doing with the record and the book.”
A fan's possible alternate final verse, from this thread at the mudcat cafe
"Many summers later as Puff walked along the strand
He looked down and saw some small footprints in the sand.
A voice said, "Mr. Dragon, please don't be so sad.
My name is Jenny Paper and I was sent here by my dad."
A number of recordings of Peter, Paul and Mary (and Peter Yarrow) singing Puff are available on YouTube:
1966, Tonight in Person
Early 1980's: (terrible video quality) Includes an amusing Yarrow monologue before the song debunking a Newsweek story that said Puff was all about drugs.
1980's, Yarrow explains at the beginning that PP&M learned to play the song early in their program, because otherwise the children in the audience would fall asleep before getting to hear it
1988, Live in Concert, PBS
1988, Yarrow, Live at Telluride Opera House
1990, Live in Japan
2001, Peter Yarrow with The Klezmatics at the New Synagogue Berlin
(Has a jazz feel.)
2007, Benefit Concert for Operation Respect
(Also on DailyMotion
2010, Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow appearing at a Barnes and Noble
. (Shaky video taken by someone in the audience. Watching the kids indignantly correct them is kinda adorable.)
Lenny Lipton singing Puff
. In 2009, he posted an entry entitled "Thank you, Puff the Magic Dragon
" to his blog.
In 1978, a Puff the Magic Dragon cartoon was released, with Burgess Meredith voicing Puff
and Jackie's last name changed to Draper, for some reason. / IMDB
And finally: previously on MeFi: Mary Travers' obituary thread