WTFAW: Puff, The Magic Dragon

It’s time to take another look into Drug Theories. This time, we’re going way back, all the way to the 1960’s!

Dave, bring on the stupid.

Dave: The theory is that “Puff, The Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary is about marijuana.

Aah, you gotta love the classics… So, what are the arguments?

Dave: Well, come on. they weren’t even trying with that! The kids name is Jackie PAPER, and “Puff the Magic Dragon” is a well known euphemism for smoking pot. The Paper is clearly a reference to rolling papers, for rolling joints.

That’s all? In that case, let’s start with the euphemism. While you’re right about it being a well known euphemism, the problem is that the euphemism is NAMED AFTER THE SONG, not the other way around!

The confusion might have arisen since, before this song, there was another drug related slang term referring to dragons. “Chasing the Dragon“. But that was a reference to smoking OPIUM, not Marijuana.

As for the name of the kid… isn’t it as bit strange that the character supposedly doing drugs is himself named after drug paraphernalia? It doesn’t really work, does it?

And where do strings and sealing wax fit into the idea?

Dave: Well, bongs, obviously!

Right…. what kind of crappy excuse for a bong can you make out of string?! Sealing wax, MAYBE, but string?!

Don’t get me wrong. I admit it might be possible to make a bong out of string… But somehow, I doubt that McGuyver ever smoked pot.

Dave: But it’s so obvious! The song is about someone smoking pot! It’s all metaphorical.

Is it? What about this verse?

Together they would travel on a boat with a billowed sail.

Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail.

Noble kings and Princes would bow wherever they came,

pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name.

Dave: Well, it’s clearly a drug induced hallucination!

An interesting idea, but the problem with that is, as we’ve established, Marijuana doesn’t have that effect! It doesn’t create such vivid hallucinations. You are, once again, confusing Cannabis with LSD, Salvia or a similar hallucinogenic.

Dave: Well, maybe it’s a song about one of those…

Oh no, you don’t get to switch drugs now. And like you said, the term “Puff the magic dragon” is specifically a reference to smoking pot.

You know what the song is really about? It’s about growing up, losing the innocence of your childhood, and it’s inspired by a poem called “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” from 1936.

Dave: Where did you get that from?

Peter Yarrow, the guy who wrote the song.

Dave: Oh, you take his word for it? You’re so naïve! They just said that to be allowed to sell the song.

And they would keep up the lie for more than 50 years because….?

But yes, I take his word for it, along with the fact that, as we’ve established, the drug it’s supposedly about doesn’t have the effects the song describes.

Oh, and there is another thing… The song was marketed at children!

Do you know how Peter, Paul and Mary reacted when they heard of this supposed “subtext”?

They were fucking horrified!

One of them was quoted as saying “What kind of mean spirited SOB would make a childrens song with a covert drug message?!

And as “for just saying it to be allowed to sell the song”, here’s a quick history lesson for you.

Peter, Paul and Mary was one of the most popular folk bands of the 1960’s, and remain so to this day. Do you seriously think that if they wrote a song about Marijuana, they would have to hide it in subtext and be metaphorical in order to sell it?  conversely, listen to Sugarman or Purple Haze. They sure as hell didn’t need to HIDE the drug references to be allowed to sell the song, with sugarman having lines like this

Silver majik ships, you carry
Jumpers, coke, sweet MaryJane

Really, the reason people think this song is about drugs, is because it was a folk song in the 1960’s, and people assumed it HAD to be about drugs.

Dave: Yeah, can you blame them! All bands wrote about drugs back then!

Really? Name five other songs by Peter, Paul and Mary that were secretely about drugs. In fact, name five songs that were OVERTLY about drugs.

Guess what. I’d be stunned if you found ONE.

And even then, I can almost guarantee that I could explain exactly why it doesn’t make sense.

Because fan theories almost never do.

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