HOW MANY OF YOU STILL LOVE THIS SONG; 'Puff, the Magic Dragon?'
Speculation about drug references
After the song's initial success, speculation arose -- as early as a 1964 article in Newsweek -- that the song contained veiled references to smoking marijuana. For example, the word "paper" in the name of Puff's human friend (Jackie Paper) was said to be a reference to rolling papers, and the word "dragon" was interpreted as "draggin'," i.e. inhaling smoke; similarly, the name "Puff" was alleged to be a reference to taking a "puff" on a joint. The supposition was claimed to be common knowledge in a letter by a member of the public to The New York Times in 1984.
The authors of the song have repeatedly rejected this urban legend and have strongly and consistently denied that they intended any references to drug use. Peter Yarrow has frequently explained that "Puff" is about the hardships of growing older and has no relationship to drug-taking. He has also said of the song that it "never had any meaning other than the obvious one" and is about the "loss of innocence in children".
In 1976, Yarrow's bandmate Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary also upheld the song's innocence. He recorded a version of the song at the Sydney Opera House in March 1976, in which he set up a fictitious trial scene. The Prosecutor accused the song of being about marijuana, but Puff and Jackie protested. The judge finally leaves the case to the jury (the Opera House audience) and says if they will sing along with the song, it will be acquitted. The audience joins in with Stookey, and at the end of their sing-along, the judge declares "case dismissed."
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