Puff the Magic Dragon is at once both a happy little song and a sad, depressing view of life.
When Puff is with Jackie Paper, he’s happy and fearless as he goes on adventures with the little boy. However, Jackie grows up and moves on to other friends, leaving Puff lonely, depressed, and isolated.
As a child, I cried for Puff because he had been happy like I wanted to be, but he turned out sad and lonely like me. Crying for Puff was actually crying for myself and my Little Kid inside. I knew exactly how Puff felt, and it proved to me at that time that, even if I could become happy, it wouldn’t last and I would become sad and depressed again, just like poor Puff.
Years later, I was introduced to CoDA, Co-Dependents Anonymous, and learned that Puff was too dependent on Jackie for his happiness. I starting judging Puff as weak and co-dependent, and the song was no longer a happy little song at all, but a completely sad song of a dragon who gave away his power and ability to have fun to a free-willed Jackie, who was off onto other adventures.
Not having thought of Puff until many years later, I heard the song and listened anew. With my current understanding that our joy and happiness are found within ourselves, my hope for Puff is that he takes back his power by realizing that he has total control over his own happiness, and that he continues on his adventures, perhaps occasionally sharing that happiness with other little girls and boys, helping them see the brightness of the world. Because dragons live forever, Puff has an infinite number of adventures to share with others, uplifting them and showing them their own internal joy and happiness.
If I were a lyricist, I would change the last verse from:
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave oh
to something like:
Although he’d miss his Jackie, Puff did not feel pain
Puff still smiled and went to play along the cherry lane
And then one day he met a boy he would befriend
So Puff that mighty dragon roared out his name again oh
No one has the power to make you happy or make you sad. Events happen, but you have total control over your reactions, feelings, and emotions to those events – once you see you have options to the way you have always felt. May your days be filled with joy, happiness, and adventures.
All italicized quotes are from “Puff”, Songwriters: Leonard Lipton / Peter Yarrow, Puff lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management US, LLC, released in 1963