Saturday, September 19, 2009

Puff the Magic Dragon

The death this week of Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame instantly reminded me of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pelkey. She was young, pretty, and often brought her guitar to class to sing to us. My favorite? "Puff the Magic Dragon"

The song has held a special place in my heart since then, but as I thought about it this week I realized I'd forgotten most of the words. It was mostly the catchy chorus that played over and over in my head. I reviewed the lyrics and was a bit surprised to remember it tells a pretty sad story.

As many of you probably know, in the song, Puff and his young human friend Jackie use their imagination to have many different adventures when they play together. Everything is wonderful until Jackie gets older, and he leaves Puff and their imaginative play behind. Puff becomes depressed and crawls back into his cave, leaving the shores of the magical seaside place of Honalee.

This song touched me as a child. I believe it is because imagination has always been important to me. Our imagination is our strongest tool as writers. I don't want to give up that childish enthusiasm for make-believe.

(BTW, I know there is a popular belief that this song is about smoking marijuana, but because I like the outward message of the song and it is associated with a fond memories of a beloved teacher, I choose to believe Peter, Paul, and Mary's assertion that it is not.)


  1. I agree with you. I hate when outside people assert that beloved songs are about drugs.

    I have two strong memories of Peter Paul and Mary: First I was at a youth activity and my friend pulled out a guitar. My mom picked it up and sang "500 Miles" like only someone who lived in the 60's could. I was blown away. I didn't know my mom could play at all.

    The other happened about the same time. It was at an Open Mike performance at my school (someday I'll show you Steve's open mike performance--wow teen angst all over it). It was a girl and her mom and they sang "Leavin On a Jet Plane" and WOW they were amazing. The girl played a 12 string guitar. I've been haunted by that song ever since.

    Thank you for the post Linda and the trip down memory lane. :)

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  3. Music has always inspired me. When I sit down to write, many times I listen to music for a little while, to help get me in the right mood. Works every time.

  4. I usually need quiet to write, but music does inspire me, just not in the moment. "Puff the Magic Dragon" Is my kids fav. It also makes me think of Meet the Parents. I can't help it.