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Puff the Magic Dragon

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Puff the Magic Dragon is a popular 1960s folk song written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. If you are like me, you've no doubt heard that this song was written in reference to marijuana usage. This interpretation of the song was pretty deep. Jackie Paper, Puff's human friend referenced in the first verse has been compared to Paper, like the stuff you roll the drug in. The Sea the dragon lived by is said to represent the "C" for cannibis. The autumn "mist" was referencing smoke. Puff, of course, referenced taking a drag on the joint.

Peter Yarrow has long since denied the drug references. Instead, saying it was based loosely from the words of a poem by Leonard Lipton about a pet dragon. The two attended Cornell University together, and Lipton used Yarrow's typewriter to write the poem. Later, when Yarrow wrote the song, he credited Lipton with the idea and half the lyrics, and Lipton even received royalties from the song until he died.

The people of Hanalei Bay, on the island of Kauai, offer a simpler explanation for the strange lyrics to this song. It is believed that Lipton's poem and Yarrow's song were referencing the "sleeping dragon" that protects Hanalei Bay. The song does reference the mythical land called Honah Lee where Puff lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist.

What's interesting is that Hanalei Bay is always misty around its beach and surrounding mountains. And on its coastline rests the "sleeping dragon that protects the bay." The dragon is nestled gently into the green hillside, at the edge of the sea. The dragon's eye can clearly be seen from the opposite beach and pier. Its head faces south, and its tail gets lost in the green landscape behind it. It is conceivable that the land of Honah Lee could be Hanalei, and "Puff" could be referencing the mist that forever surrounds Kauai's dragon by the sea.

Peter Yarrow has claimed that this interpretation is just a "serendipitous coincidence." However, the people we talked to in Kauai didn't think so. Either way, the area was absolutely beautiful. We were able to enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, and a boat tour in the crescent bay. All while under the watchful eye of the sleeping dragon of Hanalei.

If you have the chance to go to Hanalei Bay, take it!

Can you find the dragon in the pics?


Discussion on tours in Hanalei Bay

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