A Peter, Paul and Mary song about the loss of childhood innocence, not drugs as urban legends have often asserted. The most common variant of the story is that the song refers to marijuana, supposedly because of the following things in the lyrics:
  • "Puff" is a smoking reference
  • "magic" means that something more interesting than ordinary tobacco is being smoked
  • "dragon" = "drag in" or inhale
  • the name of "Jackie Paper" refers to rolling papers
  • "autumn mist" is supposed to be either clouds of smoke or the fog of the drug user's mind
  • "the land of Honah Lee" is supposed to be a village in Hawaii, called Hanalei, where particularly strong marijuana was grown
Other versions of the story include the interpretation of "sea" as "C" for "cocaine" and the idea that "Honah Lee" is some sort of slang for heroin.

The song's lyrics are based on a poem by Leonard "Lenny" Lipton, a college friend of Peter Yarrow, the "Peter" of Peter, Paul and Mary. Lipton was inspired in 1959 by the Ogden Nash poem "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" to write his own poem featuring a dragon. He has pointed out that in 1959, drugs were unknown at Cornell, the institution they attended. Yarrow is supposed to have found Lipton's poem in his apartment's typewriter and written a tune for it, along with making some additions during the adaptation. Both authors are adamant that the song is about the loss of childhood innocence and not drugs.

Peter, Paul and Mary's version was number 2 on the U.S. pop charts in 1963. It was some time later that the rumor became well-known, possibly originating but at least being spread by an article in Newsweek magazine about coded drug references in songs. (Different sources give this article as being anywhere from 1965 to 1967.) Yarrow says he was later told that reporters for the magazine had said they purposely made up the drug references for "Puff" as the most innocuous possible song, and one has since apologized to him. Because the song's biggest popularity had passed before the article, it did not suffer the radio bannings that songs like the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" did when they were current. But the story lived; even the 2000 movie "Meet the Parents" refers to it.

Peter, Paul and Mary have been known to poke fun at the story by performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in concert with pauses to explain how the U.S. national anthem can also contain drug references if you interpret it that way.

Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff, oh!

Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name, oh!


A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
(Yarrow now sings this line "Not so girls and boys")
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One grey night it happened; Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff, that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar

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!

(chorus, sadly)

(more upbeat version they perform live)
Puff the magic dragon lives by the sea
(in a live performance I saw, the singers shout "Present Tense!" at this point)
And frolicks in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff the magic dragon lives by the sea
And frolicks in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee!

The song (variously credited as "Puff, the Magic Dragon," "Puff (the Magic Dragon)," or just "Puff") has appeared on numerous Peter, Paul, and Mary albums:

  • Moving (1963)
  • In Concert (1964)
  • In Japan (1967)
  • Ten Years Together (1969)
  • Peter, Paul and Mommy (1969)
  • Peter, Paul and Mommy Too (1993)
  • Around the Campfire (1998)
  • The Collection (1998)
  • Carry It On (2004)

In 1978, a half-hour children's TV cartoon based on the song was released, in which Jackie Paper learns the value of communication and courage from Puff; Burgess Meredith did the voice of Puff, and Peter Yarrow voiced Jackie's father. It was followed the next year by Puff the Magic Dragon in the Land of the Living Lies.


The nickname given by US ground troops in Vietnam to the venerable Douglas DC-3 (aka C-47, aka Dakota, aka Gooney Bird) in its close air support role.

First used in Vietnam in October 1964, the planes were fitted with side-firing General Electric MXU-470/A 7.62-mm Minigun pods at the midship door stations. Rocket pods and other ordnance were often aboard, but the miniguns were the main event, because of their ability to put a bullet into every square foot of a football field every minute. Able to carry prodigious amounts of ammunition and to loiter where needed better than jet aircraft, the planes often flew at night, for their own safety and because that was when ground troops most desperately needed support.

To troops dug in at night and facing an unseen enemy, the arrival of Puff in a snarling drone of electrically-fired guns spitting tongues of fire and trailing tails of smoke and falling brass was the most welcome sight imaginable.

(and probably quite a show if you were on the local chronic - every fifth round a tracer)

The nickname was less frequently applied to the Dakota's more sophisticated successor, the AC-130 Spectre gunship.

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