Puff the Magic Dragon is the saddest story I have ever heard. Sadder than Shakespeare, sadder than a Greek tragedy. It’s the story of growing up and losing the magic in life. What could be sadder than that?
A song by the folk singers Peter, Paul, and Mary, Puff the Magic Dragon is about a little boy named Jackie Paper who has an imaginary friend, a dragon named Puff. Jackie and Puff get up to all sorts of fun, but, then one day Jackie grows up and stops playing with Puff. And Puff? Well, without his boy, he…disappears.
“One gray 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 lifelong friend,
Puff could not be brave.
So Puff that mighty dragon,
Sadly slipped into his cave.”
Whenever I hear, or even think about, Puff ceasing his fearless roar because Jackie doesn’t believe in him anymore, it breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Every time! I can read Romeo and Juliet without a tinge of sadness, and I can read the saddest literary fiction with a dry eye, but Puff? It pulls at my heartstrings like nothing else.
It reminds me of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. If I read a strip where Calvin walked away from Hobbes and the stuffed tiger could no longer come to life and play with Calvin, I’d be devastated. Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where Hobbes does not come to life.
I’m also thankful that I never had to see Christopher Robin grow up and stop believing in Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. I don’t think I could handle that! As far as I’m concerned, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and all the others are still living happily (or grumpily, for Eeyore) in the Hundred Acre Wood.
It’s the idea that we lose our belief in magic when we grow up that makes me sad. I want there to be magic and make-believe in the world, even as an adult. Maybe that’s why I regularly reread Winnie-the-Pooh, Calvin and Hobbes, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. In those worlds magic still lives and when I’m visiting everyone is alive and well and doing fun things. And that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.
What about you? What is the saddest story to you? Do you have a world where you hope the magic is never broken?