The older I get, the more profoundly sad I find Puff The Magic Dragon to be.
Yes, I know you can find a pot metaphor in there. Some people think it’s about Vietnam. But if you listen to it and take at face value as you move through middle age (which, let’s be honest, is an optimistic term at best at my stage of life), the song is nothing more than a gut punch about innocence and childhood lost.
I suppose as time moves on, I realize there’s no return to the Autumn mist of Honahlee. Those shores and its memories grow more and more distant with each passing year.
What really gets me, though, is having a kid who is still very much able to visit that land and frolic there carefree as can be. But I know that one day she too will sail away never to return to play along that cherry lane. And it’s heartbreaking in a way. We want our kids to be able to stay on that lovely isle, but we know they can’t. The world won’t let them, and they’re not even going to want to stay there, because of human nature.
But you know, there’s also this. Sometimes I’m not convinced we are all just Jackie Paper, moving on to finding other toys. Sometimes I think we are all Puff, retreating into our caves, heads bent in sorrow, as the world moves on and away, and we lose the bravery to scream our fearless roars.
For a time.
Dragons, by their nature, don’t stay sad forever. They eventually burst from their caves and fly majestically through the air. Then a tertiary character shows up and pops them with an arrow based on the advice of a bird. I’m not sure where I’m heading with this, the point is that Tolkien should have let a major character kill Smaug, instead of a random guy named Bard. I mean, seriously.
I think the point is that we all lose our innocence and childlike wonder. We all retreat for a time into our metaphorical caves. And then we are randomly murdered by a resident of Laketown. Which is a lazy, dumb name.
But what do you expect from the guy who came up with Tom Bombadil. What was that all about?
Anyway, I think what I’m really getting at, is enjoy Honahlee while you can, and look back on it fondly. And whether you be the child that sails away or the dragon that’s left behind, you’ll find your way. You’ll find your life or your roar again. And then Bard will come out of nowhere and kill you.