"Sheherezade gathering stories to tell..."

The Annotated "What's Become of the Baby"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Copyright notice
What's Become of the Baby?
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

Waves of violet go crashing and laughing
Rainbow winged singing birds fly round the sun
Sunbells rain down in a liquid profusion
Mermaids on porpoises draw up the dawn

What's become of the baby
This cold December morning?

frozen in their flight
drifting to the earth
remnants of forgotten dreaming
answer comes there none
Go to sleep you child
Dream of never ending always

Panes of crystal
Eyes sparkle like waterfalls
lighting the polished ice caverns of Khan
But where in the looking-glass fields of illusion
wandered the child who was perfect as dawn?

What's become of the Baby
this cold December morning?

rhythms of the sun
all the world revolves
captured in the eye of Odin
Pray where are you now?
All Mohammed's men
blinded by the sparkling water

Sheherazade gathering stories to tell
from primal gold fantasy petals that fall
But where is the child
who played with the sun chimes
and chased the cloud sheep
to the regions of rhyme?

cries the south wind
Lost in the regions of lead
Shackled by chains of illusion
Delusions of living and dead

What's Become of the Baby?

Recorded on AOXOMOXOA, 1969. Due to an experiment in recording technology, this song is practically unlistenable, yet it has always been intriguing to those who follow the Dead's lyrics. Personally, I remember spending hours attempting to transcribe this song from the album; picking up the needle and putting it back down; consulting with friends who had their own theories. Garcia has been quoted as saying that the key to listening to the song is to get some nitrous oxide. I don't know about that...

Only performance known: (Thanks, Josh Frankel, for pointing this out): April 26, 1969, at the Electric Theater in Chicago. "What's Become of the Baby" appeared in a monster encore which included drums, "Viola Lee Blues," "Caution Jam," feedback, and "We Bid You Goodnight."

What's become of the baby

See Sharp ballad 228: "What'll We Do With the Baby?":
"What'll we do the with baby?
What'll we do with the baby?
What'll we do with the baby?
Oh we'll wrap it up in calico
Oh we'll wrap it up in calico
And send it to its pappy, O."

There's also the line in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, in which the Cheshire Cat asks Alice: "What became of the baby?" She replies that the baby turned into a pig and ran away.

Ice caverns of Khan

A reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan: a Vision in a Dream (1816). From The Dictionary of Imaginary Places:
"Xanadu, a kingdom on the coast of Asia where Kubla Khan ordered a stately pleasure dome to be constructed, described as "a miracle of rare device." The caves of ice beneath the sunny dome are particularly enchanting. ... It was in the nearby, ancient forests, in a savage, holy and enchanted places where women can be heard wailing for their demon lovers, that a mighty fountain of water, flung up violently from a deep chasm, was revealed to be the source of the sacred river Alph." (p. 416)
Coleridge received the vision of Xanadu, he said, while in an opium-induced trance. He awoke from the trance having been given the poem, which he wrote down, but was interrupted, and only was only to commit a small portion of the poem to page. The introduction which Coleridge wrote for the publication of "Kubla Khan" included a part of another poem, which is mentioned in the annotation to "Ripple".

Kubla Khan (usually Kublai Khan) (1216-1294): Grandson of Ghengis Khan, ruled from Peking, which he founded. Marco Polo visited his court.


The mirror makes two appearances in the AOXOMOXOA song cycle, showing itself in Rosemary as well. The evocations are many: among them, Alice Through the Looking-glass; The album-cover's own palindromic nature; and the film "Orphee" (1949) by Jean Cocteau. In Cocteau's vision, Orpheus, who is a candidate for the identity of the "baby", disappears into a looking-glass world.


According to Bulfinch's Mythology:
"Odin. The Scandinavian name of the god called by the Anglo- Saxons Woden; the god of wisdom, poetry, war, and agriculture. He became the All-wise by drinking from Mimir's fountain at the cost of one eye. His remaining eye is the Sun. [!] ... His two black ravens are Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory)."
Mimir seems worth a look as well:
"Mimir. In Norse mythology, a giant water demon. He dwells at "Mimir's Well," the source of all wisdom."


"The word presented in Islam as the proper name of God." (Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 6, p. 27)

Appears to be etymologically derived from the ancient Semitic root, el, meaning God.

Used in this song, it seems to refer back to the Khan character, who is of non-specific Asiatic derivation.

The other reference to Allah in the Grateful Dead universe is the "Blues for Allah" lyric by Hunter.


The storyteller of the Arabian Nights . According to Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia,:
"Arabian Nights' Entertainments, The A collection of ancient Persian-Indian-Arabian tales, orginally in Arabic, arranged in its present form about 1450, probably in Cairo. ... Although the stories are discrete in plot, they are unified by Scheherazade, the supposed teller; she postpones her execution by telling her husband, Schahriah, a story night after night, without revealing the climax until the following session." (p. 42)
Hunter also refers to the Arabian Nights in "Blues for Allah", with the line, "The thousand stories have come round to one again."

Where is the child

Could it be that the baby who is lost is the same child who was wrapped in scarlet colors in St. Stephen?" If so, then this child could be Orpheus, the child of Calliope and Apollo. The tale of Orpheus appears a few times in the course of Hunter's career, most notably in "Reuben and Cherise."
keywords: @baby, @mirror, @Allah
DeadBase code: none (DeadBase doesn't include the 4/26/69 performance yet.)
First poste: March 15, 1995
Last revised: March 26, 1997