39: Bowl

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Original title: Friday's Drawing - Bowl
For the moment it's a standoffOriginal caption: This is not the barrel boy.Current Mood: Final Exam-y
Title text: For the moment it's a standoff

Original caption: This is not the barrel boy.
Current Mood: Final Exam-y


This was the forty-first comic originally posted to LiveJournal. The previous one was 43: Red Spiders 2, and the next one was 45: Schrodinger.

The comic roughly parodies a situation in which two characters are seeing who can wait longer to get the result they want. However, in the comic, the model sailing ship is not alive and doesn't experience time (except perhaps if it absorbs water and falls apart or beaches once the water in the bowl evaporates). The comic compares the patience of a boy with that of an inanimate object. Also, it could imply that the boy has too much time on his hands. Like many of the earlier comics, some of this comic's humor comes from the surreality of the situation. The gravity of the boy's statement is juxtaposed with the insignificance of a child's toy floating in a bowl of water. On one level, the absurdity of this is funny in itself; on another level, the audience is invited to imagine what might possibly be going through the boy's mind to make him take this toy and bowl so seriously.

Alternatively, the comic can be taken to recognize the mortality and ultimate fate of death/decay for both the boat and the boy, creating a grim moral. But, if one goes deeper into meaning, one could realize that the comic itself is humorous for trying to make a fatalistic statement using a boy and a toy boat, still making the comic ultimately humorous.

In the original caption for this comic, Randall states that this is not Barrel Boy because it would be easy to draw some parallels. They have a similar hairstyle and Barrel Boy was floating on the water in a barrel, while this boy is looking into a bowl filled with water.


[A boy is glaring at a model sailing ship floating in a bowl of water.]
Boy: Sooner or later, my friend, one of us will run out of time.


  • This was the last comic that was only posted on LiveJournal, as Randall made a LiveJournal post the following day titled "Announcement":
    What with winter break starting and the like, I'll probably be going off my regular update schedule. I'll try to post something here and there, and might end up doing more drawings than I expect, but won't stick to the MWF schedule.
    Thanks for the support! This has been and will continue to be a lot of fun.
This may be due to his exams coming up, or the preparation for the release of xkcd.com the following year. The next LiveJournal comic, 45: Schrodinger, was released almost a month later. See LiveJournal for more info.
  • This was the last comic where the release day was part of the title on LiveJournal. The extra word "Drawing" would be abandoned a few comics later.

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How do we know that there isn't someone on the boat? They may be waiting for the boy to go to sleep before trying to escape. 01:43, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

Actually, this is an alternate ending to the clasic early eighties adventure movie "Time Bandits", but I would not expect you to know that as "you are so mercilessly free from the ravages of intelligence".--TheTimeBandit (talk) 21:52, 27 October 2017 (UTC)

Agreed: There are several scenarios, including I think a Heinlein short story, Time Bandits, and others. Or it could even be some other situation Randal{1,2} just made up. The assumption that this is a child staring down an inanimate object is a bit of a leap. It's a plurality likelyhood at best. — Kazvorpal (talk) 01:16, 24 April 2019 (UTC)

the kid might be like some elder god, watch down on the boat

At first glance I thought the boy runs out of time when mom calls him for dinner (or some other boyish commitment) and the boat simply runs out of time when it sinks. I don't know if that can help interpret this scene. Just to say, I LOVE these comics and all the Muoroe stuff! 15:03, 22 May 2023 (UTC)