Title text: My brother had a ferret he loved which died since I drew this strip. RIP.
Cueball built wings for his ferret. His (Cueball-like) friend asks why he did this, indicating that it would be foolish to think that this would allow the ferret to fly, and also denigrating the notion of wanting one's pet to fly in the first place. Cueball did, in fact, build these wings in hopes of allowing his ferret to fly, but dissembles in order to avoid losing face with his friend. Then the friend suggests they go play video games instead, while Cueball imagines the ferret actually flying.
The fact that Cueball lies about his goal could be a commentary on abandoning dreams to avoid confronting societal expectations.
The title text refers to the fact that Randall's brother in real life had such a pet ferret. Originally, Randall drew this comic while the ferret was still alive, and then it passed away in between his posting it on LiveJournal and reposting it with a title text on the new xkcd site. He now wishes that it will rest in peace.
The ferret returns in 31: Barrel - Part 5 and did in this way become part of the Barrel series. This has also been canonized by Randall as can be seen on this web-archive version of xkcd: The Boy and his Barrel.
The full series can be found here. But below they are listed in the order Randall has put them in his collection linked to above:
- 1: Barrel - Part 1
- 20: Ferret
- 11: Barrel - Part 2
- 22: Barrel - Part 3
- 25: Barrel - Part 4
- 31: Barrel - Part 5
- [A color drawing of a ferret with airplane wings and tail on it.]
- [Cueball and his Cueball-like friend (to the left) are talking.]
- Friend: Why on earth did you make those wings? You don't seriously think they could let your ferret fly, right?
- Cueball: I... of course not.
- [They continue to talk.]
- Cueball: That would be pretty dumb. It's just, uh... ...a Halloween costume.
- Friend: oh, okay.
- [They continue to talk. The head of the ferret can be seen to the far right on a table.]
- Friend: Besides, who would want a pet to fly anyway?
- Cueball: Yeah. Pretty lame, huh?
- [The friend leaves the frame while Cueball stays. The ferret cannot be seen.]
- Friend: Anyway, let's go play video games.
- [Cueball stands behind after his friend has left. He looks back towards his ferret.]
- [Cueball imagines his ferret flying over the ocean near the beach using his makeshift wings while holding his ferret.]
- This was the 19th comic originally posted to LiveJournal.
- The previous was 19: George Clinton.
- The next was 21: Kepler.
- Original title: "Friday's Drawing"
- Original Randall quote: "My brother has a ferret. He holds it like that and generally adores it. I have to concede that it's pretty cute, if smelly."
- This comic was posted on xkcd when the web site opened on Sunday the 1st of January 2006.
- It was posted along with all 41 comics posted before that on LiveJournal as well as a few others.
- The latter explaining why the numbers of these 41 LiveJournal comics ranges from 1-44.
- One of the original drawings drawn on checkered paper.
- A tank-top shirt based on this comic is available in the xkcd store.
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The wings are gonna have to be waay bigger if that plane is gonna fly. Davidy22[talk] 04:23, 4 February 2013 (UTC)
I wonder if the flying ferret has anything to do with Richard Bach, a noted aviation author who published a series of flying books called "The Ferret Chronicles" in 2002-2003? --188.8.131.52 21:58, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
This is the saddest strip of all! -- Saijm4444 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Jonathan Livingston Ferret. -- anonymous (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Could this comic be where the FlyingFerret IRC bot in #xkcd on foonetic.net was originally conceived? 184.108.40.206 23:55, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
Cueball could have let the matter drop with, "of course not." Instead, he deprecates both himself and his efforts while aligning himself with his friend's more pedestrian opinion. He makes a deliberate and public show of conformity. However, the last two panels show that, privately, he hasn't given up on the dream of wings for his ferret. Flight, especially in imagination or dreams, often represents freedom. Also, pets can sometimes be seen as extensions or representations of their owners. The dream of flight for the ferret could represent Cueball's desire for freedom from social strictures that he feels confine him. --DP9000 (talk) 09:23, 17 February 2016 (UTC)
I think it would be a nice irony if the video game they went off to play involved a pet which flies e.g. dragon. Pet dragons seem to feature in multiple games.EditorGonk (talk) 09:50, 19 July 2018 (UTC)
Every time I see someone saying that first few hundred xkcd comics were the worst it hurts, mostly because of this one. 220.127.116.11 12:12, 3 October 2021 (UTC)
It's Kiki from "Sluggy Freelance"! https://archives.sluggy.com/book.php?chapter=13#1999-06-24