39: Bowl

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For the moment it's a standoff
Title text: For the moment it's a standoff


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 quote for this comic (see trivia), Randall states that this is not the barrel boy. This is not only because they have a similar hairstyle. Since the Barrel Boy was floating on the water in a barrel, and this boy is looking into a bowl (not barrel) filled with water, it would be easy to draw some parallels. It was obviously important for Randall to make clear that there were no such connections.


[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 41st comic originally posted to LiveJournal.
  • Original title: "Friday's Drawing - Bowl"
    • This was the last comic where the release day was part of the title on LiveJournal.
    • But the extra word "Drawing" was part of four more of the next five comics.
  • Original Randall quote:
"This is not the barrel boy.
Current Mood: Final Exam-y"
  • 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.
  • This comic thus turned out to be the last that was only posted on LiveJournal.
    • The day after this comic on December 6, 2005, the following was posted on LiveJournal:
"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 also be due to his examinations coming up. But probably he was using a lot of time preparing for the release of his new xkcd site after new year.
  • The next comic was first released almost a month later.
    • On January 4, 2006, 45: Schrodinger became the first comic posted directly on xkcd on the same day as it was posted on LiveJournal.
  • This was the last of the original drawings drawn on checkered paper that was released on LiveJournal.
    • Three other comics, previously not released on LiveJournal, were later released on xkcd, but with numbers below 39.

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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)