1: Barrel - Part 1

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Barrel - Part 1
Original title: Barrel
Don't we all.Original caption: He's fairly upbeat about the situation!
Title text: Don't we all.

Original caption: He's fairly upbeat about the situation!


This was the fifth comic originally posted to LiveJournal, as well as being categorized as comic #1 on xkcd.com. The previous one was 2: Petit Trees (sketch), and the next one was 24: Godel, Escher, Kurt Halsey. It was among the first thirteen comics posted to LiveJournal within 12 minutes on September 30, 2005, on the first day of the xkcd LiveJournal account.

This is the first comic in the The Boy and his Barrel series, which shows a young boy floating in a barrel in an ocean that doesn't have a visible end. It comments on the unlikely optimism and perhaps naïveté people sometimes display. The Barrel Boy is completely lost and seems hopelessly alone, without any plan or control of the situation. Yet rather than afraid or worried, he is instead quietly curious: "I wonder where I'll float next?" Although not necessarily the situation in this comic, this is a behavior people often exhibit when there is nothing they can do about a problematic situation for a long time; they may have given up hope or developed a cavalier attitude as a coping mechanism. The isolation of the boy may also represent the way in which we often feel lost through life, never knowing quite where we are, believing that there is no one to whom to turn. In 1110: Click and Drag there is a reference to this comic at 1 North, 48 East. Wired determined a more realistic description of the behaviour of a barrel in the water.

This is the first in a six-part series of comics whose parts were randomly published during the first several dozen strips. The series features Barrel Boy, a character that is different from what would quickly become the xkcd stick figure style. The full series can be found here. After Randall released the full The Boy and his Barrel story on the site, it became clear that the original comic 20: Ferret was also part of the series. The comics are listed in the order chosen by Randall:

The title text expands on the philosophical content, with the boy representing the average human being: wandering through life with no real plan, quietly optimistic, always opportunistic, and clueless as to what the future may hold.


[A boy sits in a barrel which is floating in an ocean.]
Boy: i wonder where i'll float next?
[A smaller frame with a zoom out of the boy in the barrel seen from afar. The barrel drifts into the distance. Nothing else can be seen.]


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Doesn't his big interactive piece (#1110) refer to this one? -- ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It does. There's a note somewhere in that explanation page referring back to this page. Davidy22[talk] 09:28, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

This comic under my interpretation is that like the kid in the barrel his mind was wandering at the time of his drawing of the comic and it reprsents his wandering mind as he may be bored and it is in the middle of nowhere but at the same time it is somewhere. but its waiting to get someplace (an island?)

--TheWeatherMan (talk) 13:57, 23 January 2013 (UTC)TheWeatherMan

when ever I feel isolated from society, I like to contemplate the ladders I could build for them to see things from my perspective. We will never manage to teach kids how to exist in chaos, we need to outsource our thinking, share ideas, to see new options for each of the impossible answers. Sic-if is here to stay, because it's the only hint we will get of the perfection they want us to achieve. Anything less then the total perfection is unsustainable. - 14:22, 3 March 2013 (UTC)

It's been over five years, so I think I should be that one annoying person who breaks unspoken streaks: If an endless ocean were a representation of life, I'd be the one who's fasioned myself an oar (or I can just use my hands to paddle if I can't get an oar). I then tell the floating people around me, "May the waves bring you luck." I proceed to go toward a location on the horizon that appears arbitrary but is actually something really cool, and then I greet all the other people who have chosen to go here also or were brought by fate/the sea (basically synonymous). Finally, I do cool things. Anyway, this comments section has been very inactive. No purpose, just wanted to motivate y'all to set goals for yourself and let you know that good things will happen if you do. For now, though, it's night, and the others are asleep in their barrels. Good night and why did I write this 07:01, 10 June 2018 (UTC)

Working theory: this IS Beret Guy. This is I think years before his first appearance, and Beret Guy is apparently younger than anyone else who isn't explicitly a child. So this is him. The youngest form of the one who had nothing but wonder...

  That DOES kind of make sense. The part where he rides the winged ferret is just the kind of weird Beret Guy thing that Beret Guy does. :)


I wonder how long it'll take until someone finds and replies to this comment. Qwikster (talk) 02:02, 5 July 2024 (UTC)

I resisted, and slept on it, but... found, a while a go; replied... well... obviously right now. Not that it means much. 10:10, 5 July 2024 (UTC)