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The Broken Ear begins with a bizarre robbery. A fetish created by the South American Arumbaya tribe is stolen from the Museum of Ethnography, only to be returned the following day - apparently stolen only as a prank. Tintin realises the 'returned' fetish is a fake and quickly discovers that a local sculptor who specialised in making primitive art has died under odd circumstances. Rightly believing the theft and the sculptor's death to be linked Tintin begins his investigation.
Having had a run in with the crooks Ramon and Alonso (also on the elusive trail of the real fetish) Tintin takes ship for the troubled South American republic of San Theodoros where he ends up caught up in a revolution and the intriuges that follow before he finally manages to track down the Arumbayas. Unfortunately Ramon and Alonso are still after the fetish and are fully willing to kill to lay their hands on it.
The Broken Ear introduced General Alcazar, later an important reccurring character and ally of Tintin. With San Theodoros (and it's neighbour Nuevo-Rico) Hergé also created the first of his fictional countries and languages - in the original French edition the Arumbayas speak a language based on Marollien (a Flemish dialect) and in the English translation they are speaking phonetic Cockney English!
- Badass Spaniard: General Alcazar.
- Banana Republic: San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico.
- Chew Toy: Corporal Diaz.
- Darker and Edgier: Even ignoring the revolution and the war The Broken Ear probably has the highest 'onscreen' bodycount in the series the sculptor Balthazar (killed by Tortilla), Tortilla (drowned by Alonzo and Ramon), Corporal Diaz (killed by his own bomb) and Alonzo and Ramon (drowned.) Additionally while the story probably has more gags than the previous adventure the comedy tends towards the dark (see Shot At Dawn below).
- Deus Ex Machina: Perhaps literally this time: Just when Alonzo is about to shoot a tied up Tintin the house they're in is struck by lightning that sends Tintin flying out of the house!
- The Ghost: General Tapioca and Tortilla.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: Both Colonel/Corporal Diaz and Alonso have Bald of Evil and Alonso has a Beard of Evil too. On the good side the English explorer Ridgewell has a long white, bushy beard.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The crook Ramon is a chain smoker of cigarettes.
- Heel Face Turn: Pablo
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Corporal Diaz.
- Karma Houdini: The odious oil man Trickler and arms manafacturer Bazarov who between them cook up a war.
- Living MacGuffin: Balthazar's parrot.
- Punny Name: 'Korrupt Arms'
- Ripped from the Headlines: The war between San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico was based on the then very recent Gran Chaco War
- Running Gag: Ramon always throws his knifes too far to the right.
- Shot At Dawn: Hilariously played with - Tintin is framed as a revolutionary and sentenced to death by firing squad, only to be saved when an officer rushes in with news that General Tapioca has been overthrown and Tintin can thus go free. As he is being untied another officer rushes in with news that Tapioca has defeated the revolution so Tintin will have to face the firing squad after all. Fortunately their rifles have been sabotaged and by the time they have been fixed the revolutionaries really have won.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Alonzo and Ramon.
- Unknown Rival: Corporal Diaz begins a vendetta against Tintin and Alcazar, and not only does he do more harm to himself than to them, but half the time they don't even notice his attempts on their lives.