The Broken Ear (L'Oreille cassée) is one of the The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero. The Broken Ear is sixth in the series.
The Broken Ear was serialized in Le Petit Vingtième from 1935 to 1937, and first collected in book form in French in 1937. It first appeared in colours in 1943. The Broken Ear features the Shuari indigenous people, named as Jivaros and famous for their tsantsas, or "shrunken heads".
The story begins when a fetish which originally belonged to a tribe of South American Indians is stolen from the Museum of Ethnography in the town where Tintin lives. The following day it is back in the museum, along with a note apologizing for the inconvenience caused, saying that the reason had been a bet. Tintin, who is among the reporters looking into the story, realizes that the replacement is a fake, the distinction being an ear broken on the original but intact on the replacement.
He finds a book with an image of the fetish, drawn by an explorer: it confirms that one of the ears is damaged, while the one back in the museum is not. Tintin then reads that a wood carver called Balthazar has died. Suspecting that Balthazar made a duplicate of the fetish and was murdered, Tintin tries to obtain the man's parrot in order to get a clue to the killer. But he soon discovers that a pair of South Americans — Alonso Perez and Ramon Bada — are also on the trail of the fetish, following the same clues and employing more ruthless methods. A lead takes the three men, and their attempts to outwit each other, to South America, where the plot thickens.
During the journey by ship, Perez and Ramon murder a fellow passenger called Rodrigo Tortilla. Among his things is yet another fake of the stolen fetish. Tintin, who was also on the ship in disguise, arrests Perez and Ramon as they dock in the main port of the republic of San Theodoros. But when soldiers arrive on board to take them away, they are led by a colonel who knows Ramon and Perez and, once ashore, lets them go. He then helps them to lure Tintin to shore where he is framed from terrorism and sentenced to death.
In San Theodoros General Alcazar and his rebels are fighting against the ruling General Tapioca. Just as Tintin finds himself at the gun tips of the firing squad, General Alcazar's rebels save him. Unusually Tintin has been drinking heavily and in a drunken state proclaims his support for Alcazar. Now in command of the country, General Alcazar honours Tintin by making him Colonel and aide-de-camp.
Tintin's new position of power is not without its problems. For one thing his humiliated predecessor swears revenge and makes several bungled attempts to kill him and Alcazar. Perez & Ramon also continue in their attempts to get rid of him and recover the fetish of which they are convinced he knows the location, the one in Tortilla's possession having turned out to be yet another fake.
To add to this, two rival oil companies, General American Oil and British South-American Petrol, try to play double sided games with San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico, pushing both countries to war in order to get control of some profitable oil fields. When Tintin refuses to go along with this, Trickler of General American Oil tries to have him killed by a man named Pablo. Pablo's attempt fails, due to Ramon making a similar attempt on Tintin's life at the same time. Tintin lets Pablo go.
Trickler frames Tintin for espionage and the young man is arrested and sentenced to death. Pablo assembles a gang of men, breaks into the prison and frees Tintin and Snowy. They escape by car but at the frontier with Nuevo-Rico they come under fire by the border guards. The incident is exaggerated in the press and the war Tintin tried to prevent is started. Tintin escapes the Nuevo-Ricans and discovers that he is not far from the Arumbaya river. The Arumbayas who live in the rainforest were the original owners of the fetish. The fetish is of no real value and Tintin has been wondering why so many people have been out to steal and kill for it. He believes that the Arumbayas hold the answer and convinces a reluctant native to take him to them.
In the rainforests Tintin meets Ridgewell, a Western explorer who has settled in with the Arumbayas, and he learns that the fetish was offered to a previous explorer called Walker as a token of friendship during his stay with the tribe. But as soon as the explorers left, the Arumbayas discovered that a sacred diamond had disappeared. Lopez, a half-caste interpreter to the explorers, had stolen it. The Arumbayas were furious and massacred almost all the explorers. Walker managed to escape with the fetish while a wounded Lopez barely got himself out of the jungle. Tintin believes that Lopez hid the diamond in the fetish so that he could retrieve the stone later.
Tintin leaves the Arumbayas only to come across Perez and Ramon who have deserted from the San Theodoran army. Tintin manages to capture them. In Perez's wallet he finds a note which confirms that the diamond is in the fetish. The note used to belong to Rodrigo Tortilla, the man who originally stole the fetish from the museum. How Tortilla is connected to Lopez is not revealed. Perez and Ramon later escape from Tintin.
With no leads to follow, Tintin and Snowy return home only to find copies of the fetish being sold in the shops. They go to the factory that produces them and meet Balthazar's brother, who had found the fetish among his late brother's affairs. However he has sold the original fetish to a rich man called Samuel Goldbarr, who has left for America. Using a plane Tintin manages to catch the ship, only to find that Perez and Ramon are already on the ship and they have got hold of the fetish. During the confrontation, the fetish falls and breaks revealing the diamond. All three of them try to save it but fall into the ocean. Tintin is saved by the crew. However, Alonso Perez and Ramon Bada drown. The original fetish (without the diamond in it) is glued and tied and returned back to the museum.