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The Broken Ear: Explanation of plot

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cigars of the beeper
#31 · Posted: 6 Jul 2007 16:31
Golf Tango Fox
That had not occured to me. Tintin very easily could have prevented the death of Rodrigo Tortilla.

I'm sorry I started a second thread about this subject. I did not realize one already existed.
Mark Falconer
#32 · Posted: 8 Jul 2007 04:19
I don't think Tintin expected that they would bump him off - just that they would raid his cabin or something.
Golf Tango Fox
#33 · Posted: 9 Jul 2007 08:38
I'm only going off memory as my copy is packed away at the moment, but I'm sure that somewhere Tintin hears that they plan to murder him.
Maybe someone with a copy handy can confirm whether I am going senile or not.
#34 · Posted: 28 Dec 2011 13:23
Harrock n roll:
2) Who originally steals the fetish from the museum? Is it Balthazar or Tortilla?

Tortilla steals the Fetish from the museum. Balthazar had been employed by him to make a replica which Tortilla would send back to the museum to replace the stolen one.

It is a little doubtful, but on p.1, frame 5, there is the thief and he looks quite alike Balthazar's brother on p.58, frame 1+2+4. So I assume it was Balthazar himself who stole the fetish, took it home, hided the original one in a trunk and had the second copy stolen by his murderer Tortilla.
#35 · Posted: 10 Jan 2013 06:08 · Edited by: sondonista
It is a little doubtful, but on p.1, frame 5, there is the thief and he looks quite alike Balthazar's brother on p.58, frame 1+2+4. So I assume it was Balthazar himself who stole the fetish, took it home, hided the original one in a trunk and had the second copy stolen by his murderer Tortilla.

He does look suspicious, I'll grant you that.
However I don't think he looks that much like Balthazar's brother; on top of that he appears to be wearing a bowler hat whereas the thief hiding in museum is not.

Golf Tango Fox:
You have just reminded me of something that always troubled me with that story. The fact that Tintin actually allowed Tortilla to be murdered.

This bothers me a fair bit too. Surely it would have been enough to catch them in the act of breaking into the cabin? At first I thought that it was down to Herge's episodic plotting from one page to the next still happening, where he didn't even know what was going to happen next - but the murder happens at the top of the page. Tintin doesn't overhear them plotting to kill Tortilla, just that they know where his cabin is.. so it's possible that he just wasn't expecting him to do that.

BTW - blackface disguise - I remember reading how for American audiences black people were re-coloured in some editions. Guess they wouldn't have been able to for this one, but maybe the fact that it is so sambo-like made that okay!
#36 · Posted: 10 Jan 2013 13:37
[The Thief] appears to be wearing a bowler hat whereas the thief hiding in museum is not.

That scene is debated in this thread.

We also discuss the episodic nature of the story. Personally I think that Herge had his whole plot pretty much well planned before he even started the illustrations, from the museum theft, to Balthazar's murder, the trip to South America, Alcazar, the Arumbayas and the recovery of the fetish.

I'm not sure when "Broken Ear" was published in America, but the fact that this black boy waiter is actually a white man in disguise may have made a difference - compared to the scenes in "Tintin in America" and "Crab with the Golden Claws" in which actual black characters were removed at the request of the American publishers and replaced with whites or Arabs.

The fact that Alonso and Ramon murder Tortilla and go unchallenged until the ship docks has also always struck me as odd. They've already made two attempts on Tintin's life: the knife throwing in the flat and the attempt to run him over with their car, so he knows how ruthless they are. Either Tintin was being careless and decided to leave Tortilla to them and see what would happen or he deliberately turned a blind eye by thinking that "Tortilla is also a killer, so this is poetic justice and I'll be able to jail Alsonso and Ramon on more than just attempted murder."
#37 · Posted: 14 Jan 2013 07:58
Thanks mct16, I kept seeing that thread but hadn't read it yet.
#38 · Posted: 29 Dec 2017 19:44 · Edited by: Moderator
Yeah. Even I think that Tintin might as well let Tortilla get murdered by Ramon and Alonzo for Tortilla killed Balthazar and therefore himself a murderer.

While that arguable, it's clearly a fact that the person who stole the fetish from the museum is Tortilla (the guys with the glasses in the beginning) and he did so after somehow acquiring a note written by Lopez (the guy who firstly stole the fetish from the Arumbyas).

The two main antagonists of the story mentioned that Tortilla was a fellow traveler who traveled with them on some occasion and they got wind of Tortilla's plan about the fetish when he dropped the note written by Lopez by mistake during their trip.

Anyway, Tortilla got fooled for the fake fetish was just too silly and the reason why the sculptor, Bathazar kept the original is also a big mystery.

Also, the reason why Tortilla didn't take the diamond from the fetish right when he stole it also confuses things further.

Nonetheless, the story is one of the important ones as it contains the introduction of General Alcazar, and overall I think despite these small plot holes, it's still done pretty well.
#39 · Posted: 7 Sep 2018 06:30 · Edited by: snowybella
1. Nobody knows who stole the fetish - the only clue we get is a shadowed figure shining a torch at the object (page 1 frame 8). There was a thread about who it could be, which is worth checking.

2. As others have already said, the intepreter Lopez somehow managed to get the diamond inside the statue. Parhaps Lopez noticed there was a hole in the broken ear?

3. Alonzo and Ramon found out about the diamond when they went into Tortilla's cabin (page 55 frame 6).

Other questions -

Post 4 - there are two alternatives. The first is, as harishankar says in post 12, Walker didn't know of the diamond in the fetish, and gave it to the museum, or, Walker kept it, and as the fetish swapped hands with dealers, somebody, at some point, may have bought it to donate to the museum.

Post 14 - there were probably a mix-up: Tortilla, failing to notice the broken ear, might have said that he wanted two replicas of the statue (one for the museum and one for himself), and Balthazar may have made one copy first (also not noticing the broken ear), absent-mindedly thought Tortilla gave him the original and put it in his suitcase, and then, for the second replica, copied the first and then gave both to Tortilla. This then progresses to what Jyrki21 thinks happened. In response to post 10 - Tortilla may have acquired the note some time later, or else why would Tortilla bother to murder (if it was him) Balthazar before he made accurate replicas of the fetish?

Post 18 - Colonel Jiminez is probably an acquantance, and since they become officers, judging from their outfit, for Alcazar (page 23 frames 5-9), they probably support neither Alcazar or Tapioca.

Post 29 - 2nd question: Alonzo and Ramon, having seen it in the newspaper, might have thought there would be a reward for them if they found out who killed Balthazar, and subsequently bought the parrot for answers. Since Ramon bumps into Tintin and sees his adress for the missing parrot, once Ramon breaks in and sees the cage, Alonzo and Ramon have good reason to suspect Tintin is on the case. 3rd question: Jacob Balthazar kept the fetish so he could manufacture it.

Post 30 - as Mark Falconer (post 32) says, Tintin could easily have thought they would push a piece of cloroform-soaked cotton through the bottom of the door, then break in, etc. or else, like in the cartoon (not the earliest, first Belvision cartoon version - what is left of it doesn't go up to there (the rest, except for part 1 which goes up to page 8, is apparently lost) - but that's for another discussion...), he would have rushed in and tried to catch them in the act.
#40 · Posted: 9 Sep 2018 00:25
There was a thread about who it could be, which is worth checking.

That thread is here.

There appears to be a lot of confusion about the plot, especially the events behind-the-scenes, so here is how I see it:

In the mid-19th century, an explorer called Walker leads an expedition in the jungle of San Theodoros and meets the Arumbayas who give him a fetish as a token of friendship. Lopez, an interpreter, steals a diamond from the Arumbayas. He hides the diamond in the fetish: the head can be loosened and the body is hollow enough to make a hiding place.

When the Arumbayas discover the theft of the diamond they attack the expedition. Lopez and Walker are the only survivors and manage to escape. Walker, unaware of what Lopez did, returns to Europe with the fetish which is eventually donated to the museum.

Back in San Theodoros, Lopez, who suffered a serious injury, is dying and writes a confession stating that the "diamond is in the fetish with the broken ear".

Several decades later, in San Theodoros, Rodrigo Tortilla finds the confession. Some research into Lopez's life enables him to identify the fetish in question and he goes to Europe in order to get it and the diamond. During the journey by ship he loses the piece of paper and it is found by Alonzo Perez and Ramon Bada. They do not understand what it means but the word "diamond" is enough to intrigue them.

Tortilla, Perez and Bada do become acquainted during the journey to Europe but the latter two do not connect Tortilla to the piece of paper they found.

Tortilla steals the fetish from the museum. He then gets Balthazar to make a fake. It is unlikely that Tortilla tells Balthazar about the diamond, but Balthazar is intrigued as to why Tortilla has gone to so much trouble. Balthazar may have suspected that the fetish was of some value and decided to keep it in the hope of getting something out of it: he lived in a loft and was not regular with the rent according to his landlady so he did have motives for this. He therefore makes two fakes: one to be placed in the museum and another to deceive Tortilla. The real fetish is hidden by Balthazar in a trunk.

Tortilla then murders Balthazar. He puts one of the fake fetishes in the museum in order to get the police to drop the case - which they do. Tortilla then leaves for South America, unaware that the fetish he is taking with him is also a fake.

Alonzo Perez and Ramon Bada learn about the theft of the fetish and, when it re-appears at the museum, notice, like Tintin, that it does not have the "broken ear", which is mentioned on the piece of paper. They also learn of Balthazar's death and conclude, like Tintin, that he made the fake. Through the parrot they learn that Rodrigo Tortilla murdered Balthazar.

Tortilla is making his way back to San Theodoros with the fake fetish but is murdered by Perez and Bada on the "Ville de Lyon". While they and Tintin battle it out all over South America, Balthazar's brother finds the real fetish in his late brother's trunk and uses it as a model for his wood carving business. He then sells the original to an American collector. Perez and Bada try to steal it from the collector but are caught by Tintin; the fetish is broken and the diamond lost to the sea.

Does that clear things up?

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