In the prologue, García Márquez claims the novel is the fictional representation of a legend the author was told by his grandmother as a child: of a 12-year-old girl who contracts rabies but was believed to be a 'miracle-worker', with long flowing copper hair that continues to grow after death. In this frame-story, it was only after an excavation of tombs that García Márquez is witness to the grave of a similar young girl with long red hair still attached to the skull, that he was inspired to write Of Love and Other Demons.
Mariana Solanet, however, in García Márquez for Beginners, states this source was invented. She points rather to a story in Daniel Lemaitre's History of Cartagena that García Márquez came across in research for Love in the Time of Cholera.
The twelve-year-old daughter of the Marquis and his wife Bernarda. Her hair has never been cut, and was promised to the saints when she was born with the umbilical cord around her neck. She was raised by the slaves, fluent in multiple African languages, and familiar with the customs. In the beginning of the book she is bit by a rabid dog. Even though she shows no signs of rabies, she is subject to multiple "healing" methods, which can be considered torture. She is sent to the convent of Santa Clara to receive an exorcism, which many people have died from. She receives attention from a priest, Father Cayetano, who is kind to her. Later Father Cayetano is sent away to a leper hospital, though he sneaks out at night and visits Sierva. They eat, sleep, and recite poetry together, even though they are not sexually involved. When Sierva is last summoned to be exorcised, Father Cayetano waits too long to help her, and she eventually dies in her sleep after having her hair cut. After her death her hair magically grows back on her skull.