Five Unexpected Facts About Nelson Mandela

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ABCNEWS.com

Nelson Mandela's remarkable life and accomplishments are being celebrated this week and will be long remembered in the months and years ahead.

The embodiment of struggle and freedom, Mandela's achievements are lengthy and legendary. But the man born in 1918, the son of a tribal chief who spent his boyhood herding cows, was still human. Married three times, with five children, and 20 grandchildren to date, Mandela eschewed the world's attempts to portray him as a saint.

Life of Nelson Mandela: See the Photos

Here are just five unexpected and surprising facts about Mandela.

One Visitor a Year

Mandela spent nearly 30 years in prison, branded a terrorist and traitor by South Africa's Apartheid government. Much of that time, between 1968 and 1982, was spent on Robben Island where he was made to do forced labor including breaking rocks into gravel. While there he was permitted just one visitor a year, and could either write or receive one letter every six months. Despite those limits on communication, he completed a law degree, organized protests within the prison and helped lead the movement against apartheid.

What's in a Name?

At birth, Mandela was given the name Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. Rolihlahla literally means "pulling the branch of the tree," but colloquially means "troublemaker." In his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom," Mandela writes that when he started school as a boy, his first teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the English name Nelson, but "why this particular name I have no idea."

Favorite Food

What does a man -- deprived fresh food for decades in prison, but now who has a personal chef and has travelled the world dining at palaces and executives mansion -- like to eat? Tripe. That's right, animal intestines. According to granddaughter Ndileka Mandela, the former president's favorite food is tripe. At his most recent birthday party, family members ate "samp [a dish made from corn] and tripe, his favorite food," Ndileka told Sowetan Live.

More Than Just the Nobel Prize

In addition to a Nobel Prize, and the top civilian honors from more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., Mandela has an internationally recognized day in his honor. By decree of the United Nations General Assembly, July 18 is "Mandela Day" a celebration of freedom. Mandela has also received more 60 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

An Inspiring Poem

Mandela's favorite poem, from which he drew inspiration while in prison was "Invictus," by English poet William Ernest Henley, often reciting it to fellow inmates at Robben Island. The poem is about not giving up in the face of adversity. The 2009 movie starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela takes its name from the poem.

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