Nelson Mandela: 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know

Former South African President Nelson Mandela spoke in front of his former prison cell on Robben Island in November 2003.

This story originally published in 2013.

(CNN)Nelson Mandela was loved and admired the world over -- profiled in books and movies and showered with awards and accolades. But even the most public of personalities have little-known facts buried in their biographies.

Here are 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know about Nelson Mandela:

1. He lived up to his name

    Mandela's birth name was Rolihlahla. In his Xhosa tribe, the name means pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker. The name "Nelson" was given to him by his teacher on his first day of elementary school. It's not clear why she chose that particular name. It was the 1920s, and African children were given English names so colonial masters could pronounce them easily.

    2. He had a cameo in a Spike Lee film

    He had a part in Spike Lee's 1992 biopic "Malcolm X." At the very end of the movie, he plays a teacher reciting Malcolm X's famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. But the pacifist Mandela wouldn't say "by any means necessary." So Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the film.

    3. There's a woodpecker named after him

    From Cape Town to California, streets named after Mandela abound. But he's also been the subject of some rather unusual tributes. Scientists have named a prehistoric woodpecker after him: Australopicus nelsonmandelai. In 1973, the physics institute at Leeds University named a nuclear particle the 'Mandela particle.'

    4. He married a first lady

    Before tying the knot with Mandela on his 80th birthday, Graça Machel was married to Mozambique President Samora Machel. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband's death means she has been the first lady of two nations.

    5. He was a master of disguise

    When Mandela was eluding authorities during his fight against apartheid, he disguised himself in various ways, including as a chauffeur. The press nicknamed him "the Black Pimpernel" because of his police evasion tactics. "I became a creature of the night. I would keep to my hideout during the day, and would emerge to do my work when it became dark," he says in his biography, "Long Walk to Freedom."

    6. A bloody sport intrigued him

    Besides politics, M