Nelson Mandelais it possible to say who or what he is? Yes, he was one of the world's longest-detained political prisoners. He is a universal symbol of social justice certainly; an exemplary figure connoting non-racialism and democracy; a moral giant. For years a man cut off from the world, Mandela became after his 1990 release an internationally recognizable icon. But why should his story be important to us in the world at large today? What do his achievements signify not only nationally in South Africa but also internationally? This book is about the different, interconnected stories, histories, values and symbols that Nelson Mandela embodies. Across his life Mandela has filled a rich range of roles: handsome city-slicker, dashing guerrilla, the millennial saviour figure. By examining these different roles as well as the principles which lie behind and motivate them, this Very Short Introduction presents an analytical portrait of a shape-shifting life. Set within a biographical frame, the book offers a more deeply personal analysis of Mandela than biographies centred on the towering public figure have been able provide.