Ma Lilywhite

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An extremely redoubtable woman, hugely respected amongst the criminal classes of Ankh-Morpork. She was enormous and had a punch that trolls would respect. Known to have killed at least one person, Glossy Ron.

Mother of Medium Dave Lilywhite and his brother Banjo. She died holding off the Watch and her last words to her son were "I'll hold 'em off and if anything happens to me, take care of the dummy!" This was Holy Writ to Dave and he kept his brother by him until he was supplanted in Banjo's estimation by Mr Teatime during the events of Hogfather.

Ma put in a special appearance at the Tower of Teeth which explicitly drew on one's worst fears to terrorise intruders. For both Lilywhite boys this was most definitely their Ma who appears to scare the life out of them, Banjo for playing with girls and Dave for not looking after him properly. It is this that makes him lose his mind.


On Roundworld the "Lilywhite Boys" are part of Green Grow The Rushes, O, a folk song popular across the English speaking world. This is cumulative in structure, with each verse built up from the previous verse by appending a new stanza. In entirety it goes:

I'll sing you twelve, O
Green grow the rushes, O
What are your twelve, O?
Twelve for the twelve Apostles
Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven,
Ten for the ten commandments,
Nine for the nine bright shiners,
Eight for the April Rainers,
Seven for the seven stars in the sky,
Six for the six brown walkers,
Five for the symbols at your door,
Four for the Gospel makers,
Three, three, the rivals, oy!
Two, two, the lily-white boys,
All dressed up in green, Ho ho
One is one and all alone
And evermore shall be so.

There are differing explanations for the symbology of the Lily-White Boys. These are the most common:

The two remain obscure. Jesus and John the Baptist have been suggested, as have the holly and the ivy (although the holly berry is red and the ivy berry is black, both have white wood and are evergreen). Pagan tradition also has the holly and the ivy as male and female[citation needed], so they are not both "boys". The two may, instead, be holly and mistletoe (which has white berries with green branches), which would align more closely with the tradition of the defeat at Yule of the Holly King by the Oak King (mistletoe 'traditionally' grows on oak trees, although it will grow on other types of tree). Robert Graves, indeed, suggested that they are the Holly King and Oak King. There is also some suggestion that the two may be the Old and New Testaments, perhaps referring to some mediaeval tradition, although "All dressed up in green" strongly suggests that the two "boys" were in some way connected with the growth of plants.

Another explanation is that the statues of St John and Our Lady which, in Christian Churches, flank the Crucifix on the Altar reredos or the Rood screen were, during Holy Week, bound with rushes to cover them. (During Holy Week, from Palm Sunday until Easter Day, all statues, crosses, and crucifixes are traditionally covered from view, and all flowers are removed from the Church)[citation needed]. The two figures were portrayed in similar garments, hence "lily-white boys", and wrapped in rushes they were "All dressed up in green".

The phrase could also allude to an ancient ritual of painting two people from a village white and sending them off to die, thereby cleansing the village of its sins[citation needed]. The verse has also been changed to "lily-white doves" in some interpretations of the songs in reference to Noah's Ark.

One other explanation is that the boys referred to are the twins Castor and Pollux, both of whom appear in Greek mythology. As the constellation of Gemini is named after them, this would provide yet another astronomical reference to the many already present in the song.