I think I’ve finally put my finger on exactly what it is about the Discworld that had such a profound effect on me.
It starts in Guards! Guards!
There’s this thread – not quite a theme, it isn’t as overt – running through that book, which goes something like this:
If you have faith in people, they will, on the whole, rise to meet it.
You see it in Carrot and Sybil, how they both just believe in Vimes, like it’s a complete given, obviously he can take care of the dragon. Neither of them know him, or even the city, very well, so it’s partly naivete, but the lesson still holds – it’s explicitly stated that the Watch guys don’t want to let Sybil down, and half of Vimes’s heroism in that book is him seeing Carrot getting in over his head and going to back him up. Carrot trusts Vimes at the start because he’s naive, but Vimes refuses to break that trust.
Carrot believes that Vimes will back him up, and so Vimes rises to the occasion. Sybil believes that the Watch will save the city, and so they rise. And, without that faith, they wouldn’t have even tried.
It left a huge but subtle impression on me, I never put my finger on exactly what it was before, but it’s that thread (which shows up in more than just that book) that taught me to believe in people.
I just. God, these books.