Common memory, or cultural memory, reinforces the feeling of belonging between members of a culture. Such memory develops in large part thanks to the stories recounted about the past, in whatever cultural languages, which all members recognize. Cultural memory has two closely-related tasks: preservation and creation. Preservation in this case does not mean storing the cases and texts of the past in an unchanged form. Indeed, such a task would be impossible, because preservation is rooted in repetition, and within culture every repetition also and necessarily brings with it change. One of the reasons for this was described in the previous section: the subjective point of view of the narrator. Another reason is that the everchanging cultural context influences the interpretation of a story. As a result of such changes, cultural preservation is also creation, the adding of new facets to the images found in memory, bringing to prominence hidden layers, and forgetting others. Alongside the various changes, important stories have certain fragments of themselves repeat, and thus in general cases the texts that a culture considers canonical are recognized according to a single excerpt.

In the first part, we described culture as a kind of polyglot, able to communicate via many different languages. At the same time, the importance and hierarchy of these languages changes periodically. Gutenberg’s revolutionary invention made the printed word the most central of all media. Today, however, our understanding is shaped evermore by film, video, and different digital sources originating from the Internet, all of which are primarily visual languages. When a story that was originally written becomes “screenified,” or adapted into a film, we can describe it as a translation from literary language to filmic language. It is exactly such interlinguistic translations within culture that function as the most important means by which culture creates its past. The contemporary “culture carrier” keeps their memory current and able to be articulated.

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For example, Kalevipoeg in comic book form is no longer the same story for us as it was for the contemporaries of Kreutzwald, nor is it the same Stalin-era epic of a hero fighting the enemy of his people, and neither will it be the same for those interpretations to follow and become texts one hundred years from now. That interpretations change over time becomes apparent when, for example, one compares illustrations of Kalevipoeg, which sometimes depict him as an all-powerful warrior, and other times as a very human character.

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