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The bear is particularly connected with hero figures. In Norse mythology he is Bjorn, a prince who was turned into a bear, but retained his human form at night. For Anglo Saxons, the bear was associated with Beowulf. One possible translation of his name is ‘beo’: bee, ‘wulf’: foe; foe of bees i.e. bear.
Perhaps the strongest Celtic identification is with Arthur (‘artos’: the bear). I have made my bear a sleeping bear, because Arthur is thought to be sleeping, awaiting Britain’s greatest need. The interlacing in his body represents the streams at which he fishes as a bear in the otherworld. The triple spiral in his head is the sign of his sacred kingship.
From the Aberdeen Bestiary (circa 14th c):
“… For it is said that they produce a shapeless fetus and that a piece of flesh is born. The mother forms the parts of the body by licking it. The shapelessness of the cub is the result of its premature birth. It is born only thirty days after conception, … as a result of this rapid fertility, the cubs are created without form. The females produce tiny lumps of flesh, white in colour, with no eyes. These they shape gradually, holding them meanwhile to their breasts so that the cubs are warmed by the constant embrace and draw out the spirit of life. ..”