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In many cultures, the bear is a symbol of strength. After that key meaning are many more, depending on the culture. Bears are also a symbol of solitude - bears are not pack animals and quite often fend for themselves. Bears are also a symbol of protection no doubt because of the determined ferocity with which mother bears will defend their cubs. It is probably because of this attribute that the bear or bear claw is incorporated into so many family shields. Some cultures believe in animal or spirit guides and the bear is quite common. The bear is a survivor and can symbolize strength in the face of adversity, defense, and the ability to return from the brink of destruction.
This is a stretch but with some imagination you might gleem something from Solzhenitsyn who while commenting on native Zeks in the Russian archipelagos (The Gulag Archipelago) talks of a phrase they use:"Let the bears do the work." The question of bears working is addressed somewhere in the works of I.A. Krylov. Best of luck!
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