There are probably more bear legends and fairy tales than there are grizzlies left in the Continental United States. Most of them involve killing a bear, or a bear killing off a village which, while enlightening in certain ways, is a bit too grizzly (no pun intended) for my Living-in-the-World-of-Charms philosophy. So the bear legend I'll tell you is based on good old Greek mythology. There are, of course, many versions of this myth, as well.
It is the story of Callisto, who was a beautiful nymph and servant of the hunter Artemis. (This particular Callisto had nothing to do with Xena, the Warrior Princess. Trust me on this one.) As such, she took a vow to remain a virgin.
She was so beautiful that Zeus saw her and fell in love, in that I-want-her-even-though-my-wife-Hera-will-be-royally-pissed kind of way.
Smooth god that he was, Zeus took on the form of Artemis, and had his way with the lovely Callisto. This, of course, made Artemis extremely angry, and he banished poor Callisto, who was now pregnant with Zeus' child.
This made Zeus' wife Hera even angrier. When Callisto gave birth to her son, whom she named Arcas, Hera turned Callisto into a bear. The unfortunate Callisto ran, or lumbered, away into the forest.
Time passed. A lot of time. Arcas grew up and, ironically, became a hunter. One day, as he was hunting in the forest (yes, the same forest), his mother Callisto (who was still a bear) heard his voice. She rushed out to meet him for what could be yet another ill-fated birth-mother-meets-son reunion.
And Arcas, being a hunter, rushed to smite her dead with his bow and arrow.
Zeus, who hopefully felt a teensy bit guilty for all the misfortune that had befallen Callisto because of his godlike lust, rushed to intervene, turning Arcas into a bear, as well. (We can hope Hera was busy elsewhere.)
He sent both mother and son ~ Callisto and Arcas ~ into the sky to become the Greater and Lesser Bears, known as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
According to the myth (or one version of it), this explains why the tails of both Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are so long. It seems that Zeus was in a bit of a rush. He grabbed them by their tails and swung them around over his head, finally flinging them into the sky. Bears, or at least humans turned to bears by gods, have extremely elastic tails.
The bears on this bracelet, by the way, do not have long elastic tails. Their tails are aventurine,
and mother of pearl,
and sterling silver.
So I guess they were never mortals turned to bears.