Lick into Shape

(To). According to tradition the cubs of bears are cast shapeless, and remain so till the dam has licked them into proper form.

So watchful Bruin forms, with plastic care,
Each growing lump, and brings it to a bear.

Pope: Dunciad, i, 101.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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